What an odd game that was. With Shane Wright scoring his first NHL goal and just generally buzzing throughout the first period, it seemed for a while like we were headed for a storybook type of night for the Kraken against the Canadiens. But somehow, despite dominating possession for much of the night, Seattle came up short against Montreal, outshooting the Habs 33-16 but losing 4-2.
Here are our Three Takeaways from a disappointing Kraken defeat to the Canadiens.
Takeaway #1: Shane Wright gets his first NHL goal
It really felt like the story of the game was writing (Wrighting?) itself. A lot had been made of Wright’s return to the Kraken’s NHL lineup, especially being that it came against No. 1 overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky and the team that snubbed Wright at the NHL Entry Draft.
Early returns were excellent, as Wright easily could have had a hat trick in the first period. His first NHL goal was sandwiched between two other robberies by Jake Allen, and there were several other moments throughout the night where he looked like he was inches away from deflecting or poking pucks into the Montreal net.
Wright’s goal came at 15:30 of the first, after Yanni Gourde made a hard play on the forecheck to dig the puck out to Oliver Bjorkstrand. Bjorkstrand made a short pass to Wright in the slot, and Wright wired it past Jake Allen. It was one of those memorable Climate Pledge Arena moments, where the crowd got extra loud for not only the goal, but also the ensuing announcement.
“I think, obviously, it’s gonna be something I remember for the rest of my life,” said Wright. “I think getting your first NHL goal is a pretty cool accomplishment, cool milestone, definitely something pretty special for me.”
“It’s awesome,” added Jared McCann. “He’s a great kid. Obviously him going out in the minors there, he battled, he worked his bag off, and I mean, it was good to see.”
The goal tied it at 1-1, and with the way Wright’s line with Gourde and Bjorkstrand was humming, it seemed like there would be more points coming for the rookie.
Alas, the Habs were opportunistic offensively, and Allen played well enough to thwart a Kraken comeback attempt, turning away 31 of 33 shots on goal.
It wasn’t just about the goal for Wright, though. He looked very different from the player we saw before he was loaned to Coachella Valley. In those first few games he played earlier in the season, it always seemed like he was playing to not make a mistake. After potting four goals in five games in the AHL, he came in Tuesday with swagger and appeared to be playing without thinking too much. Against the Canadiens, he looked like things were starting to click.
It has been a slightly tougher road for him than he expected, but what’s been most impressive about Wright is his maturity for his age and attitude through the early struggles in his NHL career. “I think that anytime you come to the NHL, you picture yourself playing right away,” he said. “You picture yourself scoring lots and getting points, and at the end of the day, that’s not the reality of the NHL and stepping in as an 18-year-old. You have to work yourself up, you have to make sure you earn everything you get.”
On the other side, Slafkovsky had the second assist on Josh Anderson’s second-period goal but was otherwise quiet.
Kraken fans surely would have loved for Wright’s first goal to come with a Seattle win, but seeing him play the way he played Tuesday was very encouraging.
Takeaway #2: Bad defensive lapses cost the Kraken
It was an especially weird night between the pipes for Martin Jones, who faced just 16 shots in total with seven of those shots coming in the final 11 minutes of the game. In the second period, he faced four measly offerings, and three of those ended up in the back of the net.
Lifelong goalie speaking here, those are incredibly difficult nights for a netminder. You need to feel the puck to get into a rhythm, and after giving up a soft goal and stopping just three other shots in the opening frame, the only work Jones got in the second was on grade-A opportunities for the Habs. It’s hard to defend four goals on 16 shots, but there is some context to consider, being that Seattle hung Jones out to dry three times in that costly middle frame.
That brings us to the main point of this Takeaway, which is that the Kraken generally played well in terms of possessing the puck and generating chances, but lapses cost them the game.
Andre Burakovsky committed a heinous turnover to Nick Suzuki that led to Cole Caufield’s goal. It then took just seven seconds and some poor play along the wall to give Montreal its next great chance, on which Anderson scored.
“We had a turnover at the end of a shift, and we made a mistake on a face-off,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “They’re different plays, but those bump-up shifts are very important. You gotta make sure that you seal those off and push back the other way, and we’ve been outstanding in that area, but we didn’t get it done tonight.”
The icing on the cake came after a bad line change with the teams playing four-on-four, and noted Kraken killer Rem Pitlick put the Canadiens up 4-1.
A huge part of Seattle’s success this season has been minimizing the damage caused by turnovers and breakdowns, but those were the plays that doomed the Kraken this game.
Takeaway #3: PK better, but scoring drying up
It’s interesting how a team can appear to fix one problem, only to have a new issue suddenly pop up. Recently, the penalty kill has been a huge concern for the Kraken, who have struggled mightily with the manpower disadvantage. On Tuesday, the PK was successful, killing off all four of Montreal’s opportunities.
“There’s nothing special to it,” Hakstol said. “We were a little bit better in just our cohesion with our pressure all over the rink, and that’s a nice step forward. That’s a real positive for that group.” Hakstol also mentioned they added a couple forwards to the personnel rotation, with hopes of making sure guys were fresher on the kill.
Speaking anecdotally, it felt Tuesday like the “plus one” player in the “wedge plus one” formation, the guy who chases the puck around the top of the zone, was more aggressive than we’ve seen recently. Visually, there just seemed to be way more pressure on the points and on the half wall than in recent games.
Meanwhile, Seattle has stopped scoring. After potting nine goals against the Kings a week ago, Seattle has scored three goals, one goal, and now two goals in the subsequent three games. We were concerned that Seattle’s incredible shooting percentage could be an indicator that the team’s success wasn’t sustainable. Let’s hope these last few games have just been blips for a team that was rolling so well offensively through the month of November.