Hey, if you take out the first 10 minutes, that’s a 3-2 hockey game. Unfortunately for Seattle, though, by the time 10 minutes had elapsed, the Kraken had effectively already lost to the Oilers after giving up four goals, including three in the first 3:55.
Seattle didn’t have it from the drop of the puck Friday, and Connor McDavid took full advantage, slicing and dicing his way to five points and a far-too-easy win for Edmonton.
“I didn’t talk to the group tonight; we’ll talk tomorrow,” said an angry coach Dave Hakstol after the game. “There’s nothing constructive we’re going to talk about tonight.”
Added Adam Larsson: “Tonight was one of those nights we’re not proud of.”
And finally, Yanni Gourde: “I think lately, we haven’t been playing our best hockey, and tonight I think it was just a big slap in our face.”
That pretty much sums up the mood in the Kraken dressing room after a 7-2 drubbing by the Oilers at Climate Pledge Arena. Here are our Three Takeaways.
Takeaway #1: A disastrous start
Nothing went right for the Kraken in the opening 10 minutes of that hockey game. Just two minutes in, Spokane native Kailer Yamamoto drove hard to the net, forcing Philipp Grubauer to make a tough save. In the process, Carson Soucy tripped Yamamoto, giving the lethal Edmonton power play its first opportunity of the night.
The Oilers quickly took advantage when McDavid found Zach Hyman open on the doorstep for an easy tap in.
Just 30 seconds later, Edmonton had a three-on-two rush. Justin Schultz chased McDavid, taking himself out of position and leaving Klim Kostin all alone in the slot to make it 2-0.
Then 40 seconds after that, Vince Dunn pinched in from the offensive blue line to lay a hit on Yamamoto. But Yamamoto got a pass off to McDavid in time to send him on a three-on-two rush the other way with Jordan Eberle back as one of the defenders. The result was Darnell Nurse walking right down the slot untouched, and being allowed to pick his spot on Grubauer.
All that happened in under four minutes of game time, and that was all it took for Grubauer to be lifted for Martin Jones after making just two saves on five shots.
We would argue none of the three goals were Grubauer’s fault, but a change in that moment was absolutely necessary. As a coach, you need to protect your goalie there and do everything you can to settle things down and get your team playing the right way.
“I’m sure we want a stop there, but that’s about the fourth place that I’m gonna look at on that,” Hakstol said, referencing the Nurse goal. “We get beat up the ice in a couple different cases there at a time when our full mentality should be, ‘shut it down, settle the game down, work our way into it.’”
We asked Hakstol if the early goalie switch was more about Grubauer’s play or about what was happening in front of him, and he said it was a little of both. “Regardless of the situation, you know, we need our goaltender to make some saves, but at that point in time, our team wasn’t going. So, make a change in net, take a few seconds for everybody to reset and hope that you go back and push the other direction, and we didn’t do that.”
The early misery didn’t end there. Edmonton’s fourth goal came after Schultz left the front of the net, reading that Seattle had gained possession of the puck in the corner. He slid to the other corner to help facilitate a breakout, but Matty Beniers lost the puck to Hyman. In the blink of an eye, Jesse Puljujarvi was scoring from the top of the crease without a Kraken defender in sight.
“You have to read possession,” Hakstol said. “We have possession of that puck, so we’re going to push it east-west, and that’s— Schultzy’s moving to a breakout spot, but we don’t make the play.”
The result of the misread and the mishandle was a wide-open shooter. “We should have layers there, but in that case, you don’t get much more naked than that at net front.”
Takeaway #2: Connor McDavid stinks
Just kidding, he’s incredible.
Last season, when Seattle beat Edmonton in a memorable home win in early December, the Kraken were able to minimize the damage caused by McDavid. On Saturday, every time he was on the ice, it felt like just a matter of time before he either scored or set up one of his teammates for an easy goal. Heck, Hyman had two power-play goals by simply standing next to the far post and letting McDavid bank pucks in off him.
“I don’t know how many points he has right now, but he’s the best player in the world for a reason,” said Larsson, McDavid’s former teammate. “He’s hard to stop. We can do a lot better job of stopping him, but I mean when you give him time and space, he’s going to make you look stupid most of the time.”
For the record, McDavid now has 32 goals and 72 points in 37 games and leads the league in basically every offensive category.
That’s also twice in three games that the Kraken have allowed one opposing player to rack up five points against them, after Elias Pettersson singlehandedly beat Seattle just before the Christmas break.
Takeaway #3: Line juggling does not yield results… yet
The always even-keeled Hakstol was a tad more animated than usual in his post-game presser, commenting several times on the lack of competitiveness from his group Friday and its unwillingness to check to create offense. Instead, he said the team was trying to score its way to victory, something the Kraken can’t do against a high-octane team like Edmonton.
Unlike last season, Hakstol has kept his lines very consistent throughout this campaign, but seeing that things had gone sideways Friday, he shuffled the deck in the second period.
Here’s what we saw:
Jard McCann // Matty Beniers // Andre Burakovsky
Jaden Schwartz // Alex Wennberg // Oliver Bjorkstrand
Brandon Tanev // Yanni Gourde // Jordan Eberle
Ryan Donato // Morgan Geekie // Daniel Sprong
“We didn’t have much going the right way,” Hakstol said. “A lot of the thought process there is— I mentioned competitiveness, we weren’t competitive tonight. So in some of those switches, and in some of those minutes to follow, we’re looking at competitiveness.”
Hakstol wouldn’t commit to having those lines stick together beyond Friday’s experiment, but we do think it’s time for some changes to the lineup. The team has been stuck in a rut for all of December and has now fallen out of a playoff spot behind Calgary and Edmonton, the two teams that just beat the Kraken at home.
So, yeah, it’s time for some shuffling.