We start this Three Takeaways from an ugly 6-1 Kraken loss to the Penguins with a personal anecdote [activates first-person mode].
Folks, this one is all my fault. When I woke up on Monday morning, I was not feeling it. In full 2020 fashion, I partially got dressed in a semi-presentable shirt for the Zoom calls that were on my calendar and coupled the shirt with my worst pair of gym shorts. I then grabbed the first two socks I found on top of the pile of clean clothes that I had not yet folded and made no attempt to match the socks. I added brown leather slippers to make sure my toes remained nice and warm, and trust me, the completed ensemble was a look.
When it was time to make myself more presentable for the game on Monday evening, I dug deeper into the pile of clothes to find two matching socks, which was no easy task. Frustrated after pulling six singletons in a row, I realized that one of the lot matched one of the two socks I was already wearing. So I pulled that sock on to complete the pair and looked down with pride to have found a set. That’s when it hit me that the matching socks I was now wearing were covered in little cartoon penguins. Upon realizing my mistake, I quickly changed to crab socks, but I knew the damage was done.
My wife was standing right by me at the time. “Uh oh, I just put on penguin socks. That feels like a bad omen for the Kraken,” I said to her. She agreed.
Donning my replacement crab socks, I made my way to Climate Pledge Arena. On arrival in the media room there, my jaw almost hit the floor when I saw what the team was serving for its media meal… I kid you not; it was crab.
The crab was delicious and a nice surprise, but still, this was proof positive that I had already doomed the Kraken with my initial sock screw-up. So, I was not surprised when the Kraken came out flat and quickly fell behind 3-0 to the Penguins in what would prove to be one of Seattle’s worst games to date [de-activates first-person mode].
Takeaway #1: Slow starts are apparently *not* a thing of the past
Aside from the sock fiasco, we’re pretty sure the Kraken were actively trying to make us look bad Monday, because in our Three Takeaways story following the Edmonton win on Friday, Takeaway #2 had the following heading:
“Are slow starts becoming a thing of the past?”
By 5:07 of the first period on Monday, the Kraken trailed the Penguins 3-0 and had Joey Daccord in net after Philipp Grubauer was yanked. Grubauer exited after giving up three goals on four shots. That’s certainly not the start Seattle was seeking, so we would say that no, slow starts are not yet a thing of the past.
“It was just a matter of details,” Jamie Oleksiak said. “I don’t think we were necessarily ready to go off the hop and this is a team we were playing against that’s gonna get chances and they’re going to take advantage of that. Just speaking personally… I need to have a better start there.”
Adding some context, Oleksiak had a bit of a double-whammy miscue on Sidney Crosby’s goal. Jake Guentzel shot from the point, and it deflected off Oleksiak just in front of Grubauer and went through the netminder’s legs. Oleksiak then had a chance to sweep it away, but partially whiffed, giving Crosby enough time to find the loose puck and put it away.
It was one of those nights for Grubauer, who really had been good of late, but just didn’t have it in the early going on Monday. The first goal was a bizarre carom off his stick, as he tried to deflect a Jeff Carter pass away. The next one was off that Oleksiak deflection, and the third was a knuckle puck that he seemed to just misread.
“We gave up three on the first four shots, and that’s indicative of the start of our team,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “We weren’t sharp to start the hockey game, so it’s disappointing to come off of arguably our most complete performance a couple nights ago. It’s disappointing to come out with that type of a start tonight.”
It was the right call by Hakstol to recognize in that moment that it wasn’t going to be Grubauer’s night and make a swift move. Daccord’s entrance did settle things down for a while, and he performed well in relief.
Takeaway #2: A good second period derailed late by odd-man rushes
The typically resilient Kraken did get themselves back into this game against the Penguins, at least for a stretch. Jaden Schwartz, fresh off an injury, got tripped coming over the offensive blue line but maintained control. He passed to Alex Wennberg, who found Jordan Eberle—also fresh off an injury—for an easy tap in. The goal came at 3:43 of the second, and suddenly Seattle was back in business, now trailing by only two.
Just 30 seconds later, the Kraken went on their first power play when Mike Matheson high sticked Yanni Gourde. The Penguins had the best look of the two-minute manpower advantage, though, when a pass missed the mark at the blue line, and Ryan Donato hesitated on whether or not to touch it with his team clearly offside. The result was a clear-cut breakaway in the wrong direction, as Teddy Blueger raced in all alone. Daccord made a huge save, and in that moment, we at SOH thought the Kraken were about to turn the game.
But the next one didn’t come for Seattle, as we thought it would, despite plenty of pressure in the second.
Instead, Guentzel stayed hot and rifled home an Evan Rodrigues pass off a two-on-one at 18:31. Then at 18:54, Carter one-handed a rebound off another odd-man rush. Daccord stopped the first shot by Kris Letang, but the puck deflected off Oleksiak again and over Daccord, who was scrambling to get back in position.
Just like that, the game shifted from Seattle fighting its way back in to trailing 5-1 as it headed for the dressing room after the second.
“I thought after the first 10 minutes we started to push the pace,” Eberle said. “We went into the period obviously down but feeling like we were still in the game. We found one in the second period and had a chance to make it 3-2, and then we get sloppy on a couple of breakdowns, they go down two-on-one, and we hang the goalie out to dry and the game’s over.”
Takeaway #3: The passing was just too cute at times
With the Kraken trailing by three goals early in the first, Vince Dunn got a pass behind the Kraken goal line from his partner and tapped a breakout pass between his own legs. It worked, as Seattle got out of the zone, but it seemed flashier than it needed to be. In the second period Yanni Gourde passed backward to Daccord with decent pace, something that you don’t see often. Thankfully, Daccord was paying attention and received the pass, but the play sent an uncomfortable groan through the crowd. Again, it worked out fine, but… it was odd.
What didn’t work out was ostentatious passing as part of Seattle’s offensive attack, with the exception of the play that ended up in the back of Pittsburgh’s net.
One moment that jumps to mind is when Eberle caught a pass in the slot during the second period, but rather than shooting, he one-touched it between his own legs to the point. Another came off a rush, when Brandon Tanev made a great cross-ice pass to Morgan Geekie. Geekie could have shot anywhere on Casey DeSmith, but he instead made one more pass to Jared McCann at the netmouth. DeSmith read it like a book and threw his stick out, breaking up the play.
On one hand, it was a brilliant read by DeSmith, who came into this game winless on the year. On the other hand, it was Seattle’s game in a nutshell, a night filled with missed passes, turnovers, and bad bounces.
Give Pittsburgh credit. The Penguins came in ready from the jump, and gave the Kraken nothing back when they got ahead. Sometimes when it looks like pucks are bouncing off sticks, the opposition is making that happen, and the Penguins made that happen a lot on Monday.
Seattle now has two days to practice before welcoming the Winnipeg Jets to Climate Pledge Arena on Thursday. It will try to put this one in the rearview and start up another positive stretch.
Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at Sound Of Hockey and the host, producer, and editor of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is an inconsistent beer league goalie who believes that five players have to make a mistake before the puck gets to him. Follow him on Twitter @DarrenFunBrown or email email@example.com.