RECAP: Kraken 5, Canadiens 1 – Finally back on the winning path

A pandemic is raging on, and a Seattle hockey team just beat the Montréal Canadiens. Am I talking about 1919 or 2021?

Truly, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Honoring the history of more than a century was the lead up to this game. Zaeim beautifully covered what the rivalry between the Metropolitans and Canadiens was like earlier, and the Kraken themselves took to honor it both with displays of historical artifacts at the arena, as well as raising the 1917 Stanley Cup banner for the Metropolitians. (Which, considering which team they beat to win it, there was a little petty shade thrown in there.)

The Kraken keep making history of their own, though. Tonight saw them come roaring out from the jump (which is not an exaggeration when you score your first goal 62 seconds into the game) to win for the first time at Climate Pledge Arena.

It’s more than just narrative significance that propelled the Kraken to a win tonight. There was a lot to love about tonight’s performance.

Winning the possession battles

There were moments throughout the game where I watched the offensive pressure that the Kraken kept putting on goaltender Jake Allen and was ready to assume that the shot count (which the ROOT Sports scorebug so badly needs to add as a permanent feature, thank you very much) was going to start to widen out into this large gap. Then the display would update to show me the shots on goal, and they’d be dead even. It felt like a bit of a headscratcher.

Well, it’s less of a headscratcher and more of a reflection of how much more impactful the Kraken’s general shots were. The Kraken’s offensive pressure stood out more because beyond the raw shots on goal stat, they were making the most of the chances they got.

As seen in the chart above, the Kraken’s shots funnel themselves down into the slot – and all the goals were scored right there. That’s not a coincidence. Keeping a high volume of shots right in close on net is what you want to see more of. Contrast that to the Canadiens’ shots, which look much more scattered and never really had a chance to continuously get in too close on Grubauer. This is reflected by the fact that their high danger chances for percentage (HDCF%) was at a whopping 77.83% (with the Canadiens at 22.17%). This ratio means that of all the high danger scoring chances created on the ice during this game, the Kraken created the overwhelming majority of them.

Additionally, the high volume of shots that are near the blue line for the Kraken are reflective of a major strategy of theirs for tonight, which was to just let things shoot. An issue that can sometimes drag teams down is that they try too hard for the perfect shot. Players get stuck in a loop of doing almost too much passing as they avoid what look like weak shots, and as a result, they stop generating chances. Yes, not every shot is of equal quality, but there still needs to be a healthy quantity, too. In fact, these charts help prove how that balance is key.

The first and third images plot out each player on both the Kraken and the Canadiens and creates an easy to glance at idea of where they fall in terms of shot quality vs quantity. The majority of the players on ice for the Kraken tonight were right in that sweet spot where they weren’t afraid to keep shooting the puck and were holding on to possession longer, but they also figured out how to use that possession to their advantage and shoot quality shots. The Canadiens’ chart is almost a reverse image. Just looking at the actual shot totals for tonight makes the game look much more even (26 SOG for the Kraken, 24 SOG for the Canadiens), but these charts help show that the Kraken truly dominated with the shots they took – and partially because they weren’t afraid to just shoot.

Brandon Tanev’s world domination tour

There’s a reason I figured starting off my astrology series with Tanev would be a good idea, and it’s because this man is setting out to win all of us over one stellar game at a time. His personality was already endearing enough, but then there’s what he continues to produce game in and game out on the ice.

This is his second multi-goal effort of the season, and he’s leading the team with 5 goals in 7 games. There are a lot of people watching him do this that feel shocked, but at this point, I’m really not. No, he’s not what your typical goal-scorer is expected to be, but he has the determination on every shift that allows him to fight for the right positioning to get out there and get those good chances.

Even when he’s not scoring, he’s still doing everything it takes out there. At the start of the third period he threw two major hits against Romanov, sending the Seattle crowd into a frenzy. In total, he landed 6 hits this game, which is tied with Adam Larsson for most in this match. A player that’s so good both with and without the puck like that is special. Tanev is leading the charge out there and doing everything it takes.

An apple or two a day…

Though with Tanev’s first goal, I can’t let him get all the credit. In fact, most goals don’t let the goal scorer get sole credit. There’s a reason the NHL not only makes sure to record assists, but lets them have equal weight in scoring to the actual goal itself – 1 point. Goals don’t happen without the full play to set them up.

It’s the way McCann goes from end-to-end, but then stops on a dime the second he knows that the Canadiens are closing in on him too much. He deftly gets the puck out of harms way by tossing it quickly behind him to Oleksiak, who then is able to skate it up to pass it right to where Tanev is parked in front of the net. Tanev’s pesty positioning is what makes the end result, but he doesn’t get a chance to score it without his teammates working in perfect sequence as they did. All of this is why assists are so important. It may be “spooky szn y’all,” but it’s also apple picking season.

Final thoughts

The last time I did a game recap, the Kraken also won, but I felt the need to break down the flaws I saw in the game. It was amazing to get that win, but it didn’t feel sustainable to keep doing certain things they did. In fact, some of the flaws I pointed out then trickled into their next batch of losses. Go figure.

This game, however, was truly much more like it. This was a decisive victory from start to finish. It was the first fully complete effort that the Kraken pieced together. This felt like the blueprint moving forward. If they can keep playing the game the way they did tonight, the initial 1-4-1 start won’t matter. It was always going to take time for the team to get their sea legs, but now the Kraken can truly get rolling at this point.

Next game: Thursday 10/28 against the Minnesota Wild. Puckdrop: 7:00 PT / 10:00 ET.