It’s been tough sledding for both teams through the first dozen games of the season. Seattle is currently last in the Pacific division while Vegas, the odds-on favorite to win it, are currently 6th. Let’s take a peak at what to expect tonight from the expansion cousins.
Vegas jumped out to an early 2-0 lead less than halfway through the first period and extended it to 3-0 in the second. But Seattle worked their way back into it, eventually tying the game in the third on a Morgan Geekie blast. The Knights went on to win this one though on the first controversial call in Kraken history.
Seattle finished the night ahead in shot attempts, but controlled only 40% of the expected goals, per Natural Stat Trick. Much of that was due to a flurry of chances for Vegas on the power play, none of which they capitalized on. At 5-on-5, Seattle actually had more high danger chances than their opponent. A good omen for keeping up with a good team.
What’s different this time
Vegas got hit with the injury bug. Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and William Karlsson — three of the six forwards with the most ice time for Vegas on the last go around — are out with injuries. The biggest loss for Seattle in the meantime is Jared McCann, who remains in the NHL’s COVID protocol. On the flipside, Seattle didn’t have Yanni Gourde for game one. Since returning from shoulder surgery, Gourde has been leading the Kraken forwards in ice time. Seattle also generates more shot attempts per 60 minutes with Gourde on the ice than any other forward, per Evolving Hockey.
Losing McCann, however, has been a real blow to the lineup, especially with the man advantage.
Power play? More like power rest
The power play struggles have been significant for the Kraken so far this year. They haven’t scored once in their last 22 opportunities (though Geekie did net one 5 seconds after a penalty expired). The loss of McCann is one big reason for this. He has 2 of Seattle’s 3 goals on the man-advantage (Brandon Tanev has the other) and has been one of the forwards most willing to throw pucks on net on the team.
Tonight presents another great opportunity to get this thing back on track. Per Evolving Hockey, the Golden Knights are allowing the 2nd-most shot attempts per 60 while on the penalty kill and the most expected goals per 60 in the entire NHL. Just give Seattle the tiniest bit of luck tonight and they should be able to break the scoreless streak.
On the other side of the ice, Vegas has had their own struggles with the man-advantage as well. They were the last team in the league to score a power play goal this year. They remain the only team with fewer power play goals than Seattle with 2. There has been a bit of bad luck on their part here, as they don’t look nearly as bad in terms of shot generation or shot quality, but anyone who has watched Kraken hockey knows how frustrating it can be to take a ton of shots and get nothing on the scoreboard to show for it. Being without Stone, Pacioretty, and Karlsson is not going to be a great way for Vegas to right this ship.
Keys to the game
Open the scoring
Seattle has struggled with giving up an early goal so far this year. When they get through the first half of the first period without giving one up (a quite rare occurrence to this point) they do quite well, even if they don’t score in that opening frame either. If they can avoid that early hole tonight, and get on the board first, it should be tough for a depleted Vegas group to mount a comeback.
Don’t let in the easy ones
Philipp Grubauer has not been the Vezina finalist we had hoped so far this year. There have been defensive struggles in front of him, no doubt, but he hasn’t stepped up and won Seattle a game as much as we might’ve thought he could.
Lowest Goals Saved Above Expected - November 6 pic.twitter.com/thSc3krHMt— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) November 6, 2021
Puck drops tonight at 7pm PT at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. You can watch all the action on ESPN+ or Hulu Live, or listen on 950 KJR.