We’ve talked on a number of occasions throughout this season about the Seattle Kraken minimizing the damage when things don’t go their way. It’s our belief that this is the key—on both a micro and macro scale—for sustainable success for this team.
In terms of individual games, that means only giving up one goal at a time and pushing back right away after opposing teams score. In terms of the season, that means not letting poor play for a couple of nights turn into long losing streaks.
Just when it felt like Seattle might be descending into a long, miserable stretch of losses, the Kraken played a complete 60-minute game Sunday to knock off the Florida Panthers. Five different players scored, including Matty Beniers, Andre Burakovsky, Jordan Eberle, Daniel Sprong, and Yanni Gourde, and Martin Jones was solid in net.
The needed victory halted the team’s losing streak at three games and gave the group hope that it could still have a successful road trip through the southeastern United States.
Here are our Three Takeaways from an impressive 5-2 Kraken win over the Panthers.
Takeaway #1: What more can we say about Matty Beniers?
We would stop writing about Matty Beniers all the time if he stopped finding new ways to impress us. But he raised eyebrows yet again Sunday by firing a heat-seeking missile past Sergei Bobrovsky a minute into the game and later sticking up for Justin Schultz after a filthy hit by Ryan Lomberg in the third period.
Beniers’ goal, which gave the Kraken an early 1-0 lead, was a thing of beauty. After Carter Verhaeghe fumbled the puck in Florida’s zone, Jared McCann jumped on it and threw a backhand pass to the top of the slot. Beniers was there and leaned into a one-timer that was past Bobrovsky in a flash.
Then, seven minutes into the third period, and with the Kraken holding a tenuous 2-1 lead, Beniers grabbed a loose puck at the offensive blue line and snapped it toward the net. Jordan Eberle got his stick on it and redirected it past Bobrovsky to give the Kraken a two-goal lead. Seattle pulled away from there.
Beniers’ goal and assist were central to the Kraken victory, but racking up points is nothing new for the NHL’s leading rookie scorer. What was new Sunday was Beniers jumping in to stick up for Schultz after the dangerous Lombard hit.
Just one game after Jamie Oleksiak was assessed a match penalty and then a three-game suspension for head contact with Washington’s Alexander Alexeyev, Schultz—Oleksiak’s usual defense partner—got his stick up on Lombard during a race for the puck. In retaliation, Lombard slammed Schultz into the end boards from behind.
After the egregious hit, the closest player to Lombard was Beniers, the 20-year-old skilled forward not known for his physical play. Beniers didn’t hesitate, though, and went right after Lombard.
“A hit like that, it’s just kind of what you do,” Beniers said.
Well, sure, it’s what you do if you’re a veteran NHL player. But if you’re Matty Beniers, an act like that earns you even more respect from teammates, coaches, and fans.
Lombard was given a five-minute major and game misconduct, and he will almost surely be hearing from the league. Schultz left the game and did not return, though the incident happened midway through the third period. So, there was little opportunity for the Kraken’s offensive defenseman to come back.
Takeaway #2: Is Kraken goaltending back?
It’s no coincidence that as Seattle’s recent hot streak ended, its goaltending started to slip. Pucks were going in that weren’t going in in weeks prior, and Jones and Philipp Grubauer traded off delivering up-and-down performances.
Grubauer had an excellent game Friday and nearly stole a win for the Kraken against the Capitals. That night, he stopped 34 of 36 shots but was done in by a goal off Oleksiak’s foot and a power-play tally by old friend, Marcus Johansson.
Jones followed that up Sunday with an impressive outing of his own, kicking out 23 of the 25 shots he faced.
“First half of the game, he had some key saves,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “And he had a couple saves that maybe didn’t look like— they may not have appeared as difficult as they were, right through traffic and things like that. He was a real key in this one.”
After four starts in a row in which Jones wasn’t at his best, he was back to being the composed netminder we came to expect during Grubauer’s extended injury absence. Jones never seemed phased against the Panthers, and on the rare occasion that things broke down for Seattle, he calmly dropped to his butterfly and kicked away almost every puck that was fired his way.
“He was phenomenal,” said Yanni Gourde. “Great game by him. He’s super calm in net, and he’s played very good hockey.”
Takeaway #3: A complete team effort
There was concern amongst the Sound Of Hockey braintrust that things could be going sideways for the Kraken, especially after bad habits had crept in in the latter stages of the team’s hot streak. Defensive lapses were back, and the team was playing way too loose for several games in a row.
But the Kraken did a good job of assuaging any such fears Sunday by playing a complete end-to-end game and earning every bit of that 5-2 victory.
“That’s something we’ve been struggling with,” Beniers said. “I think it was— before the game, you know, playing a full 60 minutes, that was a recognition before the game. It was just something we kind of harped on, and we were able to put it in action tonight.”
In the last few outings, we had seen a few of those lapses that were so common in the team’s inaugural season but hadn’t happened often for the current group.
After the Panthers got on the board in the second period, the Kraken didn’t slump and give up another quick one. Instead, they pushed right back and regained the lead thanks to an Andre Burakovsky sizzler into the upper corner of Florida’s net.
After Burakovsky’s snipe, Seattle’s game was on the rails, and the team never looked back.
“I thought we were really, really good tonight,” said Jones. “That felt like how we were playing on that seven-game winning streak. That was a really strong effort from us, top to bottom.”
Hakstol was also pleased with the team’s performance. “We were pretty consistent throughout the hockey game,” he said. “Specialty teams were solid and contributed to the win, goaltending was good, and that’s what it takes to get a good road win.”