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Kraken fall hard to Knights in home opener

Tough night for Seattle sports all around

Vegas Golden Knights v Seattle Kraken Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Kraken were routed by the Vegas Golden Knights in their home opener on Saturday. That makes two out of two years the Kraken have lost their first game at Climate Pledge Arena. The difference between this one and last year’s 4-2 loss to the Canucks is a) this year’s team is better than last year’s and b) at least last year they had a lead at one point.

Let’s look at the facts of the game.

The Martin Jones start

In a somewhat surprising move, Martin Jones got his second consecutive start and the all-important home opener start over incumbent Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer struggled last year, but it didn’t stop head coach Dave Hakstol from starting him in 55 of the 82 games in 2021-22. But after a rough game in Anaheim followed by a great game from Jones in Los Angeles, Hakstol made the decision to roll with the hot hand.

Jones gave up 5 goals on 24 shots from Vegas and made it through two periods of play before being relieved by Grubauer. But up until that third goal allowed late in the second period, he actually looked pretty good. He came up with a big save on a penalty shot five minutes into the middle frame and added a few more beauties not too long after.

“The right guy started tonight,” said Hakstol after the game. “He gave us a chance to steal this game with the number of saves he made there in the second period. Had we been able to get one and get going, he kept us in a position to win this hockey game tonight.”

Special teams disadvantage

The Kraken power play was limited to just two opportunities all night. The first resulted in a meager one shot on net, but the second one — which game when the game was essentially out of reach — resulted in yet another power play goal. This time it was Jaden Schwartz with a beautiful redirect and a hug from goaltender Adin Hill in celebration.

Meanwhile, the other half of the special teams battle went really poorly for Seattle. They did have one really excellent kill in which Vegas couldn’t even gain the zone, but it was bookended by two Vegas power play opportunities in which they scored fairly quickly. The second power play goal (third goal overall) came just 8 seconds after the penalty and was really the point in this game where it felt like Seattle wasn’t coming back.

Faceoff dot failures

Now I’m not personally one who puts a ton of stock into the importance of faceoffs — yes it’s good to win them, but they represent a fraction of the events in the grand scheme of a hockey game. The chaotic nature of hockey makes possession a short-lived endeavor anyway. But there comes a point when a team is so bad in the circle that it can have a serious impact in the game, and the Kraken reached that point here.

The Knights increased their lead in the faceoff department all night, winning 21 more faceoffs than Seattle

“You gotta start with the puck as much as you can and tonight we weren’t able to do that,” said center Yanni Gourde after the game. “Personally, I’ve got to be better than that.”

“We lost the first nine in a row and I think we ended up about 35%,” added Hakstol. “That’s a big piece when you start without the puck that often.”

For the record, Hakstol is correct here. The Kraken lost their first nine faceoffs, and all four centers finished with a sub-40% faceoff win percentage. Alex Wennberg had it the worst, winning just 3 of his 14 draws. This is just another example of Seattle making the game much harder on themselves than it needs to be.

The flotsam and jetsam

  • Seattle played from behind for 59:48 in this one after giving up a goal 12 seconds into the contest
  • Justin Schultz scored his first as a Kraken!
  • Matty Beniers got an assist and extended his season point streak to three games. He has 13 points in 13 career games.
  • Fun fact: if you watched the Mariners and then the Kraken, you saw a consecutive 8 hours, 26 minutes, and 3 seconds of Seattle sports without seeing a Seattle team score.
  • Look at Buoy with this homemade Buoy jacket! LOOK AT IT

Seattle next takes on the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday in Seattle.