The Kraken were in the holiday spirit Tuesday, and they gifted their home fans with a solid 5-2 win over a St. Louis Blues team that had Seattle’s number coming into the game. In fact, the Kraken had lost all four previous meetings against the Blues.
In front of a boisterous full house at Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle got on the board late in the first period, dominated the second period to get out to a 4-0 lead, and then held on despite some hiccups in the third to earn the victory.
“It’s huge,” said Ryan Donato. “It just goes to show when you do the right things, you can beat a lot of good teams in this league.”
Things got loose in the final frame, which coach Dave Hakstol didn’t like. But by that time, Seattle had gotten so far ahead, a big save by Martin Jones and an empty netter by Brandon Tanev quickly assuaged any growing angst in the festive crowd.
Here are our Three Takeaways from the first ever Kraken win over the Blues.
Takeaway #1: Stretch passes are really cool when they work
Seattle scored two breakaway goals Tuesday, one by Donato to make it 1-0 in the first period, and one by Daniel Sprong to make it 3-0 in the second.
The finishes by both players were impressive, but what really made the goals pretty were the home run passes that set them up.
Donato’s goal, which came 16:27 into the game, was created by an outstanding 125-foot pass by Adam Larsson from deep in the Kraken zone. Drifting back and surveying the ice, Larsson spotted Donato coming off the bench and snapped a pass all the way to the far blue line. Donato did the rest.
“That was a spectacular pass from him,” said Donato. “I saw it coming a little bit, but with him going backwards with his momentum carrying him that way, to be able to get it all the way across his body and up that far, that was awesome.”
Hakstol noted that Larsson actually had options on the play and said he made the right read. “If we’re going to go into a full line change, you got an option of bringing it back, getting organized, and getting five guys going up ice, in which case, you’re going to face five of them,” said Hakstol. “Or doing what he did, he read the play, he saw speed coming off the bench, and he got it moving.”
Not to be outdone, Geekie too made an unbelievable pass to… wait for it… spring Sprong for his breakaway goal. As Tanev was slinging the puck around the boards in Seattle’s end, Geekie made a quick look to see where Sprong was on the ice. Then as soon as the puck got to Geekie just inside the blue line, he blindly spun and fired the puck up to his linemate before getting clobbered by Colton Parayko.
While we didn’t get the sense from Hakstol that the Kraken were looking to exploit opportunities to connect on stretch passes, they sure utilized them to perfection Tuesday.
Takeaway #2: Ryan Donato is cooking
It has been easy to root for Ryan Donato ever since he signed with the Kraken before the team’s inaugural season. He’s gotten kicked around the league a bit in his career, and even after a good year with Seattle in 2021-22, he was not tendered a qualifying offer and could have left as an unrestricted free agent.
Yet, here he is, again filling whatever role Hakstol asks him to fill, and again finding ways to produce offensively. Donato’s first-period tally Tuesday gave him goals in four consecutive games for the first time in his NHL career, and this one was a beauty.
“As I was going in on the breakaway, I just kind of closed my eyes and hoped for the best,” Donato said. We aren’t sure we fully believe him on that, since he made a heck of a move to get Thomas Greiss moving the wrong direction before pitching it up high. “You kind of pray for those opportunities. They don’t come around very often, and when they do, you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t capitalize on them.”
Interestingly, Donato scored in three straight games right around this time last year as well. He has been streaky at times in his career, but he has the ability to score in bunches and do so in different ways. That’s what we’re seeing from him now.
“It definitely is sweet,” he said. “It’s exciting, but I mean at the end of the day, I think everybody in here can agree that it’s more about winning, so for me, to be a part of that win, it’s definitely a good feeling.”
Takeaway #3: Both goalies are playing well
We didn’t love Philipp Grubauer’s game in Tampa Bay on Dec. 13, but since then Seattle has gotten three straight solid performances in net. Two of those good starts have come from Grubauer and one has come from Jones.
It is exciting to see both goalies starting to play well again, as things weren’t looking too good in that area during Seattle’s recent two-week rut. Neither has faced huge volumes of shots in these last two games against St. Louis and Winnipeg, but there were important saves made by both netminders at key points in those respective games.
Jones’s best save Tuesday came in the third period, soon after a miscue between Will Borgen and Carson Soucy let Parayko get St. Louis on the board. With the Blues showing life after the goal, Jones slid to his left to rob Brandon Saad and—at that time—keep the score at 4-1.
Pavel Buchnevich did notch a power-play goal two minutes later, but if both of those had gone in, we have a feeling this story would have a very different tone.
Hakstol said it’s important to have both goalies performing. “You gotta have it. I’ve said it all year, both guys gotta do their part, and Jonesy did his part tonight, just like Grubi did a couple nights ago.”
Suddenly, it feels like the team can be comfortable with whichever goalie it taps to start in Vancouver on Thursday, where the Kraken will play their final game before the Christmas break.