The Need to Knows
The Time: 7 pm PT / 10 pm ET
The Place: Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, WA
Where to Watch: ROOT-NW (ESPN+ for out-of-market fans, Sportsnet+ in Canada)
Where to Listen: KJR 93.3 FM
An Opposing Viewpoint: St. Louis Game Time
Know Your Enemy
The St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019. They were an average regular season team that hit its stride in the back half of the year and ended up winning it all. It’s a testament to the idea that simply getting into the playoffs can give you a chance at victory, something the Kraken need to think about as they compare their roster against the star-studded ones atop each conference. Some pieces from that recent run are still in place in St. Louis, but others, like Kraken core players Jaden Schwartz and Vince Dunn, have moved on. So who is left?
Forwards - Jordan Kyrou was on the 2019 Blues squad but didn’t play enough regular season or playoff games to get his name on the Cup. Today he leads the team in goals. Robert Thomas, whose name IS on the Cup, leads in assists and points, with Kyrou, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko not far behind. The Blues are scoring at a decent rate (2.97 G/GP), within a stone’s throw of the goals per game of teams like Tampa Bay and Washington, but they give up more than 3.5 goals against per game, which is likely the reason why they currently sit in 10th in the Western Conference.
Defence - Torey Krug, who as a Boston Bruin lost to the Blues in that Cup Final, now patrols their blue line, having signed with the team in 2020. Krug is struggling on plus/minus (-23) which is a serious departure from recent seasons, but his underlying numbers still look strong. He might not be Alex Pietrangelo, but few are. With Colton Parayko, Nick Leddy and Justin Faulk, it’s still an enviable top four on paper, even if most are on the wrong side of 30 years of age.
Goaltending - The Carolina Hurricanes might be known as the “Bunch of Jerks” but if there’s one guy who deserves the title, it would be netminder Jordan Binnington. He always seems to be on the highlight reel swinging a stick or a blocker at somebody, meanwhile his Goals Against Average (3.21) and Save Percentage (0.894%) have gotten steadily worse since his championship season. Honestly he looks like the weak link on a team that possesses both scoring and defensive depth.
So what will the game look like? Last time the Kraken and Blues faced off, the Blues won. The time before that, the Blues won. Both times before that, same result. The Blues are one of six teams Seattle has yet to get a W against. So hopefully the Kraken are due for a change in fortunes. Only one of those meetings was in 2022-23, and that was a single goal differential, with Seattle losing in overtime, versus the drubbings they received last year.
This season Seattle scores more goals, on average, and allows fewer than St. Louis, so all things being equal, the Kraken should take the season series. With the game being in Climate Pledge Arena, the home crowd should be an advantage as the Kraken attempt to bring things even. Assuming they take care of business, the rubber match will be played on February 28th.
It’s worth noting that the Kraken have been in a bit of a slide, winning only twice in the first half of December. So while the Blues are well down the standings, the gap can close quickly, and it could easily be St. Louis that spoils Seattle’s plan to experience their first post-season action. The hometown team looked better in the win against the Winnipeg Jets, and this game is certainly winnable as well. It should be seen as a must win if the Kraken want to keep moving in the right direction and finish 2022 strong.