There was a lot to like from Seattle’s game against Nashville Thursday, but the good guys ultimately fell 2-1 in a shootout. The Kraken had good defensive structure throughout the game, and they got some looks offensively. But they couldn’t break through more than once in regulation, then came up empty in overtime and in a shootout.
Seattle had been consistently closing things out in three-on-three overtime lately, but they actually played almost the entire five minutes at four-on-four Thursday (more on that in Takeaway #2), a situation in which they aren’t as good. The result was a trip to a shootout, where the Kraken remain winless on the season.
“This time of year, when there’s a lot on the line, that’s the type of hockey that it’s going to be,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “It came down to the shootout. So unfortunately we didn’t get the extra point, but we’ve got to turn the page quickly.”
Here are our Three Takeaways from a 2-1 Kraken shootout loss to the Predators.
Takeaway #1: The Kraken aren’t good in shootouts
Shootouts are such a weird thing in the NHL. If you lose in a shootout, it feels different than losing in overtime for some reason, even though it means getting the same single loser point. Dropping a shootout game is usually like losing a coin toss. You think, Meh, it’s a shootout. Could have gone either way.
The thing about coin tosses, though, is that eventually you win one even if you’re on a bad streak. We’re starting to think it’s less about bad luck and more that the Kraken just aren’t very good at scoring in shootouts. Seattle is now 0-4 in the skills competition on the season after going 3-1 in that area last season.
On this night, Hakstol chose Jared McCann and Jordan Eberle as his shooters. He didn’t get to send a third shooter, because by that time, Nashville had already sealed it with goals by Matt Duchene and Philip Tomasino. McCann did hit the post, and Eberle made a nice move, but Juuse Saros made a blocker save.
The players have regularly been practicing their shootout moves since this started to show itself as a problematic piece of the puzzle, but apparently to no avail.
We’ve seen folks saying they’d like to see Matty Beniers get a chance in the shootout, and at this point, we might have to agree. Throw out a whole new look the next time a game gets to this point.
Takeaway #2: A weird nuance to overtime hurt the Kraken
While the Kraken are not good at shootouts, they are pretty good at three-on-three overtime. Seattle is 9-4 in games that end in overtime but don’t make it to the shootout, and that record comes despite the team dropping its first three OT opportunities of the season. Since those three straight losses, the Kraken have shown outstanding patience in three-on-three, and they clearly have a lot of confidence in that situation.
A nuance in overtime rules hurt the Kraken against the Predators, though. Brandon Tanev took a boarding penalty with 1:31 left in regulation—a call with which he vehemently disagreed—and 29 seconds of that infraction carried into overtime. Instead of playing three-on-two in overtime (because that would be dumb), the team on the power play gets a four-on-three advantage. When the penalty ends and the penalized player comes out of the box, the teams then play four-on-four until the next whistle.
After Tanev got out of the box, the next whistle didn’t come until there were only 20 seconds left, meaning almost the entire OT period was played at four-on-four.
The Kraken have proven they are good at playing a rope-a-dope three-on-three, waiting for their opportunity to strike and then capitalizing. But at four-on-four, it’s much harder to hold onto the puck.
“You get into a shootout, anything can happen,” said Eberle. “We’ve been obviously cold in the shootout this year, so we tried to end it earlier. It’s tough with four-on-four, though, but it was a good hockey game. We had our chances.”
This overtime period was a lot more back and forth than what we’ve seen from the typical OT period for Seattle, when each team has just three skaters. They never managed to possess the puck for an extended period with four skaters, and once they got to the shootout, they were cooked.
Takeaway #3: Daniel Sprong and Joey Daccord earned the point
The loss stings, as a regulation win over Nashville would have been huge for solidifying Seattle’s playoff hopes. Instead, Nashville inched closer to Seattle in the wild card hunt and now sits six points behind the Kraken with a game in hand.
Still, every point is crucial right now, and Daniel Sprong and Joey Daccord helped Seattle get one.
Sprong is still one of the most fascinating stories of the season for the Kraken. We’ve talked a lot this season about Sprong making the team off of a professional tryout in training camp, then playing his way into a consistent role. But Hakstol went back to his old ways of periodically scratching Sprong as the season wore on and Sprong’s offensive production dwindled.
Well, back in the lineup for the last two games, Sprong has two goals and an assist playing on the fourth line, and he is now just two goals shy of potting 20 for the first time in his career.
His goal against the Preds was creative. After an elite pass from Morgan Geekie, Sprong ran out of room and looped around Saros. Instead of trying to wrap it around to the other side, he hit the brakes and saw that he had pulled Saros out of the goal crease. He told Piper Shaw between periods on the ROOT Sports broadcast that he was trying to bank it “off his ass,” but instead hit Saros’s skate and got it to carom over the line.
Daccord, meanwhile, made his second consecutive start for the first time as a Kraken. He earned the nod after a solid outing Tuesday in Dallas, and he made Hakstol look pretty smart for the decision. The Kraken did a good job of insulating Daccord for most of the game, but when the Predators did get through, he came up big.
“He didn’t have a lot to do in portions, especially the first half of the game,” said Hakstol. “They built some momentum in the second period, and that’s when he had to be at his best. He was sound, he was solid, made pretty good decisions with the puck.”
Daccord’s best save came in overtime, when Luke Evangelista fought through a check and tried to tuck the puck around Daccord’s pad. Daccord flared out his left leg and just got enough of the puck to kick it wide. The lone goal Daccord allowed in regulation came off a big rebound that happened to land right on the stick of Kiefer Sherwood. In all, Daccord stopped 23 of 24 shots and was a key part of Seattle earning a point.
The Kraken will face these same Predators in Nashville in a Saturday matinee. That is a huge game for both sides.