Hockey is a chaotic sport, and perhaps that’s what makes it so entertaining to watch. Every time you go to the rink, you just never know what kind of a game you’re going to see. Thursday’s 7-4 Kraken defeat at the hands of the upstart Anaheim Ducks, though disappointing in terms of the result, truly had everything you could possibly want in a hockey game. It was high scoring, high flying, high intensity, and high drama.
The disheartening result is damaging for Seattle and huge for Anaheim, which has now vaulted into second place in the Pacific Division with its sixth win in as many games. The third straight Kraken loss simply means the challenge of getting back in the race is even tougher now.
For the Kraken, the intensity didn’t switch on until the second period, and they were back to chasing the game from the jump. To their credit, they never quit and continued to battle back, even as one-goal deficits turned into two-goal deficits. Every time that happened, they picked themselves up and got back to within striking distance of a tying goal, but that equalizer proved elusive.
Every inch Seattle took it gave right back to Anaheim.
Slow start proves costly for Kraken against Ducks
Of their several defensive breakdowns in the first period, only one was costly, as Grubauer stood tall to turn away the other 13 shots he faced.
That most glaring miscue came fewer than five minutes into the game. In transition, Carson Soucy—playing left defense—found himself just a few feet away from partner Vince Dunn on the right side of the ice. That meant Max Comtois was gliding in all alone on the weak side. From the dot, he wound and fired a shot that Grubauer stopped, but as the puck bounced around in front of the net, 18-year-old Mason McTavish found it and buried his second career NHL goal.
There was no pushback offensively, and Seattle got just four pucks on the usually impermeable John Gibson. As the Kraken went to the dressing room, it was clear they would need to bring a lot more heat to break through.
Said Jordan Eberle, “We’re finding ways to lose. Tonight was a little different. I thought we started really slow, they really took it to us and [Philipp Grubauer] really kept us in it. We were lucky to be down one after one there.”
A very strange, high-flying period of hockey
The Kraken did break through in the second, but so too did the Ducks in a bizarre period of hockey.
It started with Jeremy Lauzon laying a high hit on Isac Lundestrom, which the Ducks did not like. Comtois went right after Lauzon, and the two tussled, both landing themselves in the penalty box. Oddly, Lauzon got an extra minor penalty on the play for his initial hit, while Comtois—who started the brouhaha—only got the one for roughing. That dustup set the tone for the strange frame.
Troy Terry used Mark Giordano as a screen to score his 10th (!!!) goal and 17th point of the season, giving Anaheim its first two-goal lead at 3:10. Terry looked dangerous every time he touched the puck, which is no surprise with the incredible hot streak he’s been on to start the season. The 24-year-old is just oozing confidence right now, and he showed it Thursday.
Jaden Schwartz answered 35 seconds later when he took a pass from Jordan Eberle off the rush and rifled it off the crossbar and in to bring the Kraken back within one.
Just when you thought the Kraken were starting to cook, Josh Mahura, off an offensive zone face-off win, blasted it through traffic. It beat Grubauer on a shot he never saw, and just like that it was again a two-goal deficit for Seattle.
The earlier issue with Lauzon was apparently not settled in the eyes of the Ducks, as Josh Manson challenged him, and the two dropped the gloves and threw a bunch of right jabs and crosses at one another, before Lauzon ultimately took Manson down to the ice.
The fight appeared to re-energize the Kraken, as Jared McCann, playing his first game since a bout with COVID, went hard to the net and a Ryan Donato pass bounced off him and through Gibson. In case you’ve lost count, the score at that point was 3-2.
The second period scoring was not quite done, though, as Kevin Shattenkirk re-established Anaheim’s two-goal lead at 15:46 on the one goal of the night that Grubauer would have wanted back. From the right dot, Shattenkirk snapped a shot that just squeezed through Grubauer’s armpit, and as soon as he realized it had gotten through, he looked skyward in disgust.
That brought the game to 4-2 to close out the second, and surely this thing was over, right?
Not so fast. The third period was every bit as wild as the second. Oh, and before we go there, just to add one bizarre cherry on top of a bizarre period, Gibson got in the grill of Brandon Tanev behind the play and held onto his stick for a good ten seconds. The referees stood and waited for them to sort it out, even though Gibson was visibly preventing Tanev from skating away.
