The Kraken had a big second period Monday against the Coyotes and glided through to their fifth consecutive win, 4-1. Four unanswered goals by Oliver Bjorkstrand, Justin Schultz, Matty Beniers, and Jared McCann made a first-period icebreaking goal by Arizona’s Jack McBain feel irrelevant in the end.
The Kraken beat the Coyotes three times in eight days by a combined score of 16-4, so we are confident Arizona’s players will be happy this season series is now over.
Here are our Three Takeaways from another convincing Kraken victory.
Takeaway #1: 40 goals for Jared McCann
Jared McCann has made general manager Ron Francis look like a genius over the past two seasons. The Penguins traded McCann to the Maple Leafs just before the 2021 Expansion Draft, and Toronto turned around and exposed him to Seattle. Francis and company snatched McCann up, and he has proven to be (arguably) the best selection the Kraken made in said Expansion Draft.
Coming into Seattle’s inaugural campaign, McCann had never scored more than 19 goals in a season, and that was split between Florida and Pittsburgh in 2018-19. He followed that up with two consecutive 14-goal seasons, playing down the lineup for the Penguins, before getting to the Kraken and lighting it up.
“I just needed a chance,” said McCann. “There’s a lot of guys in the NHL who don’t get the opportunity, not that they don’t deserve it. Sometimes it’s just the way it goes.”
With an elevated opportunity in Seattle’s top six and a spot on the power play, McCann notched 27 goals last season, which was then a career high by a long shot, earning himself a five-year, $25 million contract extension from Francis in the offseason.
McCann has smashed that career high to bits this season and hit an enormous milestone Monday by scoring his 40th goal on a play we’ve seen from him on many occasions.
Every practice, McCann spends time looping around at the top of the left circle, taking a pass, and firing a shot. He does it over and over again to close out each on-ice session. The practice has paid off repeatedly this season, as McCann has done significant damage in that exact way. Against the Coyotes, he did it again.
On the power play, McCann passed it up top to Justin Schultz, who walked the line, and then gave it back to McCann. The lateral movement from Schultz gave McCann just enough time to do his little loop and get in position for his lethal shot. McCann fired it through the legs of Josh Brown and under the glove of Ivan Prosvetov.
The goal was also McCann’s 70th point of the year, after he had assisted on Matty Beniers’ second-period marker with a slick little drop pass.
Boy, at $5 million per year, that new contract looks like a real bargain now.
Takeaway #2: 100 points for the Kraken
The magical second Kraken season continued Monday, as they hit 100 points in the standings. As our good friend, Curtis Isacke, pointed out, Seattle is just the third team ever to reach 100 points after earning 60 or fewer the season prior.
Coming into this season, a 40-point improvement seemed almost unimaginable, and yet here we are.
“Everybody knows that’s a nice marker for our group,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “We want them to be proud of that. That’s a hell of a number. A lot of these guys that were here through the year last year, to be here a year later, they need to take a lot of credit for that.”
This is a weird point in the season, though. The Kraken have clinched a postseason spot and—based on possible playoff matchups—their best bet for getting through the first round likely comes from the Central Division. But as Seattle has mowed down bottom dwellers over the last week, they’ve closed in on Los Angeles for the third spot in the Pacific Division. If the Kraken do jump the Kings, they would most likely face Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the Edmonton Oilers.
The Kraken did pass LA in the standings for a fleeting moment Monday, drawing level in points with a game in hand, but the Kings beat the Canucks 3-0 to go back up by two on Seattle.
It’s such an odd spot because fans should want Seattle riding high as they hit the postseason, but we at Sound Of Hockey would prefer not to face the Oilers right away. So, would it be better for Seattle to lose one or both of these next two games against Vegas? Or do they play to win to help on the mental side of things?
Takeaway #3: Perfect handling of the goaltenders
After Martin Jones got hurt Saturday, we got excited about the idea of Arizona State alumnus, Joey Daccord, potentially playing at ASU’s Mullett Arena. Daccord is the only ASU player ever to play in the NHL, and he was a huge part of bringing that program to life after it moved up to NCAA Division I. Daccord has such a love for the university, in fact, he still has a Sun Devil pitchfork on the back of his mask and a “Sparky” mascot hidden in the paint job.
Much to our chagrin, Hakstol opted to play Philipp Grubauer against the Coyotes, leaving Daccord and his cool mask on the bench.
We fully understand the decision, though, and we probably would have done the same thing. If it were us, and we were trying to prepare for the playoffs, we would want our starting goalie feeling as confident as possible at the conclusion of the regular season. Playing the first game of back-to-backs against a bad team gave Grubauer a much better chance of feeling good about himself than playing in the second game against the Golden Knights in Vegas (Seattle’s opponent on Tuesday).
Lo and behold, Grubauer looked sharp Monday and stopped 22 of 23 shots, surely a nice confidence booster for him.
And, in a classy move by Hakstol, Daccord was sent in to close the game in the last couple minutes. He got a standing ovation from the home crowd as he stepped onto the ice for a moment he will never forget.
“He didn’t get a chance to play in this building during his time here, but he had a huge role in growing this program and growing hockey in this community,” said Hakstol. “So, in an ideal world, maybe at a different time of year, it would have been nice to get Joey a start. We couldn’t— that wasn’t the right thing for our team, so we were able to get him a minute, minute and a half at the end of the game.”
We expect Daccord to get the start Tuesday in Vegas.
If the Kraken beat Vegas twice to close out the season and move into third place in the Pacific, then the odds are that Edmonton will pass Vegas to finish first in the Pacific. In that case the Kraken would face Vegas, not Edmonton, in the first round. Can you imagine nine consecutive games between the Kraken and the Golden Knights?
The prospect of facing Edmonton wouldn’t have been quite as daunting few weeks. But the Oilers seemed to have buttoned up a bit recently. Maybe it is Ekholm’s presence steadying the ship on the blue line, or maybe it’s just a function of facing California teams for 5 consecutive games.
You always have to play your best and try to win every game. Trying to dodge a team on a streak is admitting defeat. Bring on whomever is unlucky enough to face us. Go Kraken!
I was going to mention what Danny said above… almost every path that leads to an Oilers/Kraken match-up relies on Edmonton losing to San Jose… I just don’t see that. We are much, much more likely to face Vegas the Edmonton.