Getting a win over the Winnipeg Jets Sunday felt important for the Seattle Kraken on multiple levels.
Not only has the team been in a rut since the start of December, this particular game was against an opponent that was on the second night of back-to-back games with its backup goalie playing. The Jets were also the team that beat Seattle in overtime on Nov. 13, when the Kraken had the lead late, but Carson Soucy took an undisciplined penalty that cost the team the win that night.
And although the Kraken still have games in hand on almost all of their divisional rivals, they have been losing ground in the standings.
One win doesn’t necessarily cure all of a struggling team’s problems, but it definitely helps build confidence. Seattle needed that one. Here are our Three Takeaways from an important 3-2 Kraken win over the Jets.
Takeaway #1: Goals don’t come easy in the NHL
For most of this season, the Kraken have enjoyed the spoils that come with having an astronomically high shooting percentage. As long as they were shooting, pucks were going in, the team was winning, and everybody was happy.
It’s no coincidence that as Seattle got into its December downturn, the goals dried up. The players have clearly been gripping their hockey sticks a little too tightly, and while the Kraken came out on top Sunday, offensive success still didn’t come easy against the Jets.
“That’s the league at this time of year,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “We went through a stretch a couple weeks ago where there were some crazy scores, right? All over the league. But in general, the league gets tight.”
Hakstol explained that as the season goes on, teams get better in their structure, and it becomes harder and harder to score.
On Sunday, even against Winnipeg’s backup goalie, it was still hard to find goals. But Seattle stuck with it, kept firing shots at David Rittich, and eventually broke through enough times to take two points in the standings.
“We stayed patient, we stayed with it, scored a couple determined goals, and that made the difference for us,” Hakstol said.
Jared McCann, who scored the game winner on what Hakstol called a “world-class shot,” said he thought pucks had stopped going in because Seattle had been trying to get a little too cute offensively.
“We kind of got away from shooting the puck a little bit,” McCann said. “I felt like we tried to make the extra play, the backdoor tap-in, that kind of thing. Sometimes that’s— you know, defensemen have such good sticks in the NHL. You’ve got to just shoot the puck sometimes, and you know, I try to preach that as much as possible.”
By sticking with their game and continuing to push, the Kraken eventually earned the win they deserved Sunday. We hope this will get them to start really trusting in their abilities again to pull themselves out of this rut.
Takeaway #2: Jordan Eberle had a ridiculous goal
While McCann’s game-winning snipe was nice, Jordan Eberle’s goal to get Seattle on the board in the second period was nicer.
Adam Larsson made a pass to Eberle at the left hash, and in one fluid motion, Eberle spun to his backhand and flung it toward Rittich. The puck eluded Rittich’s mask and snuck just under the bar.
Ryan Donato, who also scored for the third game in a row, called Eberle’s goal “disgusting,” while McCann said it was “vintage Jordan Eberle.” McCann added that it was the kind of goal he remembers seeing from growing up watching Eberle play. He then joked he was probably making Eberle sound older than he actually is.
“I had to look twice at it,” said Hakstol. “I think I was yelling ‘Shoot the puck!’ before Lars passed it over, but that’s just a great play by Ebs.”
Plays like that remind us that Eberle is a very gifted player. It was only his second goal in his last 10 games, so perhaps this will help him get rolling again.
Takeaway #3: A solid team game
Nothing about that Kraken win over the Jets was easy, but as we mentioned before, Seattle needed that one badly. What is encouraging about the victory is that the group really earned it by sticking to its game, playing mostly sound defense, and firing 34 shots at Rittich.
“This is what we are, right?” said Hakstol. “As a team, we have to have everybody contributing. And it’s not about the number of minutes or who’s scoring the goals or anything like that, but when you’re out there you gotta do your part for the group.”
Seattle was good in all three zones and only let 17 shots through to Philipp Grubauer, with both goals against coming on Winnipeg power plays. Even in the closing minutes of the game, when the Jets were trying to push, the Kraken hemmed them into their zone so long, Rittich was having a hard time getting to the bench for an extra skater.
“That’s the way we should play for 60 minutes,” said McCann. “If we could do that, we know we’re one of the best teams in the league. We need to find that every night.”
Getting out of a slump always happens step by step, and turning things around often comes with two steps forward and one step back. So, we don’t think Seattle is out of the woods yet, but Sunday was a nice move in the right direction.
McCann’s goal was the best snipe of the night…he looked up and saw Rittich going down and buried it. Eberle’s was a simple no-look “put it on net up high and see if it goes in” shot. The Jet’s goalie was pushing off to come back to the right side and was going to be down anyway…it was a lucky goal…nice, but very lucky.
I simply will not stand for this (JK, your point is fair).