It was all very strange.
Eberle stays hot, but Kraken come up short
Eberle continued his hot streak 3:57 into the final frame. On a two-on-one rush, Alex Wennberg sauced a perfect pass onto Eberle’s tape. As Gibson sprawled to cover the yawning cage, a confident Eberle buried it, putting Seattle back in business. That’s the sixth goal in four games for Eberle and his eighth in Seattle’s last eight.
Six minutes later, Hampus Lindholm pinballed one through traffic, making it 5-3. NOW it was over, right? Still no.
Exactly one minute elapsed before McCann took a pass from Donato while streaking into the offensive zone. He made a hard and deft cut to the middle, and in one fell swoop let go a howitzer that pinged off the right post and in to cut the deficit to one yet again.
The Kraken continued to push, and the line of Eberle, Schwartz, and Wennberg just missed on several prime scoring chances in the closing minutes. But an ill-timed goalie pull, just as that line was changing, gave Sam Carrick an easy empty netter and put the nail in the coffin.
Just to rub a little salt in the wound, Terry added another empty netter for his 11th (!!!) of the season and brought the final score to 7-4.
Frustrating loss against a good team
This latest loss was frustrating for players and fans alike on a lot of levels. The start was not good, but Grubauer bailed the team out in the first period and gave Seattle a chance going into the second.
Then as the game went on, the Kraken would gain ground but give it right back like they were engaged in trench warfare. That simply can’t continue to happen. For all the resiliency that this team has demonstrated, it rarely seems to get over the hump when it’s trying to mount a comeback. Giving back goals after working so hard to score just kills Seattle’s momentum, and it’s the latest troubling trend for this group.
As the standings climb gets more and more daunting, nights like Thursday are a stark reminder that the Pacific Division is better than it has been in recent years. The Ducks used to be viewed as easy points, but not anymore. Their long-standing youth movement is finally bearing fruit. They have evolved into a talented, fast, and exciting hockey club, with more young, impactful players still on the way.
The Kraken truly can’t afford to take more time to figure out ways to win instead of ways to lose. The climb back into the playoff race is getting steeper by the day.
Seattle will face the Minnesota Wild Saturday in the second game of this six-game homestand.
Grubauer gives up five goals but somehow is still doing a good job.
Before last night’s .853…
34th out of 35 goalies with six starts in SV%
Expected Goals Against is around 15 depending on the site – he’s given up 23.
SV% against medium-danger shots is .811. 10 goals on 53 shots.
I expect he’ll turn it around. He’s not an .882 goalie – but can we please stop pretending he’s playing fine. I’d like to hear a breakdown from someone like Kevin Woodley of In Goal. My biggest question is his positioning.
Well, not to get defensive, but I don’t *think* I said that in this article. Eberle said he played well in the first period last night, and he really did. The Shattenkirk goal was a stinker, and Grubauer knows it. He’s also in a slump and knows that. We aren’t hiding the fact that he’s not playing to his abilities, but I didn’t think the loss last night was squarely on his shoulders, so it wasn’t the focus of the story.
I still firmly believe he’ll get hot at some point soon, and all this negativity will vanish. We talked about this at length on our latest podcast, though, so give that a listen.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Daryl.
I listened to the pod on my way to work this morning. I’ve never missed an episode. I did hear John say he’s concerned.
I also think he’ll turn it around but giving up five goals and only saying ‘the one goal of the night that Grubauer would have wanted back” kinda sounds like saying he’s doing fine. I think his positioning on the fifth goal was questionable. And while he did make a nice block on McTavish on the games first score, he cleared it to a dangerous spot and then ventured further out of the crease. I don’t expect Grubauer to be putting up .950 but after eleven games an .882 is a real concern. As I mentioned before, I wonder about his positioning. He seems to be waaaay out of the crease at inopportune moments.
If he can get back to his career .919 this team is in the playoffs… all the other handwringing about chasing the game and slow starts goes away.
You guys are the best, keep up the good work.
Ah, interesting! So when you’re saying positioning, you think it’s that he’s too far out of the net? You might be onto something there, but I can explain specifically what the thinking is from a goalie’s perspective on the McTavish goal (below).
