Where: Climate Pledge Arena
When: Saturday, March 19, 2022; 7:00pm PDT
Wait, who are we playing? Landlubber’s Guide to the Detroit Red Wings
Local TV: ROOT Sports NW
Local Radio: 950 AM KJR
SiriusXM: Channel 219
Last Time Out
When the Kraken visited the Motor City back in December, Seattle managed to escape the first period tied at 0-0. The Kraken then fell behind, took the lead, fell behind again, then tied it with less than 3 minutes to go in regulation. Nothing was settled in the 5-minute overtime period, Detroit goaltender Thomas Greiss out-dueled Philipp Grubauer in the shootout, and the Red Wings nabbed the extra point. Vince Dunn got the scoring started for Seattle; Ryan Donato notched a pair, including the goal that sent it to an extra frame; and Grubauer ended the night with 23 saves. Final score 4-3 Detroit.
Stats, Streaks, & Droughts
The Kraken are catching Detroit at the perfect time. They are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, which includes a recent losing streak of six straight. While the Red Wings are not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, earning a spot in the post-season is unlikely. With the notable exception of the 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, Detroit is giving up an astonishing number of goals — 34 in their just-ended losing streak. Just since January 1st they have allowed seven or more goals in six contests, and dropped another five games in which they allowed at least five goals against. It doesn’t even seem to matter how strong the opponent is: they dropped a game 6-2 to the first-place Florida Panthers, before losing 9-2 to the last place Arizona Coyotes. So if the Kraken are going to get their offense back in gear, this is the perfect time to do it.
Offense has been scarce for Seattle during this 10-game stretch, in which they have a 2-6-2 record. The Kraken have been scoring slightly more than two goals a game on average, while regularly allowing four or more. This has been the case dating back months, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientists to figure out why Seattle is in last place in the Pacific Division. The only player delivering consistently for the Kraken of late is Yanni Gourde, who has a point in each of his last five outings (2G, 3A). Both Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger have just a single win in their last five starts.
Players To Watch
You don’t have to look any further than the top line to find Detroit’s offense. Leading the charge is center Dylan Larkin, who is performing at a point-per-game pace:
...followed by winger Tyler Bertuzzi, limited to 50 of 61 games so far this season — more on that in a moment:
...and finally 19-year-old Swedish right wing Lucas Raymond, the #4 overall pick in 2020, who is approaching the 20-goal mark in his debut season:
But the kid getting the most attention now that the post-season is out of reach for Detroit is rookie defenseman Moritz Seider. He is looking very much like the second coming of Red Wings legend Niklas Lidström (albeit with more size) with a team-leading 36 assists in his first season in the NHL. The German import is a long shot for the Calder — only four defensemen have won Rookie of the Year honors in the last quarter century — but definitely among the contenders.
Injuries, Illnesses, Additions, & Scratches
Detroit has some pretty big names out of the lineup for a variety of reasons. Defenseman Danny DeKeyser was waived and cleared, then placed on Injured Reserve shortly thereafter — though no illness or injury was ever made public. It’s unknown if the Red Wings lifer is actually injured, or if this is merely a way to open a roster spot. Winger Robby Fabbri has a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. And depth forwards Carter Rowney and Mitchell Stephens are unavailable tonight due to injury. Both of Detroit’s goaltenders, Thomas Greiss and Alex Nedeljkovic, have mostly been playing atrocious hockey of late; it honestly doesn’t matter which one starts tonight, they’re both terrible (Nedeljkovic’s 43-save shutout win against Vancouver being the notable exception).
It’s been a tough week for the Kraken: saying goodbye to Kraken Legend Calle Järnkrok in a trade that yielded three draft picks from Calgary; then the painful (and still on-going) anticipation of Mark Giordano being the next domino to fall. Gio was held out of Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in anticipation of a trade that has yet to materialize. He’s expected to be out once again tonight, even if a trade doesn’t happen by puck drop.
On the injury front, we’ll start with saying that Brandon Tanev is still out for the year recovering from knee surgery. Forward Karson Kuhlman has been participating in practice, and we saw him without the red no-contact jersey during Wednesday’s morning skate, indicating he is closer to returning to action. Joonas Donskoi is still on Injured Reserve and is not available for tonight. No word on Alexander Wennberg, who is nursing an injury but has not been placed on IR. These injuries plus Järnkrok’s departure made for an interesting lineup against the Lightning, with Seattle dressing 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. Head Coach Dave Hakstol has not tipped his hand as to who will start in goal for Seattle.
Odds & Ends
- The Red Wings are in the same position with Nick Leddy that the Kraken are in with Mark Giordano: veteran defenseman, expiring big-dollar contract, potential playoff rental if the buyers show up. Leddy was held out of Detroit’s game against Vancouver on Thursday, similar to Giordano being held out against Tampa Bay. If no deal materializes for Leddy, expect him to be a healthy scratch tonight as well.
- Every once in a while there is a play that illustrates why goaltenders should never attempt to touch the puck except to make a save. Detroit’s Alex Nedeljkovic provided us with one of those against the Minnesota Wild:
I could go on about goaltenders being the worst-equipped and least-skilled players to play the puck, and how if Ned had just let the puck bounce wide his team would have won in regulation instead of losing in OT. But I instead I’m just going to sit here and play the video on a loop and laugh, and laugh, and laugh...
- We can’t send you on your way without explaining the bizarre situation surrounding Detroit winger Tyler Bertuzzi. He has refused to comply with the league’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, and as such he is ineligible to cross the border into Canada. So when the team travels north he is officially “suspended without pay” and is listed as a non-roster player with the club. Then for the games in the United States he is added to the active roster and available to play. He missed Detroit’s games against the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks, but we do expect to see him tonight at Climate Pledge Arena.