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Let’s Play Two, Part Two: Kraken vs. Golden Knights

Seattle can play spoiler as Vegas struggles to secure a playoff spot

Seattle Kraken v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

What: Vegas Golden Knights at Seattle Kraken

Where: Climate Pledge Arena

When: Wednesday, March 30, 2022; 7:00pm PDT, and
Friday, April 1, 2022, 7:00pm PDT

Wait, who are we playing? Landlubber’s Guide to the Vegas Golden Knights

Coverage

National TV: TNT (Wednesday)

Local TV: ROOT Sports NW (Friday)

Streaming: TNT app (Wednesday); ESPN+ (Friday)

Local Radio: 950 AM KJR

SiriusXM: Channel 222 (Wednesday); Channel 91 (Friday)

Last Time Out

The Kraken were hoping for redemption after a season-opening loss to Vegas when these two teams last met in November. Seattle scored first, then took a 2-1 lead late in the second period. Unfortunately they fell prey to one of their repeated gaffes — the dreaded “response goal” — just 15 seconds later. Vegas carried that momentum into the third, scoring two goals in the first two minutes of the final frame and securing a 4-2 win. Jordan Eberle and Yanni Gourde scored for the Kraken; Chris Driedger had 19 saves in the loss.

Stats, Streaks, & Droughts

Vegas is having difficulty putting more than two wins together, and they’re going to have to figure it out quickly if they want to secure a spot in the playoffs. The Golden Knights are 4-6-0 in their last 10, with a two-game win streak in place going into Wednesday’s game — though the 5-4 OT squeaker against the lowly Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday can’t have been looked at as a model for how they want to play down the stretch. Vegas is in a similar spot to Seattle in that it has just a single 20-goal scorer, though for them the problem has been injuries as opposed to lack of production (see below).

As for the Kraken, fans who have watched a largely lackluster and uninspired Seattle squad all year were left wondering if they had passed through some kind of opposite-world worm hole after Monday’s 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Seattle scored in the first 15 seconds, pressed the forecheck all night, never took their foot off the gas, and wiped the floor with LA by a final score of 6-1. That makes three wins in their last four games, and gives them a 4-5-1 record in their last 10.

Probably the most surprising performance of the night was the astonishing play of goaltender Chris Driedger, who made 36 saves — good for a .973 save percentage — and allowed zero goals at even strength. I dare say if he had played like that from opening night the Kraken would currently be contending for a playoff spot. Also noteworthy were the efforts by Kraken newcomers Daniel Sprong and Victor Rask, who have combined for four goals in the last three games.

Players To Watch

With zero players suiting up for all 68 games this season, the Golden Knights’ stats sheet is largely defined by who showed up. The Golden Knights’ lone 20-goal scorer, Jonathan Marchessault, has played in 62 games (seen here beating our own Philipp Grubauer like a rented goalie):

Chandler Stephenson, leading the team in assists with 34, has been in uniform for 65 outings:

And defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, the Iron Man of the Vegas lineup, has 12 goals and 26 assists in 66 games:

Injuries, Illnesses, Additions, & Scratches

With Vegas — oh, where to begin... The Golden Knights have gone on an epic spending spree over the last few years in an attempt to buy themselves a Stanley Cup. They have eight players earning $5 million AAV or more, and an additional three making at least $8 million. Things went awry in their plans when close to half of those players, plus a few others, landed on the injured list. The players Vegas is paying that currently can’t take the ice include forwards Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Reilly Smith; defensemen Brayden McNabb and Jake Bischoff; and goaltender Robin Lehner.

Of those names, the one that is the least replaceable is Lehner. With him unable to suit up the Golden Knights are finding out just how big of a contribution he was making. The team has slipped from solid playoff contenders to scratching and clawing at the last wildcard spot while leaning on career backup Laurent Brossoit and newcomer Logan Thompson. With Brossoit only able to conjure a single win this calendar year, Vegas recalled Czech goaltender Jiri Patera, who they drafted in their first ever NHL Entry Draft, to back up Thompson. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Patera makes his NHL debut in Friday’s game against Seattle.

At the NHL General Manager’s meetings on Monday, Golden Knights’ GM Kelly McCrimmon said that Lehner had been on the ice both this week and last, and that he was “real close” (sic) to returning to action — possibly as early as this weekend. I’m not sure what measure of salary cap chicanery will be required to re-insert Lehner into the lineup, but you can be certain it will bend the limits of legality like overcooked spaghetti.

For the Kraken: forward Jaden Schwartz and defenseman Haydn Fleury both missed the two games against Los Angeles with upper-body injuries, and both are doubtful for tonight; and the timeline for Brandon Tanev (knee, out for the season) has not changed. With his amazing outing on Monday I would not be surprised if Chris Driedger got the start in the first tilt against Vegas on Wednesday night; follow us on Twitter for details on any lineup changes and Seattle’s starting goalie for Friday’s game.

Odds & Ends

  • Wednesday’s game is another local feed blackout thanks to exclusive broadcast rights for TNT. But the good news is, unless the schedule I am reviewing is incorrect, this is the last such blackout for the Kraken — either on TNT or ESPN/Hulu. We should have local coverage on ROOT Sports NW for every game the last month of the season. And there was much rejoicing.
  • As of this writing, the cumulative cap hits of the players that the Vegas Golden Knights have either on injured reserve or LTIR comes in just a few bucks shy of $30 million. That’s not a typo. It was $5 million higher until this past Friday when Alec Martinez was activated from LTIR.
  • This is the Vegas Golden Knights’ fifth season in the NHL. Being the most recent expansion club before Seattle, to some degree we can look at them to see how an expansion team’s roster evolves over time. As of today, there are four players from the original list of expansion draft selections still with the club: forwards William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Carrier; and defenseman Brayden McNabb. Remember that, unlike Seattle, Vegas was very active with “draft considerations” trade activity, and in amongst those transactions were the acquisitions of forward Reilly Smith, and defensemen Jake Bischoff and Shea Theodore — all of whom are still with the team. So five years later, seven players from the original opening night roster are still with the organ-eye-zation. That number for the Kraken currently stands at 14.
  • The Golden Knights began their existence with a public declaration from the owner that they wanted to win a Stanley Cup within six years. They came close in their first season, losing in the Stanley Cup Final to the Washington Capitals. They have been contenders in two of the three subsequent seasons, but now are poised to miss the playoffs for the first time in their history. This is year five; it’s going to take a miracle for them to win it all in year six — especially since they will have to clear $10 million or more in salary in the off-season to be cap compliant with a fully healthy roster in October.
  • And lastly, your Shane Wright Sweepstakes update. The Kraken’s good fortune of late now puts them in third-to-last place in the overall standings — one point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens, and three points in front of the Arizona Coyotes. Given that the last-place team still has a 75% chance of not landing the number one overall pick, I think Kraken fans would much rather watch a team that looked like the one that took the ice Monday in Los Angeles than one phoning in the remainder of the season in an attempt to improve their draft fortunes.