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Kraken fall hard to Knights in home opener

The Kraken were routed by the Vegas Golden Knights in their home opener on Saturday. That makes two out of two years the Kraken have lost their first game at Climate Pledge Arena. The difference between this one and last year’s 4-2 loss to the Canucks is a) this year’s team is better than last year’s and b) at least last year they had a lead at one point.

Let’s look at the facts of the game.

The Martin Jones start

In a somewhat surprising move, Martin Jones got his second consecutive start and the all-important home opener start over incumbent Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer struggled last year, but it didn’t stop head coach Dave Hakstol from starting him in 55 of the 82 games in 2021-22. But after a rough game in Anaheim followed by a great game from Jones in Los Angeles, Hakstol made the decision to roll with the hot hand.

Jones gave up 5 goals on 24 shots from Vegas and made it through two periods of play before being relieved by Grubauer. But up until that third goal allowed late in the second period, he actually looked pretty good. He came up with a big save on a penalty shot five minutes into the middle frame and added a few more beauties not too long after.

Special teams disadvantage

The Kraken power play was limited to just two opportunities all night. The first resulted in a meager one shot on net, but the second one — which game when the game was essentially out of reach — resulted in yet another power play goal. This time it was Jaden Schwartz with a beautiful redirect and a hug from goaltender Adin Hill in celebration.

Meanwhile, the other half of the special teams battle went really poorly for Seattle. They did have one really excellent kill in which Vegas couldn’t even gain the zone, but it was bookended by two Vegas power play opportunities in which they scored fairly quickly. The second power play goal (third goal overall) came just 8 seconds after the penalty and was really the point in this game where it felt like Seattle wasn’t coming back.

Faceoff dot failures

Now I’m not personally one who puts a ton of stock into the importance of faceoffs — yes it’s good to win them, but they represent a fraction of the events in the grand scheme of a hockey game. The chaotic nature of hockey makes possession a short-lived endeavor anyway. But there comes a point when a team is so bad in the circle that it can have a serious impact in the game, and the Kraken reached that point here.

For the record, Hakstol is correct here. The Kraken lost their first nine faceoffs, and all four centers finished with a sub-40% faceoff win percentage. Alex Wennberg had it the worst, winning just 3 of his 14 draws. This is just another example of Seattle making the game much harder on themselves than it needs to be.

The flotsam and jetsam

Seattle next takes on the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday in Seattle.

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