The thing is, you can’t always look at how many goals a goalie gives up and say he’s not playing well on a given night even when considering high danger chances, etc. Gibson gave up four goals on 25 shots, but they were all good goals. Had Seattle won, Gibson wouldn’t have been the reason.
I do think that on the whole, Grubauer is absolutely in a slump, but based on last night specifically, that Shattenkirk goal really is the only one that was on him. That Lindholm goal (the 5th) was through traffic and hit somebody on the way there. I’ll never blame a goalie on a deflected shot through traffic. Those aren’t high danger, but they’re also impossible to stop if they find the right spot. You can’t see it, and if you can, you have no time to react when it changes directions. The difference between playing with confidence and playing without confidence is that those shots find a way to hit you when you’re confident, and they go in when you’re not.
On McTavish, Comtois is wide open at point-blank range, taking a slap shot. You truly cannot track those as a goalie. All you can do is get out to the top of the crease and make yourself as big as possible, hoping the puck hits you. When you track the puck, you try to re-direct rebounds into the corner, but if it’s coming too fast from too close, this isn’t possible. That’s why that particular goal is absolutely not on him. He did what he could there, but he was hung out to dry.
The other thing that’s tough about goalies is that people always want to tell them they need to play better, like it’s just that easy, or like they don’t want to play better. That’s like telling a baseball player who hasn’t gotten a hit in five games to just hit the ball. Of course they want to play better, and they know they are better, but when things aren’t going your way, it’s hard to fix it.
He will eventually fix it, because he’s too good not to, but it can take time. And I think you’re spot on with your “playoffs” take.
Darren, thanks for taking the time to delve into this. I get coming out to close the angle but I feel like he gets caught out when he should be getting back. I also get the difficulty of blocking a shot you can’t see like the Lindholm goal, but there I felt like he was so far to his right as to be out of the net when the puck is way out near the point. While he couldn’t see the shot coming he may have been better positioned more to his left. I don’t know that he blocks that shot anyway.
Saying “play better” isn’t going to help… but this team is better than this… so… the answer is – play better. It’s just a matter of who… if it is just “puck luck” then a return to the mean has a huge upside.
By the way… don’t read Dom and Sean’s power rankings on the Athletic… you’re gonna hate it.
The goalie pull. My novice self and wife at our first ever hockey game understood the concept but also were wondering about the bizarre timing. Did Hakstol’s brain break or was there some logic to it or bad luck about it? Fans in our section who seemed to watch a lot of hockey were groaning….
It was very bad timing. I asked Grubauer what happened on that in his presser, and I don’t think he liked that I was asking him. He said he doesn’t make the call, the coach does.
I will say, those can be a little tough. You’re watching your team to try to nail down when they have possession, they get possession, so you call the goalie, and it feels like it takes forever for the goalie to get to the bench. A lot can change between the time you call and the time he actually gets there.
The coaches don’t call for line changes, either, so I get how that happens. They say which guys are up next, but they aren’t typically telling guys to come to the bench, and the players may not have known the goalie had been called.
This is also the risk with pulling the goalie relatively early. John Barr and I always argue about when is the right time, but sometimes you pull the goalie and immediately give the other team the puck and an easy goal. It just happens. Sometimes it works, though, and that’s why teams do it.
Very helpful! Love the site it’s been an awesome way to go from zero to sixty on hockey!
Also, my comments today are as long as my story. Sheesh!
I noticed you brought that presser to a screeching halt!
I also noticed in every instance Grubauer parried questions that were clearly specific to the goaltending. On each occasion the response was about the teams play rather than the net-minding. I know in hockey it’s always “WE” rather than “I” but this seemed a bit much. I do wonder if he believes this team and coach are hanging him out to dry. His responses didn’t do anything to say otherwise.
FYI all interestedin goalkeepers… Kevin Woodley is on 32 Thoughts this week in a 2 Part pod. Part 1 is goalies doing good this season. I’m gonna guess goalies not doing good are going to be on Part 2.
Spoiler Alert!!! Grubauer is NOT on Part 1.
Nevermind… Part 2 is not whose struggling.