For Saturday’s game between the Kraken and the Blackhawks, we found ourselves watching with a slightly different energy than we’ve had during games throughout the season. Now that the Kraken have clinched their first playoff appearance, the tension went down a notch, as Seattle cruised by a team that is actively trying to lose.
Still, it was a party-like atmosphere in Climate Pledge Arena, where fans continued to celebrate the home team and its remarkable turnaround from last season. With the win, the Kraken are now one win away from 100 points on the season after finishing last season at the bottom of the Pacific Division with a measly 60 points.
Here are our Three Takeaways from an imperfect—but ultimately easy—7-3 Kraken win over the Blackhawks.
Takeaway #1: Seven different goal scorers
There are only so many different ways we can write about Seattle’s depth scoring being its strength, but the team demonstrated this for the umpteenth time Saturday. Seven different players found the back of the net, 12 players had points, and four players had multi-point games.
The most notable scorers on the night were Jamie Oleksiak, who had three assists, Daniel Sprong (again), who had a goal and two assists, and Jared McCann, who scored his 39th goal of the season.
“That’s kind of been our strength all year,” said Jordan Eberle, who became the club’s fifth 20-goal scorer on the season. “Every line, it seems like we’re getting contributions each night from different guys, different lines, defense pairings, whatever it may be. So that’s obviously a big skill to have going into the playoffs.”
We can’t help thinking of everything now in that context of the postseason. How will this balanced approach work in playoff hockey? We *think* it should be an advantage, but until we see Seattle in playoff action, we just don’t know.
We think about a team like Edmonton, which effectively has the opposite makeup of the Seattle Kraken. The Oilers have two of the most talented players in the world, and they lead the Western Conference—by a long shot—in goals scored. But they also give up a lot, and they are very top-heavy. They can be beaten if a team figures out a way to limit the damage Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can do.
On the other side of the coin, a team like the Kraken probably won’t have one guy put his mates on his back and carry them through a series. But it’s awfully difficult to check a team that has a 20-goal scorer even on its fourth line.
Thinking that way gives us hope the Kraken can surprise some folks in the coming weeks.
Takeaway #2: Adam Larsson has silky mitts, Dave Hakstol has jokes
With the Kraken killing a penalty midway through the second period, Adam Larsson, Yanni Gourde, and Alex Wennberg found themselves on a three-on-two rush into the offensive zone. Larsson passed it to Gourde, who gave it right back to the defenseman, but Larsson shot it off the outside of the net. He then blew a tire and crashed hard into the end boards, and then—from a prone position—extended his stick and tripped Seth Jones.
It wasn’t the smoothest-looking play, and the penalty came 200 feet from Seattle’s net, an area in which coaches generally despise taking penalties. It put the Kraken down five-on-three for almost a full minute.
Jones scored his second goal of the game during the two-man advantage, and that brought Chicago back into the game at 3-2. The marker came before Morgan Geekie’s initial penalty had ended, so Larsson remained in the box, and the Kraken stayed on the penalty kill.
Larsson’s teammates did kill off the rest of his infraction, and when he came out of the box, he quickly made amends for taking the penalty that led to the goal against.
Oleksiak deflected a Chicago pass to McCann, and McCann quickly passed to the newly freed Larsson in the neutral zone. On a breakaway, Larsson showed off some silky moves and deked Peter Mrazek right out of his jock.
This isn’t the first time Larsson has made a move like that; he scored the overtime game-winning goal in Dallas on March 21 in similar fashion.
The goal led to some good chuckles in the dressing room after the game. Larsson was asked if he should be a candidate for future shootouts, and he said, “Yeah, I think so. But Hak probably doesn’t think so.”
Following that, Hakstol was then asked if he knew Larsson had that kind of move in his toolbox. Hakstol said, “Which, the one when we went down five-on-three, or the one after?”
That’s cold, coach. That’s cold.
Takeaway #3: First wild card clinched, new health concerns
Now that the Kraken have hit the first big postseason-related milestone, it’s our opinion here at Sound Of Hockey that the two best things Seattle can do are 1.) stay healthy, and 2.) stay right where they are in the standings.
On the health front, there are a couple new concerns after Saturday’s game. Martin Jones left after the second period and was not on the bench for the third period. Asked if it was injury or illness that forced Jones out of the game, Hakstol said, “[He was] just unavailable. I won’t comment, but it wasn’t illness.”
We expect Philipp Grubauer to be the starter throughout Seattle’s playoff run, but the team needs two goalies. You simply never know what can happen, and if the top guy falters, it’s always good to have a second guy that can potentially turn the tide in a series.
Joey Daccord has reportedly been recalled from Coachella Valley, so there’s obviously something going on with Jones. Daccord playing in the arena of his alma mater sure would add some intrigue to Seattle’s game against the Coyotes on Monday, though, wouldn’t it?
Also worth noting, Jaden Schwartz did not play Saturday. We would guess that’s more of a maintenance thing, but Hakstol did say he’s “day to day,” so we will keep an eye on that. Meanwhile, Andre Burakovsky, who skated with the team for the first time last week, hasn’t skated with his mates since then.
As for seeding for the playoffs, Seattle clinched the first wild card spot, so they can’t move backwards and can’t face the top seed in the Pacific Division. That’s a good thing. They are quickly closing in on Los Angeles for third place, though, and they currently sit just two points back with a game in hand on the Kings.
Meanwhile, Edmonton is two points behind the Golden Knights. If Seattle were to leapfrog the Kings, they would play either the Oilers or Golden Knights, whichever team finishes second in the division.
“You’re always looking at the standings,” said Oleksiak. “But, you know, you can only control what you can control, right? So I think we’re just going into games, getting as many points as we can, and see what happens here. I think at the start of the year, a lot of people probably didn’t see us where we’re at now.”
We like the Central Division matchups that would come with Seattle’s current position better than Vegas or Edmonton, so it may behoove Seattle to drop a game or two in these last few outings.