We bring you another round of Monday Musings, where we share a random collection of thoughts and observations about the last week from the hockey world with an emphasis on the Kraken and other Puget Sound teams. Enjoy.
This week was a stark reminder that this Kraken team is a different unit from the one they iced last season. It was more than winning two out of the three home games, it was how they did it that convinced me this season is different.
On Tuesday, the Kraken dominated the hot Buffalo Sabres in a 5-1 win at Climate Pledge Arena. They were unrelenting all game with contributions from the fourth line as Daniel Sprong and Morgan Geekie scored their first respective goals of the season. The Kraken allowed Buffalo just 16 shots all game while blocking a season high 17 shots. It was a convincing win the team needed after squandering a game they should have won in Chicago just two days earlier.
Thursday had all the makings of one of those “trap games” and, well, it was. The Kraken had the dubious honor of handing their division rival Vancouver Canucks their first win of the season and remained winless in five games against the neighbor to the north. Even in the loss, the Kraken dominated the shot count, outshooting the Canucks 36-19. Two of Vancouver’s goals took auspicious bounces for the Canucks, but we’re not going to blame the bounces for every loss, so give Vancouver credit. The Canucks were a hungry team and found a way to win, even if they were not the better team on the ice.
On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Penguins came in hungry after losing three games in a row on their Western Canada road trip, but the Kraken were ready. It was a tightly contested, scoreless game throughout the first thirty minutes until it appeared the Kraken broke the ice with a Ryan Donato tap in off a good Jordan Eberle rush. After a Penguins challenge, the play was deemed offside and the goal waived off. Shortly after that the Penguins got on the board. Jake Guentzel made an excellent read of a cross-ice pass from Jamie Oleksiak in the Kraken offensive zone that Guentzel took the length of the ice to beat Martin Jones five hole. The Kraken battled back and appeared to tie the game just mintues later on an Andre Burakovsky shot, but again the Penguins successfully challenged a missed stoppage for a high stick and the game stayed 1-0 Penguins.
Tension was on the rise in the crowd at this point. You could feel it. Goals were so hard to come by last season. It would have been unthinkable to overcome adversity like two disallowed goals. But this team has a different gear on offense. This Kraken team responded on the very next shift with a goal from new dad Jordan Eberle (more on that below), and added another later in the frame to skate into the intermission with a 2-1 lead. The Kraken then killed penalties and weathered a barrage of shots in the third period to secure the win.
- Saturday night’s win was the first time the Kraken have won when the opposing team scored the first goal of the game this season. They are now 1-3-2 when the opposing team scores first and 3-1-0 when scoring first. It also gave them 10 points in the standings over the first 10 games. Last year they did not get their 10th point until game 18.
- He does not have a point in the last five games, but Oliver Bjorkstrand has impressed me multiple times this week. He is so good on 50-50 pucks against the boards. He creates turnovers or forces teams into uncomfortable positions. The points will come, but he is still being productive without landing on the score sheet.
- Listening to some of the post-game media availability for the last week, there was a theme coming out of the players’ and Hakstol’s comments that with so many “every other day” games, it limited the ability to practice and work on things. It made sense: How can you work on things with limited time on ice between games, especially when you have a game the very next day? So I looked it up. In the Pacific division, the Kraken had the least rest between games in October.
- Big stick taps to the newest members of the Kraken family. Alex and Martin Jones welcomed their first child, Rory, to the world on Friday. Meanwhile Jordan and Lauren Eberle added their first son, Deacon, to the family on Friday.
- Jordan Eberle’s goal on Saturday was his first of the season, and he was the 17th Kraken player to score a goal this season. The Kraken still lead the league in unique goal scorers.
- Seeing Jamie Oleksiak goals is like seeing a ghost. Last year he had one goal, and it was an empty-net goal from behind his own goal line. It is fitting that during Halloween week we saw him score two, once against Buffalo and another against Vancouver.
- Jaden Schwartz has five goals in 10 games. That is a 41-goal pace over an 82-game schedule. His career high is 28 goals.
- Alright, I am going to put it out there. The Seattle Kraken are a playoff team.
- The Coachella Valley Firebirds completed their home-away-from-home series of games over the weekend with games at Angel of the Winds Arena and Kraken Community Iceplex. People that attended the games must have felt entertained. Both games were high-scoring affairs where no lead was safe. Friday night’s game in Everett saw the Calgary Wranglers jump out to a 5-0 lead halfway through the second period. The Firebirds would eventually make it a game, getting it to 6-4 with 10 minutes left. That would be the final score, but based on the crowd reaction, the fans were thoroughly entertained.
