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Fins To The Left: Kraken Vs. Sharks

Seattle hopes a trip to Silicon Valley changes their fortunes

Seattle Kraken v San Jose Sharks Photo by Amanda Cain/NHLI

What: Seattle Kraken at San Jose Sharks

Where: SAP Center, San Jose, CA

When: Sunday, February 27, 2022; 7:00pm PST

Wait, who are we playing? Landlubber’s Guide to the San Jose Sharks

Coverage

Local TV: ROOT Sports NW

Streaming: ESPN+

Local Radio: 950 AM KJR

SiriusXM: Channel 91

Last Time Out

I was shocked to find out that Seattle has defeated San Jose not once, but twice so far this season! The last WIN (sorry, it’s just so rare I get to say that...) came on January 20th, a gritty come-from-behind effort the likes of which have been scarce of late. Seattle began the game giving up the first goal just 38 seconds into the first period — on their trademark defensive zone turnover — but a pair of goals from Carson Soucy gave Seattle the lead midway through the second. Calle Järnkrok added an insurance goal, Philipp Grubauer made 23 saves to prevent the Sharks from completing the comeback, and the Kraken walked away with a 3-2 victory.

Stats, Streaks, & Droughts

San Jose was actually looking like they were going to outperform expectations in the early part of the year. They charged out of the gate with four straight wins, and amassed a 13-11-1 record through their first 25 games. That all came crashing down shortly thereafter, mind you; the Sharks are 2-5-3 in their last 10 games, and the only thing keeping them out of the Pacific Division basement is... yes, you guessed it. Seattle.

The Kraken continued their losing ways on Thursday, dropping a 3-2 OTL to the Boston Bruins. That makes six straight losses for Seattle, and brings their overall record to 16-33-5. In four out of those six games the Kraken allowed five goals or more, while averaging only two goals scored. The points leader during this losing streak is Calle Järnkrok, with two goals and three helpers; forward Jordan Eberle and defenseman Mark Giordano both notched two goals and two assists. Forwards held pointless over that stretch include Morgan Geekie, Ryan Donato, Colin Blackwell, and Austin Czarnik.

Players To Watch

There is a triple threat atop the scoring leaders for San Jose, starting with winger Timo Meier, who is 3+2=5 in his last five outings...

...continuing with center Thomas Hertl, who recently reached the 20-goal mark for the fourth time in his career...

...and pivot Logan Couture, in his 12th full season with San Jose, reaching the 30 point plateau as he has done in every season in which he has played at least 30 games...

The only player on the Kraken to watch is the aforementioned Mark Giordano, who has had a discussion with Seattle General Manager Ron Francis in which they agreed to explore the trade market for the 16-year veteran. If he does get moved, Seattle won’t be able to out-do this tribute video from his return to Calgary last week.

Injuries, Illnesses, Additions, & Scratches

There are three noteworthy injuries on the Sharks’ roster, starting with bottom-six forward Kevin Labanc, getting more serious with goaltender Adin Hill, and wrapping up with two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson. With the two other youngsters currently on IR, San Jose has close to $20 million worth of players out of the lineup.

To help shore up the ranks, the Sharks claimed forward Ryan Dzingel off the waiver wire from the Toronto Maple Leafs, just two days after a trade had sent him north from the Arizona Coyotes. Dzingel has averaged 15 minutes of ice time in his last three outings, and we expect to see him tonight.

As far as goaltending, Hill’s injury, combined with the fact that this is the second half of back-to-back games for the Sharks (with James Reimer getting the start last night), suggests strongly that we get our first look at youngster Zach Sawchenko between the pipes for San Jose. The Calgary native is seeing his first action in the NHL this year, and has stopped all but one of the 23 shots he has faced thus far. This will be Sawchenko’s first NHL start — let’s make him cry, fellas. Hopefully his mom is in the audience.

For Seattle, things went from bad to worse on Thursday with the surprise announcement that leading scorer Jared McCann was headed to Injured Reserve. He joins forwards Brandon Tanev (knee, out for season), Jaden Schwartz (hand, week-to-week), and Karson Kuhlman (lower body, week-to-week) on IR, with nobody on LTIR or in COVID-19 protocol. With the Kraken averaging just 2 goals for (while allowing 4.6 goals against) over the last six games, having more offensive firepower in the press box pretty much erases any hope of a late-season push by the club.

We expect Philipp Grubauer to get the start for Seattle, as he stopped 102 of 111 shots over his three most recent starts. That’s good for a .918 save percentage, markedly above the type of performance we usually see. Though I must say it remains a mystery why, over that 3-game stretch, the Kraken defense allowed fully ten more shots per game than their season average to that point.

Odds & Ends

  • The thing that jumps out at you about San Jose’s record is the number of times they have pushed games into an extra frame. No fewer than 14 times this season the Sharks have gone into OT, and for a long time it was working really well! They were 7-1 in OT/SO games through their first 8 attempts, highlighted by a 8-7 shootout win over the Arizona Coyotes in late December. But they have reverted to the mean since mid-January, with just one win to five losses when the game has gone past 60 minutes.
  • The President of Sharks Sports & Entertainment, Jonathan Becher, held a media availability on Wednesday, brushing aside talk of a rebuild. With attendance low, he states, he doesn’t want to hurt season ticket sales with a public declaration that the team is going to suck for a while. So Sharks fans will have to put up with stop-gap efforts to improve the team’s fate for the foreseeable future.
  • As mentioned above, the trade deadline watch continues, with no movement as of this writing. Kraken forward Calle Järnkrok and defenseman Mark Giordano are thought to be the most in-demand players on the roster. Both are unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, making them ideal rentals for bubble teams. Järnkrok’s cap hit is a budget-friendly $2 million; it’s likely Seattle would have to retain a portion of Giordano’s $6.75 million salary to facilitate a deal, but that accommodation might yield a better return as part of the trade. With Jake Muzzin placed on LTIR after his second concussion since the first of the year, expect Giordano’s hometown Maple Leafs to be first in line to acquire his services.