With it being the holiday weekend, and many of us tied up with family and travel and cooking and watching our paychecks disappear in a tsunami of Christmas shopping, you can be forgiven for missing Seattle’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.
You didn’t miss much, as the Kraken fell 3-0 to a Tampa Bay team that made stifling the fledgling club and capitalizing on their defensive gaffes look all too easy. This ends the Kraken win streak at two games, and starts this four-game road trip off with a loss.
I have to say, this wasn’t a bad game by the Kraken. They were simply overmatched and outplayed by a Lightning team that, when they get to play their game, dominate their opponents pretty thoroughly. The effort was there, but the Kraken were unable to get any genuine scoring chances on Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy. Seattle managed just 17 shots on goal, and as the heat map below shows pretty clearly, they were kept to the perimeter in the offensive zone most of the night.
Philipp Grubauer, for his part, had 23 saves on 26 shots for a statistically unimpressive .885 SV% — more closely in line with his season average than his last two impressive outings. But I’m not going to fault Gru for this one.
No, the blame here lies with guys like Jeremy Lauzon, getting caught flat-footed less than 10 yards from his goaltender and allowing the shooter a clear shot on goal:
…and like Yanni Gourde, doing his best Brian Boitano impression out near the blue line while the guy he’s supposed to be covering gets the rebound and whips it home to make it 2-0…
…and what do you know, Jeremy Lauzon, again, trying to force a pass in his own zone and putting it right on the opponent’s stick…
But these three lapses are merely symptoms of an underlying problem the Kraken have when they are facing adversity: panic. It manifests itself in multitudes of ways, none of them good: defensemen flinging pucks around the boards to the opposite point, instead of gaining possession in a controlled way and finding an outlet pass; forwards flicking pucks off the boards in the defensive zone with no intended recipient, which are then inevitably gathered up by the opponent; hesitating in pursuing 50/50 pucks; defensemen making ill-timed decisions to pinch; and forwards failing to cover for their defenseman when they make ill-timed decisions to pinch.
There’s no single problem here, and as such is no single solution. This past week we saw the level of play this team is capable of against two of the strongest teams in the league. Why they can’t manage to replicate that whenever they take the ice is becoming the enduring mystery of the Seattle Kraken’s inaugural season.
Tomorrow the Kraken take on the Florida Panthers, currently leading the Atlantic Division, in Miami; game time is 3pm Pacific.