Chicago was Seattle’s last ostensibly easy opponent for a while and seemed like an opportune time to end their losing streak at four games. Chicago was in disarray amidst a horrific sexual abuse coverup, their Vézina-winning goalie from last season was playing poor hockey, and Chicago was going nowhere.
Then they had the audacity to fire their coach Jeremy Colliton, who seemed completely checked out and with interim head coach Derek King they hadn’t lost since, going 3-0 entering tonight’s contest against Seattle.
Would Chicago’s turnaround continue, or was this Seattle’s chance to right the ship? And do ship metaphors even work when the team’s mascot is a gigantic animal that eats people on ships?
Slow start puts the Kraken in an early hole
Once again, the Kraken did not start out well, getting outshot 8-3 in the first period with two of Seattle’s shots being far away from the goaltender and lower probability. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks controlled the puck and broke through to take the 1-0 lead on a pretty tic-tac-toe goal with Haydn Fleury’s stick just missing breaking up the pass.
Seattle went into the first intermission outshot, outchanced, and outscored and went over 13 minutes without a shot on goal.
Starting slow has buried the team in a lot of games so far, and tonight was another.
Around the 17 minute mark of the 2nd period, things flipped and Seattle became the puck possession team and played far better hockey. But it was a stretch pass to Alex DeBrincat that sent him past Jamie Oleksiak on the mini-breakaway, and DeBrincat’s 9th goal of the year put Chicago up 2-0.
On the other end of the ice, Chicago goalie Marc-André Fleury, the future Hall of Famer who won the award for the league’s top goaltender last season, was outstanding. The Kraken peppered him with shots in the 2nd and he was having none of it.
The Kraken did beat Fleury twice in the second, only to have one ring off the post and a second off the crossbar. Puck luck would not be on their side. But still, the Kraken were very good in the second period, as they have been all season, outshooting Chicago 15-6.
Then in the third, a defensive lapse forgot about future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane and he had plenty of time in front of the high danger area and Grubauer was a sitting duck.
Game over, right?
The flurry in front of Fleury
With 5:45 left down 3-0, the Jared McCann scored on a power play(!) and the game turned into a scramble.
With Seattle pulling their goalie 3 minutes left, it was absolute nonsense in the Chicago zone, with bodies flying everywhere, Blackhawk players barely unable to get the puck out of the zone, and Marc-André Fleury was under siege. And with 1:55 with the net empty, the pressure broke through with Vince Dunn setting up Yanni Gourde. Gourde fired a laser past M.A. Fleury and all of a sudden we had a contest again.
Unfortunately, it was too little too late and the Blackhawks scored an empty net goal to end the game at 4-2.
The bad and the good
The bad news is the Kraken fell behind again and had to climb out of the hole. A combination of early deficits, rotten puck luck, and defensive breakdowns at key times buried this team, as has been the case most of the season. The fact that Chicago has not lost with their new coach (now 4-0) is of little consolation.
The good news is that they showed they can play good hockey. Chemistry matters a lot in hockey, and 16 games isn’t a lot of games for a brand new team to figure things out. We still have over 80% of the season to go. With the chaotic nature of hockey, there’s a good chance the Kraken will have a stretch of games where they win a bunch in a row and look good doing it. It’s a long season.
At least that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night.
Next game: Friday, 11/19 at home against the Colorado Avalanche. Puck drop: 7:00 PT / 10:00 ET.