Seven minutes into the second period Friday, Brandon Tanev raced across the offensive blue line and leaned into a shot. Before the puck took off, though, his stick snapped in two, so he curled right and headed to the bench. As he stepped through the door on what looked like a legal change, the officials blew the play down and gave Seattle a too-many-men penalty. The sequence pretty much summed up how that game went for the Kraken against the Flames.
It wasn’t so much about the penalty being called, it was about the feeling that Seattle was finally about to get something going, only to have things unravel again.
Coach Dave Hakstol did not like his team’s effort, repeatedly using some variation of the phrase, “We just weren’t that good tonight,” in his post-game press conference. We think some of his verbalized dissatisfaction may have been messaging to get his team ready for one last game before the All-Star break Saturday, but nonetheless, he made it clear he was unimpressed.
Here are our Three Takeaways from a stinky 5-2 Kraken loss to the Flames.
Takeaway #1: A terrible first half
For the first few minutes of the game, it appeared as if the same Seattle team we’ve been seeing through most of January had taken the ice and was in control. But after John Hayden tipped his first goal as a Kraken past Dan Vladar at 5:20, things turned quickly, and the Kraken seemed to have no answer.
On a pretty passing play, Elias Lindholm deflected a Tyler Toffoli offering past Martin Jones to tie the game at 7:16. Then Toffoli scored a goal of his own at 13:28. The third one was the real backbreaker, though, as Calgary got a late push in the offensive zone, and Nikita Zadorov scored with just four seconds left on the clock.
You never want to go to a period break seconds after giving up a goal, and that third Zadorov goal was the icing on a very stinky cake.
“You can pick any one of the goals,” Hakstol said. “I mean, we had great momentum after going up 1-0. We give one up, right? That’s a complete momentum changer two-on-two. Second goal, similar, third goal, it’s at the wrong time with four seconds to go.”
The beginning of the second period was more of the same, as Seattle was hemmed in its zone for about five straight minutes, unable to get tired players off the ice with the long change. At one point, the Flames held a 26-8 shots-on-goal advantage in the game, before the Kraken finally woke up and started pushing back.
“I just think it was an incomplete effort,” said Hayden. “Lost too much of the game missing out on some fundamentals, and this team’s had a ton of success in January. It seems like tonight was sort of an anomaly.”
To the team’s credit, it did battle back and have a fleeting chance to tie the game. In fact, Seattle actually scored two goals in a row, which would have tied the game in the third period, but one was negated with a good goalie interference challenge for Flames coach Darryl Sutter.
On the goal, which was scored by Alex Wennberg, Jared McCann crashed the net and made contact with Vladar in the crease. It wasn’t much, but when contact happens in the blue paint, the call usually goes the goalie’s way.
We were happy to see the team push back after such a terrible start, but it was too little, too late.
Takeaway #2: Power play struggles
The disallowed Wennberg goal came on a power play. Had that counted, this probably wouldn’t have been a takeaway from this game, but it didn’t count, so the narrative becomes that Seattle’s power play failed to connect on five opportunities.
In the second and third periods, the Kraken manpower advantage did have lots of good looks, and Hakstol called out two situations in addition to the disallowed goal in which Seattle had open nets and lost the handle on the puck.
But the power play could go back to being a big issue for this team, as long as it is dealing with injuries. On Friday, three regular power play participants were absent in Jaden Schwartz, Matty Beniers, and Justin Schultz. As a result, the second unit consisted of Ryan Donato, Eeli Tolvanen, Daniel Sprong, and Oliver Bjorkstrand, with Carson Soucy quarterbacking. We don’t think that’s what Hakstol would have drawn up as his ideal second unit, but he doesn’t have many options.
Once the first unit would leave the ice Friday, there wasn’t much cooking for the second unit, meaning each two-minute power play was effectively turned into a one-minute power play. In fact, on one power play in the second period, Soucy rushed the puck up the ice and handed it off to Bjorkstrand, who dumped the puck in for a rim around. It actually worked, as Seattle forechecked and gained possession, but it’s never a good sign when the power play is dumping the puck.
Seattle sure could use an All-Star break right about now.
Takeaway #3: Yanni Gourde is a warrior
We already knew Yanni Gourde was a warrior, but he proved it again Friday, and in a big way.
With the long change, Seattle was badly hemmed into their zone for several minutes to start the second period. Michael Stone wound up at the blue line and launched a heat-seeking missile toward Martin Jones. Gourde got his right foot in the way of the shot, and immediately went down to the ice in a heap.
In true Gourde fashion, he got back up and tried to fight through the pain, but ultimately collapsed back down, as the referees mercifully whistled the play dead.
Gourde was helped off the ice and down the tunnel, and we were sure he was done for the night, adding to Seattle’s ever-growing list of key injuries.
Lo and behold, there was Gourde, three minutes later, back on the ice killing the bogus too-many-men penalty that had been called against the Kraken.
Here’s what Gourde’s teammates and coach said about his gutsy play:
“It’s no surprise,” said Hayden. “He has such a good reputation. He’s had so much success in the league and he’s a warrior, so that was a big deal for us.”
“It’s huge. He battles through whatever, you know?” said Eeli Tolvanen. “He’s that kind of guy; he’s a team guy, and it tells a lot about him. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big slap shot in his ankle, he’s coming back no matter what.”
“For as tough a night as it was, guys were trying,” said Hakstol. “It didn’t look very good, but when you have a guy like that put that kind of effort in— I’m not sure how he was when he took his boot off. I’m sure it doesn’t feel real good.”
Gourde played the remainder of the game and racked up 16:18 of ice time in all. What a beauty.