After a stretch that saw the Seattle Kraken win two of three, they fell twice to two of the best teams from the Eastern Conference. On Feb. 23, they lost to the league-best Boston Bruins in a barn-burning 6-5 game that saw the Bruins take a late lead.
Following the late-game loss, the Toronto Maple Leafs came into Seattle and took down the Kraken 5-1. Despite leading early, they surrendered five consecutive goals to be handed the loss. Here are five takeaways from two challenging games.
5. Playoff Intensity is Fun
Despite the loss, the 6-5 game against the league-leading Bruins was one for the ages. After Matty Beniers put the Kraken up 1-0 less than a minute into the first, both teams were up and running and the energy was high.
It was a game defined by attacks and counterattacks, with response goals becoming a theme throughout. The second period alone saw three lead changes and six different goal scorers. The constant back-and-forth had the crowd in a frenzy, unsure of what was to happen next. While it’s unlikely that a playoff series would see many 6-5 games, this had the energy of a playoff matchup.
4. Depth Scoring Remains a Strength for Kraken
While it’s been a theme throughout the entirety of the season, the Kraken’s ability to score from anywhere in the lineup was once again on display. With Vince Dunn scoring a goal in each game, he added to an already impressive group of double-digit scorers.
With 11 goals, Dunn joins 11 other teammates with ten or more goals on the season. His two goals in the losses put him at a significant career milestone, reaching 50 career goals. His scoring has been an asset to the team and is currently on pace to set a new career high.
Depth scoring isn’t exactly limited to goals from the team’s bottom six, as defensive scoring should be seen as depth offense. Obviously, some defensemen are stronger offensively, but typically teams still rely most on their forward group to hold up their offense. Dunn becomes the only defenseman on the roster to hit double digits.
In addition to his entry into the double-digit club, he joins players from all over the lineup. Ranging from the big guns in Jared McCann (26) and Beniers (19) to the fourth-line contributors in Daniel Sprong (15) and Brandon Tanev (10), the Kraken have one of, if not the best supporting cast in the NHL.
3. Don’t Beat Yourself
The Kraken were well positioned to take down the Bruins late in the third period when Jaden Schwartz put them up 5-4 with less than five minutes remaining. That lead was incredibly short-lived, as a blown defensive coverage led to the tying goal. Somehow, a pinching Brandon Carlo snuck past everyone and was able to redirect a shot pass past Philip Grubauer.
The pressure didn’t stop there, as the Bruins ended up tying the game on a deflection from Jake DeBrusk with only 1:37 left on the clock. It was a disappointing end to one of the games of the year. That said, the tying goal was a self-inflicted wound that undoubtedly set the tone for the Bruins to keep the momentum. Late in games, failing to tighten up can often create chaos and that’s exactly what happened. It’s a shame a game so good ended on that note, but it’s something to learn from.
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The game against the Maple Leafs was an entirely different story, but it resulted in another disappointing loss. The Kraken were outshot 20-7 in the opening frame and were outscored 3-1. Despite opening the scoring, the Maple Leafs roared back with three of their own and never looked back. A team like the Leafs can beat you early and often, and a slow start by the Kraken was exactly what they needed to take over the game.
2. Jones Solid in Relief Appearance
While it’s easy to focus on the negatives, sometimes it’s beneficial to look for positives in bad losses like the 5-1 drubbing by the Maple Leafs. One of the good things to come out of that one was Martin Jones’ appearance in relief of Grubauer.
Jones has had it pretty rough as of late, posting a loss in four consecutive starts. The games haven’t been particularly kind to him either, as his average save percentage (SV%) in those games was .859. If Jones can find some of the magic he was rolling with earlier in the season, his team will thank him for it.
Grubauer started the matchup, but after allowing four goals on 21 shots, Jones was called into action to finish the game. In just over 35 minutes, Jones turned aside 11 of 12 shots which was good for a .917 SV%. Dave Hakstol was blunt in his postgame media availability when asked about the goaltending.
“We’re at the time of year where we need to have some saves in tough situations,” Hakstol said after the loss. He’s right, the team needs saves so they’re not giving up as many goals. Hopefully they can find some stability moving forward, as they’ll need those saves down the stretch.
1. Shake Off Losses Before Tough Road Trip
The Kraken hit the road now for an interesting grouping of games. The best way to shake off the two tough losses against the Bruins and Maple Leafs is to take care of business on the road. In the four games they’re playing away from home, they’ll visit the St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Colorado Avalanche.
The trip carries an interesting dynamic, as both the Blues and Blue Jackets are in the middle of sell-offs and are games the Kraken need to win. They have to beat the teams scraping the bottom of the league because it can be costly if they don’t.
The Detroit Red Wings provide a difficult challenge as they continue to contend for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. They’re hungry and tend to play teams fairly close, so it’s a game the Kraken need to tighten up for.
Then, there’s the ever-dangerous Avalanche. Arguably the hottest team in the Western Conference, they are in the midst of a stretch that has seen them go 7-1 in their past eight games. This will likely prove to be the biggest challenge on the trip, but a win in Denver means they get to head back to Seattle after beating one of the league’s hottest teams.
The two losses are tough, especially when the team had a chance to take out two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. That being said, it’s just two tough games amid a fairly successful stretch and the Kraken have a chance to roll into March with an opportunity to tackle a challenging road trip ahead.