Monday Musings is a collection of random thoughts and observations about the last week of activity from the hockey world with an emphasis on the Kraken and other happenings around the Puget Sound hockey community.
Keep calm and carry on
Going into Sunday’s matchup against the Florida Panthers last night, the Kraken were on a three-game skid that started with a loss to those same Panthers in Seattle just eight days earlier. Even before this drought, we talked about some warning signs we saw with the wins against San Jose and Los Angeles, so we saw the skid coming.
What struck me in this stretch was the calm around the team. Even with the three straight losses, there never was any panic from the team or the coach. Sure, there was some self-critical comments from Hakstol and some of the players on how they were playing, but a lot of it was centered around getting back to playing the hockey they know they can play.
Even the best teams go through rough patches. Colorado had two streaks of three or more losses last season. Tampa Bay had five three-plus-game losing streaks last season. One win does not mean we are out of the woods of this rough patch, but it certainly eases the mind as the team prepares for two of its toughest opponents of the season with games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. Getting two points out of the next two games in any fashion will be a major win.
Kraken claim Tolvanen, waive Kuhlman
The Kraken claimed Eeli Tolvanen on waivers from Nashville today. Having followed the Predators in a different life, I remember the hype around Tolvanen. He is known as a shifty winger with a wicked shot. Tolvanen carries a $1.5 million cap hit for the next two years and is a relatively low-risk pick up for the club right now.
The cost was they needed to create some roster space and that space came in the form of Karson Kuhlman being put on waivers today. Kuhlman had been with the team all season but only played 14 of the Kraken’s 27 games and had one goal and three points to show for it. We love Kuhlman here at Sound Of Hockey, but when a relatively low-risk prospect with upside becomes available, you have to take him. There is also a good opportunity that Kuhlman clears waivers and is assigned to the Coachella Valley Firebirds.
Personnel issues on defense
For those that might have missed it, Jamie Oleksiak was assessed a match penalty in the Capitals game on Friday night for an illegal check to the head. The NHL Department of Player Safety then suspended Oleksiak for three games. On Sunday night, Justin Schultz took a dirty hit from Ryan Lomberg late in the game that clearly left Schultz shaken up. He was slow to get up and went down the tunnel to the locker room and did not return for the remaining nine minutes of game play.
After having a remarkably consistent lineup for most of the season, the defensive corps could have some holes to fill. To be clear, there has been no official word on Schultz’s status, but I would not be surprised to seem him miss a game or two. In the meantime, the Kraken have recalled Gustav Olofsson to join them in Tampa and likely the rest of the road trip. How long Olofsson will remain with the team will largely depend on the outlook for Schultz.
Penalty kill improvements
There was a stretch of games where the team was giving up a lot of power-play goals. It was a topic of discussion in last week’s Musings. However, I am happy to report that things have turned around for the Kraken penalty kill. Over the last three games, the PK is hovering over a 90-percent kill rate.
Those three games align to Morgan Geekie’s return to the lineup since his injury in Anaheim. Geekie has the second most penalty kill time amongst forwards over the last three Kraken games. He also averaged 50 percent from the faceoff circle in those same three games, which is the highest amongst players that took more than 10 faceoffs. It is safe to say, Seattle missed Geekie.
Other Kraken musings:
- In the Friday game against the Kraken, Alexander Ovechkin had a shift during the Jamie Oleksiak five-minute major that lasted 4:57 of game time.
- The Kraken’s win Sunday night was the first win against an opponent that was on the second of back-to-back games. They lost the prior two times they played a team in that scenario.
- It seemed like it happened forever ago, but Shane Wright scored his first NHL goal last Tuesday against the team that snubbed him at the draft. There was an extra pop from the fans after that one went in. It was nice to feel that energy for Shane.
- The day after that game, and as we predicted, Shane Wright was loaned to Team Canada for the World Junior Championship happening at the end of the month.