- Friday’s game also marked the return of former Everett Silvertip and current Calgary Wrangler netminder, Dustin Wolf to Angel of the Winds Arena. Wolf had 106 career regular season wins in the WHL and never had a save percentage less than .928 in his four years with the team.
- Saturday’s game at KCI saw the Firebirds leading 4-1 late in the third period, before the Wranglers netted two goals with less than five minutes remaining to narrow the lead to just one. The Firebirds hung on, though, and ultimately added an empty netter for a 5-3 win.
- The Firebirds will be wrapping up their tenure in the Pacific Northwest this week. It was fun to have them in town and great for me to see a couple of the games. I, for one, would welcome at least one game at Climate Pledge Arena going forward to continue to build the connection with that team.
- Morgan Geekie – Geekie has been in and out of the lineup this year for the Kraken with limited ice time when he does draw in. Even so, Geekie had his first and second goal of the season with goals in each of the Kraken wins this week. In fact, both goals proved to be the game winners. All of that came while he averaged fewer than eight minutes a game.
- Jesper Bratt – The New Jersey Devils winger has registered a point in all nine games this season. He has four goals and 11 assists. The Devils are currently tops in the Metropolitan Division.
- Linus Ullmark – The Boston Bruins netminder stopped 60 of 61 shots over two starts this week. I have always been an Ullmark fan. The Swedish goaltender played six seasons with the Sabres organization during a tough time for that franchise. As a side note, it was always weird that Buffalo protected Ullmark in the Expansion Draft but allowed him to enter free agency a week later.
Goal of the week
On the docket
Calgary Flames – Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Scotiabank Saddledome – Calgary, Alberta
The Flames are expected to be one of the top teams in the Pacific Division and maybe the league. They have played just seven games but have wins against Edmonton, Vegas, and Colorado just to name a few. This will be a big test for the Kraken. Grabbing a point on Tuesday would be considered a major win, but like the Colorado game, I want to see how they play against one of the better teams in the league. Will they get chased out of the building or will they compete?
Flames current record: 5-2-0
Players to watch:
- Blake Coleman – The winger from Texas only has two assists this season, but he plays physical. He is a treat to watch even when he is not landing on the score sheet.
- Elias Lindholm – The top-line center somehow flies under the radar in Calgary. He has been playing in the shadows of Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau the last few seasons. This season Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau are drawing a lot of the attention for the Flames, but Lindholm is a strong two-way center that will be critical for the Flames’ success this season.
Minnesota Wild – Thursday, Nov. 3, at Xcel Energy Center – St. Paul, Minnesota
Minnesota started cold but has heated up a bit and will be a challenge for the Kraken. Marc-Andre Fleury has settled in after a challenging start to the season. He has three wins in his last four starts with a save percentage of .927 over those games. On the surface, this game might not seem any more significant than any other, but the Wild might be the team the Kraken are fighting with for a wild card playoff spot come March. The Kraken need three points on this road trip, and the Wild might be the easiest matchup to grab two.
Wild current record: 4-4-1
Players to watch:
- Matt Boldy – The former first-round draft pick for the Wild picked up where he left off last season with eight points over nine games. Boldy is 21 years old and is entering his first full season with the club after logging 47 games last season. He is currently ranked second in power play minutes behind Kirill Kaprizov.
- Jared Spurgeon – The current captain of the Wild spent five seasons with the Spokane Chiefs. He might not be the flashiest of players in the league, but he is a highly underrated defenseman.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Saturday, Nov. 5, at PPG Paints Arena – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
At times last Saturday, the Penguins looked like the better team on the ice, and they will be looking for revenge. The Penguins will not be playing the Kraken on the second night of a back-to-back so it is probable that Seattle could be facing starter Tristan Jarry.
Penguins current record: 3-7-0
Players to watch:
- Bryan Rust – Rust was a forward I was keeping my eye on heading into the offseason for the Kraken to sign. A really balanced player that can score goals, Rust would sign an extension with the Penguins in May and never make it to free agency. He is still a fun player to watch, but I am more than happy Seattle landed Burakovsky.
- Evgeni Malkin – When I usually call out the players to watch, I generally try to pick guys that are a little less known. After seeing the Penguins play in Seattle on Saturday night, I need to call out Malkin. He had zero points and was a minus two, but there were so many times he wowed me, including the cross-ice pass that set up Sidney Crosby with a golden opportunity before Sid got robbed by Martin Jones.
— nopClips (@nopClips) October 30, 2022