Tonight’s game against the Anaheim Ducks was a measuring stick. It’s clear that the Seattle Kraken aren’t going to challenge for the Stanley Cup this season, with a power play that doesn’t work and a defensive structure that breaks down at the worst of times, but there is still a very realistic shot at a playoff berth. A lot of things have to change or improve for that to happen, and one thing they absolutely need to possess is a winning record within their division.
Certainly there are a couple of teams that will leave the Kraken in the rearview in the standings point race (the Edmonton Oilers come to mind), but the list of beatable teams in the division is a long one. Without question, the Anaheim Ducks are one of the teams Seattle need to beat regularly in order to make the post-season. So how did that go?
Kraken Fall Behind Early
Period 1 didn’t get off to the best of starts. Besides being outshot 14-4, the Kraken fell behind 1-0 on an unassisted marker from Mason McTavish. They also lost two of every three face-offs (33%) and were outhit as well. Coach Dave Hakstol needs to have his team ready when they hit the ice, because slow starts aren’t easy for any team to overcome. The Kraken’s early season identity of a team that doesn’t quit on any game needs to reassert itself.
Still, a one goal deficit is never more than a lucky bounce or deflection away from a tie game, so there was no need to panic.
Big Hits and Bare Knuckles
Only a couple minutes into the second frame, Jeremy Lauzon took it upon himself to change the game’s tempo. A big hit on Anaheim’s Isac Lundeström (called as interference) put the Kraken on the penalty kill. He was also assessed a coincidental roughing call for defending himself afterward. The PK lasted only 33 seconds before a Ducks hooking call (Sam Carrick) evened things up.
Four on four wasn’t kind to either goaltender as the teams traded goals. Troy Terry scored for the Ducks, making it 2-0. Moments later, a great set up by Jordan Eberle sent Jaden Schwartz in all alone and he made no mistake, getting Seattle back to a single goal deficit. From there it was a back-and-forth, with Kraken netminder Philipp Grubauer making a couple keys saves to maintain the gap, but a shot through traffic from Ducks defender Josh Mahura found its way in and the Kraken trailed by two once again.
Lauzon answered the bell versus Josh Manson just after the goal, a spirited scrap, with Lauzon getting the judges’ decision due to the takedown at the end. A moral victory for Seattle fans, but things were looking bleak on the scoreboard.
The toe of Jared McCann’s skate had something to say about that however, and the left winger, recently returned from a Covid-related absence, got his fourth goal of the season. The Kraken, and the home crowd, seemed reenergized by the goal, buzzing for the following few shifts.
The temperature of the game rose in the back half of the 2nd, with a number of big hits from both sides. Either team could have capitalized on the increased emotion, but it was the Ducks once again pulling ahead by two, on a goal Grubauer certainly wants back.
While the score wasn’t in their favor, Brandon Tanev did introduce himself to Duck’s goaltender John Gibson as the period expired, adding some flair in the way only Ghost can.
The team improved versus their first period performance in every facet of the game that wasn’t the scoreboard, down 4-2 with twenty to go.
Three’s a Crowd
The Kraken’s game needs work. Everyone knows the powerplay isn’t there yet, but defensively they have structural breakdowns at the worst times and the offense, while creative, suffers from a lack of finish, especially beyond the top six forwards. The good news is a lot of the issues are fixable, but the bad news is the team will run out of runway before they know it. Common thought in the NHL is that your position by Thanksgiving (American Thanksgiving that is) is more or less where you’re going to end up at the season’s end.
Nobody likes to be down two goals with twenty to play, but with where the team sits today, the gap could be too much to overcome. A five-goal second period blew the game wide open, easily hitting the game’s “Over” of 5.5 total goals, in under forty minutes. The story of the third period would be similar.
Jordan Eberle, who admitted during the in-game proceedings that his favorite band is none other than Nickelback, redeemed himself with his 8th goal in as many games. A one goal deficit (again), and a plenty of clock to reel the Ducks the rest of the way back in.
The Kraken’s cycle game looked good in the mid-third period, but the tying goal still eluded them as they approached the 10 minute mark. The déjà vu continued when Anaheim put the Ducks up by two (Lindholm from Henrique), only to see the score climb to 5-4 on McCann’s second goal of the night.
Firewagon hockey, trading goals back and forth, but always with the tying goal just out of reach. Fun for the fans, but the Kraken needed two goals in a row if they hoped to win or force overtime.
An early goalie pull by Hakstol with nearly three minutes to go resulted in a Sam Carrick empty net goal for the Ducks (Troy Terry would add a seventh, also on an empty net, in the game’s dying seconds). The game out of reach for the final time, the Kraken fall to a disappointing 4-9-1 at the bottom of the Pacific. Not time to panic, but this was yet another winnable game that slipped away from the team, and fan frustration is becoming evident on the various social media channels and comment sections. On that note, let me know your thoughts on tonight’s game below.