Kraken’s Gourde Impressive in First Game

Yanni Gourde made his Seattle Kraken debut versus the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night and provided a spark despite the loss. The former Tampa Bay Lightning star played 22:25 while registering one shot and one assist. His surprising early return from shoulder surgery may be precisely what the Kraken need to reverse their early-season misfortunes.

Gourde Strong Five on Five

On a line with Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz, Gourde finished his first game with 15:46 of ice-time. His line played a total of 14:13 and was the only trio not separated for stretches of the game. Matched up mostly against Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves, the Kraken’s top line registered a 56.67 Corsi for percentage (CF%) and generated seven scoring chances.

As for individual statistics, Gourde was strong defensively and helped generate offense. He finished the game with a 59.38 CF% and registered two high danger scoring chances. The Kraken have been out-chanced and out-shot this season at five-on-five. The hope is that with Gourde’s return, the team can find more balance through the lineup and that the first line can generate more chances.

If there is one critique to Gourde’s five-on-five game, it’s the same as every other player on the Seattle Kraken. The team is giving up too many high danger scoring chances. While he was on the ice, Seattle gave up four high danger chances against. As a team, no one in the NHL has given up more high danger scoring chances than the Kraken at five-on-five. Gourde has never given up more high danger scoring chances throughout his career than created, so hopefully, history can repeat itself in Seattle, and the team can lower the high danger chances conceded per game.

Related: Hockey 101: The Faceoff

Gourde Dominated the Faceoff Dot

One big problem for the Kraken early this season has been faceoffs. They have never won the faceoff battle through the team’s first four games, even dropping as low as 39% versus Philadelphia. Against the Devils, they finally won the faceoff battle, and a big reason for that was Gourde.

Yanni Gourde, Seattle Kraken
Yanni Gourde Seattle Kraken (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Gourde went 13 for 23 in the faceoff dot, beating each of the Devils’ centers at least twice in the process. Although his 57% helped, there are still some concerns about his faceoffs as 2-5 in his defensive zone. Faceoffs are all about timing, so the fact he had a positive result in game one should spark some confidence down the road. It will be up to the rest of the team to step up their game and raise their 46.1% faceoff percentage through five games.

Gourde Makes His Mark on Special Teams

Gourde saw time on both the power play and penalty kill against the Devils. He played 42 seconds on the penalty kill and was partnered with linemate Schwartz for 34 seconds. During that time, his line only allowed one shot on goal. The only concerning part was faceoffs, as he went 1-3 while on the penalty kill. As mentioned, his timing should come back shortly, but he needs to be better at taking faceoffs while shorthanded in the future.

On the power play, Gourde was on the first unit and saw 4:43 of ice. He assisted on Jared McCann’s five-on-three goal and played along the perimeter as a set-up guy. The power play was also where he registered his only shot of the game. The hope is that Gourde’s experience and skill set will help jumpstart a power play that only had two goals scored coming into the Devils game. The good news is the power play did look better, generating five shots and four high danger scoring chances with him on the ice.

Sign of Thing to Come Hopefully

Overall, Gourde delivered in his first game of the season. He helped drive that first line and was able to help generate offense throughout the season. It may take some time for him to get back to the player he was in Tampa fully, but his impressive performance in game one should leave Kraken fans satisfied despite the team result.

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