The Kraken showed the Predators that they are now ready for that team to go quietly into the night. The pesky group has—despite selling at the NHL Trade Deadline—somehow hung around in the playoff picture and beat Seattle in overtime Thursday. But the Preds got a thorough tentacle lashing from the Kraken Saturday, who got goals from six different players.
“We wanted to challenge ourselves to be a little bit better than we were the other day,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “We had a really good response.”
It was an important win for Seattle’s playoff dreams, which are becoming more of a reality with every victory.
Here are our Three Takeaways from a 7-2 Kraken drubbing of the Predators.
Takeaway #1: Two for Tolvy
As if Nashville didn’t already regret dumping Eeli Tolvanen, he really drove the mistake home Saturday with two goals against his former club. Tolvanen now has 15 markers in 38 games for the Kraken after just two in 13 games for the Predators before they put him on waivers.
It was a big day for the 23-year-old Finn, whose power-play goal at 17:37 of the first period made it 2-0 and gave more worth to Seattle’s outstanding opening frame.
The goal showcased Tolvanen’s hockey sense and wicked shot in one fell swoop. Jared McCann had the puck on the left half wall and was looking for a seam pass to Tolvanen. The Preds’ penalty killers had the middle clogged up, though, so Tolvanen took a few steps toward the blue line to create a lane. McCann put the pass right on the money, and while Alex Wennberg cruised through Juuse Saros’ line of sight, Tolvanen snapped a wicked shot into the top corner of the net.
“I feel like the last couple games, we struggled a little bit getting shots off and getting scoring chances,” said Tolvanen. “But we did a pretty good job on that power play, we got shots through, and we got some traffic there too.”
In the second period, after Tyson Barrie had brought the Predators within a goal, Tolvanen got his second of the game thanks to a gift from his former goaltender. Saros came way out of his net to clear the puck and thwart an Oliver Bjorkstrand breakaway. But Saros made the wrong directional decision and passed it right to Tolvanen, who calmly threw it into the open net from distance.
“[Tolvanen] just keeps working hard,” said Hakstol. “What he did today is what he’s been doing for us all the way along.”
Takeaway #2: Contributions up and down the lineup
It’s no secret that depth has been the strength of the Kraken all season. When they’re winning, different guys are chipping in every game, hence why they have 13 players with double-digit goal totals.
“That’s what we’ve been all year,” said Hakstol. “I don’t think it’s any revelation to anybody inside of our dressing room. That’s who we’ve been all year long; it’s been different people contributing in different ways, and not just the guys on the scoresheet… That’s our group. We don’t have success unless everybody’s doing their part.”
Seattle’s third-leading goal scorer, Daniel Sprong, has occasionally been a healthy scratch this season and has played exclusively on the fourth line. He got the scoring started Saturday by cleaning up a rebound from Ryan Donato—also frequently scratched, despite his 13 goals—who made a great play to drive hard to the net. Sprong’s goal was his 19th of the season and extended his goal-scoring streak to three games.
Unlike Thursday, though, it wasn’t just the fourth line that got it done offensively. In addition to his primary assist on Tolvanen’s power-play goal, McCann potted his team-leading 35th goal after intercepting a pass at the blue line and racing in on a breakaway. He also had the primary assist on Adam Larsson’s third period goal that made it 4-2 and sent the Kraken on their way to a convincing win.
That Larsson goal was a thing of beauty, by the way. Matty Beniers took a bank pass from Vince Dunn at the half wall and gave it right back to Dunn at the point. Dunn then passed to McCann, who had a mostly open look down low and drew all the Predators players to him. Instead of shooting into Saros, though, McCann slipped it under the arm of a sprawling Yakov Trenin and right onto Larsson’s tape for a mostly open net.
Beniers also got off the schneid with his first goal in more than a month. Yes, you read that right, Beniers hadn’t scored since Feb. 23. The goal gave Beniers 20 on the season and was also his 50th point.
“It felt good to get that one,” said Beniers. “Super happy we won and got the two points. That was big, but definitely happy about that one.”
Beniers should be happy about scoring that one. Hitting 20 goals was one of Beniers’ rookie bonus criteria, so that netted him a cool $231K. We can’t help wondering if, now that he’s hit that bonus, the goals start coming a little more easily for the 20-year-old center.
“He’s gone through a couple of spells, and if it bothers him, he doesn’t show it,” said Hakstol. “He just keeps going, he keeps just pushing the envelope and playing hard, and I think that’s what we all really respect about him.”
Takeaway #3: A thorough Kraken drubbing over the Predators
The Kraken have remained solidly in a playoff position, even as they’ve been through a few slumps in the second half of this season. One of the teams that has kept irritatingly close, though, is the Predators, who beat the Kraken in overtime Thursday and entered Saturday’s game six points behind Seattle for the top wild card spot.
Getting the regulation win was enormous for the Kraken, who stretched their standings lead to eight points over the Predators and maintained a seven-point lead over the Flames. Now, with 10 games left, and the Kraken sitting at 88 points, hitting 100 on the season—and passing the Edmonton Oilers for third place—is still very much within reach.
“It is big,” said Tolvanen. “We knew that this weekend was going to be kind of like a playoff weekend for us, and for them too. You saw, I think they played tough… It’s big points.”
It is encouraging that with plenty at stake Saturday, the Kraken rose to the occasion and played one of their most dominant games of the season. In the first period, they allowed just one shot on Philipp Grubauer, despite being shorthanded twice. When Matt Duchene tipped home a Tyson Barrie shot-pass early in the third to bring the Predators back within one, the Kraken responded with Larsson’s beautiful goal 1:44 later and then pounded Nashville into submission the rest of the way.
In all, the Kraken outshot the Predators 39-16 and cruised to their fifth out of a possible six points on their current road trip.