The Kraken dropped their fifth straight game on Saturday night when they hosted the Vancouver Canucks. They still haven’t beat their so-called rivals yet in the regular season, which is not an ideal foundation for a rivalry, but hey it’s only been two games. And this one started out about as fiery as a rivalry game should start.
This game was physical right from the jump. The biggest point of contention came when Carson Soucy leveled Canucks forward Conor Garland. Tanner Pearson came to his teammate’s defense and he and Soucy had an old-fashioned big boy tilt just five minutes in.
That certainly brought some energy into the building, but not enough to make the period all that competitive. Vancouver controlled the play for most of the opening frame, outshooting Seattle 14-6 overall and 11-4 at even strength. The game started particularly rough for young Will Borgen, whom this writer really wanted to see more of and well I guess it’s important to remember to be careful what you wish for.
I mean, what a feed from Borgen to Vasili Podkolzin here. You’ve gotta laugh otherwise you’ll cry. The Canucks added another goal later in the period on the power play, when Nils Höglander put home a rebound that Philipp Grubauer never really stood a chance on. After one, the Canucks held a 2-0 lead and the Kraken did not show much sign of getting back into it.
The second period was much kinder to the Kraken, as it has been for much of the year. They managed the puck much better and generated far more scoring chances than they did early on. Thatcher Demko was playing lights-out for Vancouver, however, and it was tough to see how they were going to mount a comeback against the red-hot goaltender.
Wait, did someone say tough to see?
A set faceoff play led to the boi boi Calle Järnkrok (no we will never stop calling him that) burying one from downtown, with thanks going out to Yanni Gourde and his superb screen placement. If you’re up against a great goalie, the best strategy is often to get as much traffic in front as possible so he simply can’t see the puck any more.
Järnkrok had another great chance later in the period to tie it after a perfect cross-ice pass from Colin Blackwell, but the puck wouldn’t quite lay still for him and it gave Demko just enough time to get in position to make the save. That Gourde/Järnkrok/Blackwell line once again looked like a keeper.
The Kraken have yet to win a game when trailing after two periods, but they showed enough in the second to make it seem like that streak could end. But then Will Borgen’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day continued. He gave the puck away behind his own goal line (again) and it led immediately to a Canucks goal (again). This one at least included a very strong forecheck from Juho Lammikko to force the turnover, and a great pass and finish from Matthew Highmore and Tyler Motte to extend the lead to 3-1. Just when I thought Borgen might’ve played himself into more ice time, he goes and-
WILL BORGEN SCORES HIS FIRST CAREER GOAL!
Alexa play Vindicated by Dashboard Confessional
There’s been so many negatives to discuss this season in regards to the Kraken’s play, so it’s important to appreciate the very good fun things that still happen on any given night. Borgen, playing in his 22nd career NHL game, was not having a ton of fun. But that can all change in an instant with just one good play. And once again, the traffic in front of Demko played a big part in getting this one through. Ryan Donato does a great job fighting his way to the front of the net, setting the screen perfectly to make it difficult for Demko to find the puck. And just like that it’s a one goal game again with over 9 minutes still to play.
And just like that it’s gone.
That’s three straight games with an answer goal allowed within a minute of scoring for Seattle. This one involves a defensive miscommunication between Mark Giordano and Jamie Oleksiak behind the net, Oleksiak failing to clear his man out in front, and Grubauer getting distracted trying to clear space in front of him himself. And I guess the shot from Garland was pretty good too.
This trend sucks, and it’s been happening long enough to consider it a pattern. I don’t know why the team ends up falling to the pushback after they score so often, but they do, and it makes it really hard to win hockey games, especially when engineering a comeback. We’ll dig into just how much of a problem these goals are for Seattle later this week, but spoiler alert: it’s as bad as you think.
People have asked me several times throughout the season if the Kraken are bad. And my go-to answer is “not as bad as their record, but not as good as you thought they’d be before the season started.” Well, it’s January now, and they’re still in the bottom-5 in the NHL, so I might just start saying “yes” as my response now. They have talent on the roster, but the goal scoring has diminished recently and while the goaltending has improved from the start of the year, it’s still well below what it could be.
On the bright side, we have an NHL team and that rules. The next game was supposed to be against the New York Islanders on Tuesday, but that one has been postponed — do not go to Climate Pledge Arena on Tuesday expecting to see the Kraken. Instead they’ll next get a chance to end the losing streak against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday January 6th in Seattle. We’ll see you all then.