The Kraken took another big step toward their first playoff berth with a dominant 8-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes Monday at Climate Pledge Arena. After letting inferior teams hang around for a little too long in recent victories, Seattle put this one out of reach in the second period and left no doubt in the end.
Jared McCann had two goals, and Daniel Sprong, Vince Dunn, Carson Soucy, Morgan Geekie, Ryan Donato, and Justin Schultz each had two points. Meanwhile, Philipp Grubauer stopped 21 of 22 shots and had an assist of his own.
With the easy win, the Kraken got themselves off on the right tentacle for what figures to be a series of winnable games over the next week. It put them back to five points up on Calgary with a game in hand, and with Nashville losing Monday, the Predators are almost cooked. Now, by our math, if the Kraken can win three of their last six games, they are guaranteed a playoff spot, regardless of what happens elsewhere. Losses by Nashville and Calgary would shrink that number even more.
Here are our Three Takeaways from a big 8-1 Kraken win over the Coyotes, which earned the home squad two enormous points in the standings.
Takeaway #1: Jared McCann is so good
If Jared McCann ends up scoring 40 goals this season, he may go down as the 40-goal scorer with the least national press attention in history.
After potting two Monday against Arizona in his 500th career game, he needs just three more to hit the 40-goal milestone, a number typically reserved for the top echelon of players in the NHL. Yet, nobody seems to talk about him outside of Seattle.
“I’m not a guy that’s really focused on numbers,” McCann said. “I want to win a Stanley Cup. That’s the main thing, right? Your time in the NHL goes by so quickly, ask anybody on our team that’s been in the league [for a while], Jordan, Jaden, even some of those guys that have won a Cup. You have to work so hard for it, and if you get in the playoffs, it’s special and you need to take advantage of it.”
Ok, fine, but still, for a guy that says he’s had to “grind it out” in his career, we think it’s pretty special that he’s closing in on 40 goals after never hitting 20 before arriving in Seattle.
McCann’s first goal of the night came shorthanded after Matty Beniers broke up an Arizona zone entry, then quickly turned the puck north. Facing even numbers, Beniers and McCann did a simple cross-and-drop play, and McCann quickly snapped off his lethal shot, getting some help from an Arizona deflection.
McCann’s second goal of the night and 37th of the year was an absolute banger, and one that he created almost entirely on his own. He, Soucy, and Travis Boyd were all whacking away at a bouncing puck, just inside the Seattle blue line. McCann came away with it, and he and Jordan Eberle were off to the races on a two-on-one rush. Eberle went hard to the far post, and McCann did the rest.
The star scorer tried to toe drag the puck around the outstretched stick of Juuso Valimaki. Valimaki got a piece of it, but not enough to fully dislodge it, so McCann carried on with his drive to the slot and fired the puck against the grain. It was a perfect shot, off the inside of the post and in behind Ivan Prosvetov.
“He had a great year last year here, and this year… he’s coming up big for us,” said Sprong. “He’s a threat offensively, he has the shot, and he’s dangerous every time he’s on the ice. And, you know, it’s [his] 500th game, so it’s good to see that he had a night like that. He deserved it.”
McCann’s pace had slowed of late—he had two goals in his previous 10 games before scoring twice against Arizona—so it was encouraging to see him get back on the horse in a big way.
Takeaway #2: The power play is suddenly cooking
We were chatting with Sprong this week about the power play, and he told us he thought the units had been getting good looks recently, so he felt like it was only a matter of time before they started clicking again. He has been a big part of the recent success, from his position on the left half wall on Seattle’s second unit, which is where he scored his crucial goal from against the Ducks on Thursday.
Sprong may have used that goal in the Anaheim game to the Kraken’s advantage Monday, as Coyotes defenders—who surely had seen the goal in their pre-scout—seemed to shift toward him once he got the puck. Instead of letting his wicked shot go this time, he whipped a shot-pass into the slot, where Jordan Eberle was waiting for the redirect.
The power-play goal got Seattle on the board, marking the third game in a row the Kraken have converted with the man advantage.
“We’re moving the puck, we’re getting pucks on net, we’re playing with confidence on the power play,” said Sprong. “And we’re taking the chances we need, the looks are there, and we’re capitalizing on it. So it’s good momentum for us, especially near the end of the year.”
Takeaway #3: That was the killer instinct Seattle needs this week
The second of back-to-backs Tuesday in Vancouver could be a tough game for the Kraken, but even so, it’s fair to say Seattle faces a weak schedule this week. The Kraken need to win a few more before they officially qualify for the playoffs, though, so taking care of business against these bad teams is critical.
The Kraken did just that against the Coyotes, and they left no doubt in this one, something we couldn’t say about their March 30 win against Anaheim. In that game, Seattle had chances to put a weaker opposing team away in the second period, but failed to do so, letting the Ducks hang around and giving a generally nervy feeling.
Monday against the Coyotes, the Kraken ended the second up 4-1 and gave themselves a good, comfortable third period to cruise through to victory.
“I think we just said in the dressing room, ‘We gotta stay on ’em,'” said McCann. “We can’t let up. We have a tendency to kind of back up a little more and kind of play defensive, and that kind of puts us in the soup sometimes. So we did a good job of staying on ’em tonight.”
As an aside, we love that phrase, “It puts us in the soup.”
What we saw in this one is exactly what we would love to see in Seattle’s next four games against Vancouver, Arizona again, Chicago, and… Arizona… again. Keep playing like that and closing bad teams out early, and clinching a playoff spot will be a breeze.
Bonus Takeaway: Unnecessary Roughness
Things got feisty at the end of this one. At 12:19 of the third period, Liam O’Brien gave Jamie Oleksiak no choice other than to fight him, a challenge Oleksiak accepted. O’Brien—who is much smaller than the 6-foot-7 Oleksiak—got the worst of it, but hey, at least O’Brien had his name called by the radio and TV broadcasters for his trouble.
Moments later, Soucy delivered a textbook reverse hit on Lawson Crouse, who then wanted to fight Soucy for some reason. The linesmen broke them up, but had they been allowed to drop the gloves, Soucy would have gotten a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Finally—and this is where things got out of hand—when Ryan Donato scored to make it 8-1, Sprong was going hard to the net. A second after the goal, Connor Mackey blew up Sprong with a completely unnecessary hit. Donato saw it and immediately went after Mackey, who dropped his gloves and punched Donato several times.
The hit by Mackey was an apparent retaliation for a hit Sprong had on Mackey earlier in the game, which earned Sprong an obvious interference penalty.
Here is what Sprong said about the play by Mackey.
Worth noting again, these teams play each other two more times in the next week.
Good stuff, Darren – thank you!
The Coyotes were frustrated and taking it out on the Kraken after the whistle. I just hope the next two games against them are only exciting during regulation time and Seattle avoids unnecessary injuries going into the playoffs.