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.
I do not like to inflate the importance of one game in December, but the Kraken needed that win against Winnipeg on Sunday. There were a lot of things things that compounded to create this need.
First, Seattle had won just one game in its prior six, and in the previous two games the team looked outclassed, despite the one-goal loss against Carolina. Second, it was the Jets that handed the Kraken one of their toughest losses at home one month earlier when the Winnipeg tied the game with six seconds left in regulation and won in overtime. Not to mention the Jets were playing the second night of a back-to-back and the Kraken were facing the Jets’ backup goaltender, David Rittich, for the second time this season.
The Kraken were certainly the better team on the ice Sunday, but that never guarantees victory. In the early stages of the game, it felt like an uphill climb. The boys fell behind twice in the contest, and it was not until five minutes remaining that the Kraken would take their first lead of the game on a Jared McCann snipe. That proved to be the game winner, earning the Kraken a 3-2 result.
On Tuesday last week, the Kraken fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 in a game that was probably closer than the score indicated. Then on Thursday, the Kraken lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a game that was probably not as close as the score indicated.
The Lightning and the Hurricanes are two of the better teams in the league so there was no need to panic after those losses, but last week I mentioned one of the themes of the week was their compete level against those quality teams. I would have liked to see a bit more fight in the Lightning game, but overall, we knew it could end up being a very difficult road trip.
As tough of a stretch as this has been for the Kraken, they are still well positioned in the Pacific Division. The two teams behind them in the standings, Calgary and Edmonton, have only gained one point each on Seattle over the last ten games.
Even before this last week, there was a lot of chatter that this team’s on-ice results have been largely due to a shooting streak that would not be sustainable. Through November, the Kraken had a 13.1 percent shooting percentage, which was tops in the league entering December. A cool off seemed inevitable, especially after the Sharks game (when the Kraken shot 29.6 percent) and the Kings game (30.0 percent) at the end of November.
The cool off certainly happened during this rough patch, but it seems to be stabilizing a bit over the last four games. The Kraken are currently shooting at 11.7 percent. That might feel a little high compared to last season’s 9.0 percent, but this team has better shooters and is creating better chances (i.e. high-danger shots), so around 11 percent feels about right.
Other Kraken musings:
- Despite not scoring on three occasions, I felt the power play looked very good Sunday. They had five shots and were moving the puck around well against a Jets penalty kill that is one of the best in the league.
- The Kraken earned their 37th point in the standings last night. They did not get their 37th point last season until Feb. 24.
- Big congrats to everyone who made the Coachella Valley Firebirds and Acrisure Arena a reality. The Firebirds played their first ever official home game on Sunday after Acrisure Arena opened its doors last week. The Firebirds beat the Tucson Roadrunners 4-3 in an atmosphere that looked awesome.
- The Firebirds are now 15-5-3 and sitting in second place in the AHL Pacific Division with three games in hand against the first-place Colorado Eagles.
- Jared McCann is on pace for 41 goals. That would be the most goals he has scored in a season since he played for the London Junior Knights U16 team.
- I am still worried about the Flames and the Oilers. I check their scores constantly. I’m looking forward to both of those teams visiting Seattle next week, as it should be a good test for the Kraken.
- Shane Wright was named captain of Team Canada’s World Junior Championship team. Congrats Shane!
- As we projected last week, Kraken prospects Jani Nyman (forward) and Niklas Kokko (goalie) were named to Finland’s World Junior team, which will make the Finland games must-watch hockey.
- It is old news now, but all local WHLers made the Canadian team. Thomas Milic (SEA), Kevin Korchinski (SEA), Nolan Allan (SEA), Reid Schaefer (SEA), and Olen Zellweger (EVT) will all represent Canada, and Silvertips coach Dennis Williams will be behind the bench.
- If you ever had your reservations about Buoy, let the record show dogs love him and so should you.
Kraken themes for the week ahead
Get a win
The Kraken only have two games this week before the holiday break, facing St. Louis on Tuesday and Vancouver on Thursday. In their franchise history, the Kraken have never beaten either team and are a collective 0-8-1 against these two teams. They have been outscored 39-17 in those nine games. Something must give here, and I say they do it. Winning both games is all I want for Christmas.
I would anticipate Martin Jones and Philipp Grubauer split these two games. Both have played relatively well recently but have lacked consistency. Grubauer has to be a huge piece of the Kraken’s success this year, and it would be nice to see him get another quality start either Tuesday or Thursday.
Eeli Tolvanen debut?
Eeli Tolvanen has been scratched in all three games since he was claimed off waivers last week. I am eager to see how he looks with the Kraken and would love to get a glimpse of that wicked shot. The challenge is that the Kraken do not have a slot right now. Daniel Sprong, Ryan Donato, and Morgan Geekie have all firmed up their spots in the lineup. It seems unlikely, but maybe Brandon Tanev sits a game to give Tolvanen a shot? I recognize that could be an unpopular opinion, but how do you sit a guy like Donato, for example, who has scored in three straight games?
Player Performance / Stick Taps
- Ryan Donato (SEA) – As I just mentioned, “Donnie” has scored three goals in three games, some of which were more important than others.
- Cameron Hughes (CVF) – He scored the first ever goal at Acrisure Arena in the Firebirds’ home opener Sunday.
- Mats Zuccarello (MIN) – Zuccarello is riding a 10-game point streak for the Minnesota Wild and has six points in his last two games.
Goal of the week
Buoy was so nervous; he could not even watch.
Honorable mention goal of the week
Anytime a goalie scores a goal, we must call it out.
Chart of the week
The Kraken have the lowest faceoff percentage in the league, but that has been steadily improving.
As always, leave any questions or feedback in the comments section, and I will do my best to get back to you. Whatever you celebrate, enjoy your holiday however you see fit.
Any status on Joonas Donskoi or Ryan Winterton?