It started bad. Then it got better. Then it got really good. Then it started to get bad again. Then it got better again. Then it got really bad. And this wraps up Sound Of Hockey’s analysis of the opening night 5-4 Kraken overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
Ok, we have more to say, but that does sum up how Wednesday’s game went.
Less than a minute in, the Kraken showed a familiar tendency for coughing up pucks into dangerous areas at early stages, but then somewhat unfamiliarly, completely took over for the next 37 or so minutes. It was a truly dominant performance until things went awry in the third period. And when we say “awry,” we mean things quickly went from celebratory to, Oh, no, they can’t possibly lose this game, can they?
Spoiler alert: They lost it.
“Little things make a big difference,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Line changes, things like that that put you in the soup a little bit, make a big difference at that time of the game.”
Here are our Three Takeaways from an ultimately soupy season opener.
Takeaway #1: Bad mistakes doom the Kraken against the Ducks
There were a couple memorably unfortunate plays that led to Seattle’s defeat on Wednesday. The first came less than a minute into the game, when Jamie Oleksiak tried to retrieve a puck behind the Kraken net but misplayed it, and a second later, Troy Terry had put the Ducks ahead 1-0.
The other came with the Kraken ahead 3-1 and on a penalty kill late in the second period. They had an offensive odd-man rush in which Alex Wennberg had a clear lane to shoot on John Gibson. Instead of firing the puck, Wennberg tried to force a pass to Ryan Donato and turned it over. Not only did Seattle fail to register a shot on a prime scoring chance, but because of the direction of the pass, three of the team’s four penalty killers found themselves above the puck in the offensive zone.
Mason McTavish went the other way and dished to Ryan Strome, who gave Anaheim life as the teams headed for the dressing rooms before the third period.
“I don’t like the second goal, the PK goal against,” Hakstol said. “We get caught up ice. We were too greedy there.”
Kill that penalty, and we think the outcome of Wednesday’s game is quite different.
We do also have to mention that Seattle could have really used a key stop at a few different moments and didn’t get it from Philipp Grubauer. After getting hung out to dry on the opening goal, Grubauer looked solid up until the third, but things went sideways quickly for him in that final frame.
Said Hakstol, “At the end of the day, they got one more [save] than we did, and that cost us a point.”
Takeaway #2: Is the Kraken power play… good?
If you’re a pessimist, stop reading. The rest of this article will be markedly positive, because there was a lot to like about Seattle’s game Wednesday.
It’s no secret the Kraken power play was atrocious in the team’s inaugural season, so seeing them score three goals on the man advantage for the first time in the history of the franchise was a sight for sore eyes. Not only did they score three goals, but two of the markers came off snipes from newcomers Oliver Bjorkstrand and Andre Burakovsky, with new power play quarterback Justin Schultz adding two assists.
Some of the team’s struggles last season were tactical in nature, but the personnel wasn’t there either. Now, with new sharpshooters acquired in the offseason, a new distributor on the blue line, and budding star Matty Beniers facilitating from the halfwall, the Kraken looked downright lethal when Anaheim took penalties on Wednesday.
“We just moved it quick,” Beniers said of what was working with the power play. “We’ve been practicing it a lot… We’ve been getting a lot of reps and feeling good with each other, and then you see it on the ice, and some go in the back of the net, so it’s nice to see results.”
Beniers, by the way, is now back to a point-per-game pace in the NHL after notching a goal and an assist.
About the power play, Hakstol added, “The execution was good. We got three, [and with the] game on the line, we executed really well on the last power play. I’m not sure what [Jordan Eberle’s shot] hit, I think it hit the defenseman’s skate in the blue paint, but we executed well and had the chance to get the game winner there.”
Yeah, a fourth power-play goal in the closing minutes sure would have been nice.
Now, watch these snipes by Jared McCann, Burakovsky, and Bjorkstrand (but keep scrolling down, because there’s more to read after the embedded tweets).
Takeaway #3: A dominant loss
It wasn’t the outcome Kraken fans wanted, but that was mostly an impressive performance. Coming in, we believed the team greatly improved over the offseason, and even with the eventual overtime loss, Wednesday’s game confirmed it.
In all, Seattle put 48 shots on Gibson (a franchise record), scored three power-play goals (another franchise record), and had 74 percent of the expected goals for at five-on-five. If the Kraken continue to play like they played Wednesday and clean up some of the costly mistakes, they could be really good this season.
“They had a good push, and we just gotta figure out how to close out those games,” Beniers said. “We played really well, and it was just those last 10, 12 minutes and they made a good push, and we didn’t have the best response, and they scored a couple and got it.”
Bonus Takeaway: Shane Wright’s NHL debut
Shane Wright, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, made his official NHL debut on Wednesday. The team treated him to his traditional rookie lap to start warmups, which he took bucketless. Comically, the home faithful gave him a few boos as he circled the Kraken zone alone.
Wright didn’t see much playing time, as he skated on the fourth line between Donato and Karson Kuhlman. In all, Wright played just 6:14.
We did get the pleasure of witnessing a very heartwarming moment after the game, when Wright’s parents met him outside the dressing room, and they each gave him a long and very proud hug. It hit us right in the feels.