That wasn’t the return to game action the Seattle Kraken were looking for, as they laid an egg against the Islanders to kick off their five-game road trip.
The Islanders played and won Monday, and they looked like a team that just made a big trade for a star scorer (we’re referencing Bo Horvat, who, in fact, scored his first goal for New York in the game). The Kraken, meanwhile, looked like they just came back from a week of fun in the sun.
It was an ugly game from start to finish, and it may have also cost Seattle one of its biggest offensive weapons for a while.
Here are our Three Takeaways from an uninspiring 4-0 Kraken loss to the Islanders.
Takeaway #1: Just when you thought they were healthy…
We will admit, we’ve helped fuel the “They’re almost healthy!” excitement that has surrounded the Seattle Kraken since they returned to practice this week. After all, Matty Beniers and Jaden Schwartz both returned Tuesday, and Justin Schultz has appeared very close to ready.
So, they’re pretty much healthy, right?
Well, less than a minute into the game, Andre Burakovsky made a cut to his left in the neutral zone, tried to stop on his left leg, and pulled up lame. He hobbled off and went down the tunnel, and he did not return. He played all of 21 seconds.
We know Burakovsky had been dealing with something before the break, hence why he didn’t play against Colorado on Jan. 21. We don’t know if that something had to do with his left leg, which is clearly what he injured Tuesday.
The Kraken seemed off from the jump anyway, but Burakovsky’s unexpected absence threw things into disarray. Coach Dave Hakstol jumbled up his lines trying to manage through it, but it’s impossible to get any kind of continuity when that happens.
“You gotta juggle a little bit, but I mean, it happens to every team throughout a season,” said Schwartz. “Obviously it’s not ideal and you do have to make some adjustments. But we can do a better job.”
Seattle scratched Daniel Sprong in Tuesday’s game for the first time since the early stages of the season, so they have an extra forward if Burakovsky has to miss more of the road trip. Still, Burakovsky is Seattle’s leading scorer and cannot be easily replaced.
Hakstol did not have an update on Burakovsky after the game. Just when we thought they were healthy…
Takeaway #2: An ugly first outing after the break
Hakstol warned us Monday that the team may not look as crisp or sharp in its first game back after a nine-day layoff, but he expected good energy. He also admitted before the game Tuesday that the Islanders could have an advantage over the Kraken after playing and winning Monday night against Philadelphia. Hakstol couldn’t have expected that poor of an effort from Seattle, which in fact did not have great energy.
It was an uncharacteristically bad performance from top to bottom. The Kraken weren’t connecting on passes, they were bobbling and losing pucks all over the ice, and there was really only one stretch toward the end of the second period in which we could say the Kraken sustained pressure.
“We looked like we had the effects of coming off of a break,” said Hakstol. “We could not find a way to give ourselves energy.”
“I thought we started ok the first few shifts, but I think it’s pretty evident that just our puck play and structure, and I thought our energy was just a little bit low,” said Schwartz, who was playing in his first game since Jan. 12.
Schwartz also called out the fact that several players had long flights back to Seattle from vacation, and then another long flight to New York, which could have factored into the team’s sluggish appearance.
Added Ryan Donato, “[The energy] wasn’t there. I think maybe at the very beginning we had the jump, and then I don’t know. I don’t want to make any excuses, but I think we were half a step off after the first few minutes of the game the whole night.”
Now, New York is known to play a rather dull brand of hockey, so surely they were making things difficult on Seattle through the neutral zone and in their end. Even so, the Kraken didn’t have their best Tuesday, plain and simple.
“I think they reloaded hard,” said Schwartz. “They had pretty good gaps for the most part, not a lot of space through the neutral zone. So we had to chip a lot of pucks in and you know, when we weren’t getting on them quick enough, we had to back check and skate a little harder ourselves.”
Even Martin Jones wasn’t as sharp as we’ve come to expect, as demonstrated by J.G. Pageau catching him looking the other way with Pageau behind the net, leading to an easy goal for Simon Holmstrom late in the first period.
Meanwhile, when the Kraken did get a rare scoring chance at the other end, Ilya Sorokin—Jonses’s counterpart—was there to make a few big saves.
It was not Seattle’s night. Here’s hoping the Kraken can put this dud against the Islanders behind them quickly.
Takeaway #3: Matty Beniers looked good in his return
We have to find at least one positive Takeaway, right? Heck, we traveled all the way to Long Island to watch Burakovsky get hurt and Seattle get drubbed, so we might as well find a positive twist. Here’s that positive twist: Matty Beniers looked good.
In his first game back since taking a cheap hit from Tyler Myers and hitting his head on the ice on Jan. 25, Beniers looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. In fact, he looked better to us than he did in the games leading up to the injury.
He was dynamic with the puck every time he touched it and was the only Kraken player who consistently looked dangerous, both shooting and distributing. Somehow, he was only credited with one shot, but we seem to recall several, plus a shot off the outside of the post in the first period.
We tried to get Hakstol to give us some positives about Matty after the game, but Hakstol said, “I find it real hard to separate out individual performances out of our team performance tonight. We were off, we were a little bit slow, we weren’t as sharp as we wanted to be coming off of the break. I think everybody is included in that.”
Like we said, we tried to get a positive spin here.
In any case, Matty looked good to us, and it was refreshing to see Seattle’s rookie star back in there; perhaps the only bright spot of the night.