- Speaking of World Juniors, keep an eye on Finland’s roster that is expected to be released this week. I think the Kraken’s second-round draft picks from the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, Jani Nyman (forward) and Niklas Kokko (goalie) have a good shot to be named to the team.
- I genuinely love the post-game Davy Jones hat presentation.
- The Coachella Valley Firebirds are set to play their first real home game of the season this Sunday at brand new Acrisure Arena, set to open its doors this week.
- The lack of home games has not hurt the Firebirds’ performance, as they are sitting in third in the AHL in points percentage with a 12-4-3 record and have points in six straight games.
- With Thomas Milic away at Team Canada World Junior camp, Seattle Thunderbirds called on 16-year-old goalie prospect Spencer Michnik on Sunday where he earned the win in his WHL debut.
- Speaking of the WHL, the Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Thunderbirds sit one and two in the Western Conference standings. Portland is No. 1 by points, and Seattle is No. 1 on points percentage. The Everett Silvertips are also sitting fourth in the conference and third in the division. The second half of the season in “The Dub” should be fun.
Kraken themes on the week ahead
I am switching up the outlook section of the Monday Musings. Instead of listing out the games on the schedule, I am going to list out themes to keep an eye on in the week ahead. If you have feedback either way, let me know in the comments.
Tampa Bay and Carolina provide a benchmark opportunity to size this Kraken team up. I believe they are a playoff team, but they have only played limited games against some of the other top teams across the league. The collective record of teams they have played is 223-205-52 (.464), whereas the collective record of teams they have not played this season is 206-134-43 (.537). Two road games in December will not dictate how good this team really is, but it will be nice to see if they can compete with some of the top teams in the league.
I thought coach Dave Hakstol would have gone back to Philipp Grubauer to start against Florida after his stellar performance in defeat against the Capitals on Friday night, but Hasktol instead went back to Martin Jones. It turns out a coach with a lifetime of experience knows better than a random guy with a keyboard. Weird. It will be interesting to see who starts Tuesday against Tampa Bay. I would guess Grubauer will get the start with Jones going Tuesday, but as I just stated, I have been wrong before. Either way, I am interested to see how Hakstol manages the goaltending through this stretch of games.
I am looking for redemption the Kraken when they take on the Jets at home Sunday. It feels like ages ago, but Seattle previously played Winnipeg in a heart breaker of a loss for the boys. The Jets tied the game up with six seconds left after a… well, let’s just call it what it was, a stupid penalty by Carson Soucy. The Jets would go on to win it in overtime.
At the time, I was skeptical on how good the Jets are this season, but since then they is 10-4-0 and have quietly climbed to fourth in the league based on point percentage. It is a bit early to be worried about the standings, but I always welcome the opportunity to get a point or two on another team in the conference.
Player Performance / Stick Taps
Kole Lind (SEA/Coachella Valley) – The AHL winger in the Kraken farm system had five points in two games over the weekend including his second hat trick of the season. Lind played 23 games with the Kraken last season.
Patrik Laine (CBJ) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (WPG) – both players had seven points for their respective teams over the last week, and for those that do not know, they were traded for each other during the 2020-21 season.
William Nylander (TOR) – The Swedish forward had seven points over the last two games including a five-point night against Calgary on Saturday.
Eetu Makiniemi (SJS) – In his first start and second NHL game, the Finnish goaltender had his first career NHL win. Like a skater’s first NHL goal, a goaltender’s first win is something special. Congrats Eetu.
Chart of the week
With his two points Sunday, Matty Beniers has 14 points over his last 10 games, but he is not the only Kraken that has been hot lately. Here is a view of the top point getters in that stretch.
We have said it before and will probably say it again, the Kraken’s strength is their depth, and that continues to prove out through the season. Everyone has been pitching in during this stretch of games where the Kraken are 7-3-0.
You don’t see that everyday
From the PWHPA all-star game over the weekend
As always, feel free to give us your feedback, comments, or otherwise hot takes in the comments section and thank you for reading.