So far we’ve seen two different Kraken teams this season; the one that controlled its first two games in Southern California (though it fumbled the first one away in overtime), and the one that has looked almost outclassed in two home games since. We’re hopeful Seattle can figure it out, but man, this could be a long season if what we’ve seen these last two games is what this team really is.
Granted, the Hurricanes are expected to again be Stanley Cup contenders this season, but if the Kraken want to be a playoff team, they need to be able to skate with the Carolinas of the world. On Monday, it seemed like every time the Kraken touched the puck, a Hurricane player was on them, forcing them to make the wrong play. Meanwhile, Carolina did not get that kind of pressure from the Kraken, and the result was a dominant 5-1 win for the Hurricanes.
Here are our Three Takeaways from a second uninspiring home Kraken loss in a row.
Takeaway #1: Let’s talk about Shane Wright
We may have fueled the fire a bit with our tweet after the second period that Shane Wright had only gotten 2:58 of ice time through 40 minutes. After sending that, we heard folks loud and clear that they were frustrated with Wright’s usage through four games. We get it, and we too would love to see him play more.
Here’s the thing, though… He’s 18 years old, and he just jumped from the OHL to the NHL, which is a massive step for any player to take. From the Kraken’s perspective, of course they want him to develop, and him being around the team, even if it’s just to practice and play a few minutes here and there, can help with that development process.
To us, Wright looks like he’s able to keep up, but he’s not quite ready to be a guy that pushes the pace or be a centerpiece of Seattle’s offense. He should be that with time, but the Kraken do also want to win now, which means relying on the guys they think will create (although, to be fair, nobody did much creating on Monday).
Coach Dave Hakstol was asked about Wright’s usage after the game, and he said, “That’s the way the flow of the game went. That’s partly the special teams and partly the flow of the game.” We think that means Hakstol leaned on his trusted guns to try to get the Kraken back in the game, and Wright hasn’t gotten to trusted gun status yet. Fewer penalties in the third resulted in more ice time for Wright, and he finished with 6:50 in total with one shot on goal.
If you’re concerned this minimal usage is stunting Wright’s development, remember too that Seattle still has the option to send him back to the OHL and can keep him for up to nine games played before burning the first year of his entry-level contract. So, playing him two games and scratching him the other two means they’ve only used up two of his nine games thus far. If they are still considering returning Wright to Kingston, by spacing out his usage, Seattle gives itself more time to keep him around and get him used to the NHL pace.
Give it time, folks. Minutes and development will come.
Takeaway #2: Second lopsided loss is cause for concern
We hate to be ringing any alarm bells this early in the season because there’s still some jelling that needs to happen for the Kraken. But seeing the team get smoked by a combined score of 10-3 in its first two home games is absolutely cause for concern.
Thinking back to last season, for as bad as the team’s record was, and for as many painful losing streaks as they endured, there weren’t that many nights where—from start to finish—the Kraken looked overmatched by an opponent. They’ve looked that way for two games in a row, though, and on Monday, Carolina seemed like it could do no wrong, while the Kraken couldn’t create much offensively.
Heck, even when Seattle got a power-play goal at 13:06 of the second to get back within one, it gave it right back with a penalty and then a Carolina power-play tally, all in just 18 seconds. That was just how the night went, and it was a reminder that the Kraken could have a long way to go, while the Hurricanes are looking to make a deep run this season.
“They were tight on us,” Andre Burakovsky said. “Every time you got the puck, it felt like there was somebody right on top of you right away.”
Burakovsky, who scored Seattle’s lone goal for his 300th career point, does think Seattle could have done things differently to give itself more of a chance. “We have to recognize how we find success. I think the second period, we find some good shifts when we chip it down, and we’re hard onto the pucks and skating toward the puck and second guy is tight on the first guy. We were winning that battle and come up with the puck and play o-zone. It’s way more fun to play o-zone.”
Takeaway #3: Penalties were a factor
Unsurprisingly, the Hurricanes had the better of the puck possession in each of the first two periods. When the other team has the puck, it’s easy to take penalties as you try to get it back.
In the end, each team got called for five infractions, but Seattle took four of its five in the second frame. It’s no coincidence that the wheels came off the wagon in the second period.
“You’re playing with fire when you put those guys on the power play that often,” Hakstol said. “It came back to get us on their second goal, the Aho goal. We missed a rotation on that… Then the high-stick penalty [on Vince Dunn] right after our first goal, we actually broke the play up, but they got a bounce and made a play on it. That’s the fire that you’re playing with.”
The rotation Hakstol was referencing on the Aho goal was a shift between Brandon Tanev and Jared McCann, in which—instead of forming the top of a four-man box—they ended up in a vertical line with McCann standing behind Tanev. That left Aho alone at the top of the left circle with plenty of room to get his lethal shot off.
Things won’t get any easier for the Kraken the rest of this week. After a day off Tuesday, Seattle will welcome the St. Louis Blues to Climate Pledge Arena on Wednesday before traveling to Colorado to face the Cup-winning Avalanche on Friday.