The second-round series between the Kraken and the Stars is now tied at 1-1 after a tired-looking performance by Seattle in Game 2. The Kraken hung in through 20 minutes, thanks in large part to Philipp Grubauer (again), but costly penalties got the snowball rolling downhill, and it couldn’t be stopped.
“It’s different when you make a team work for their power plays,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “That’s a pretty different scenario than the way it went tonight for us. That’s just black and white. That’s an easy factor for us to pinpoint.”
Here are our Three Takeaways from a 4-2 Game 2 Kraken loss to the Stars.
Takeaway #1: Costly penalties
The first period was a solid road period for the Kraken, up until an unfortunate delay-of-game penalty by Carson Soucy with four minutes left in the frame. That one was just bad luck, and although the Stars didn’t score on the power play, it gave them momentum as the period came to an end. Grubauer was forced to be outstanding in the closing minutes of the opening period, though he did get his teammates to the room tied 0-0.
In the second period, Soucy found himself in the box again, and this visit came after an undisciplined decision. Mason Marchment—who ironically got away with punching and cross checking Morgan Geekie in Game 1 when Geekie was down on the ice—ran his face into Soucy’s shoulder. Marchment flopped like a fish, drawing an interference call on Soucy, but also an embellishment call on himself.
Soucy should have left it at that, but he went back after Marchment and whacked him on the ankle, taking an extra two minutes and giving Dallas its second power play.
“Each of the first two power plays, they generated a ton of momentum off of those,” said Hakstol. “The puck goes in the stands, that’s a tough one, but we’ve got to take care of our discipline [on] the last two power plays. This is a team that came into the series at 37.5 percent and feeling pretty good.”
The Stars are lethal with the man advantage, and although they again didn’t score on the Soucy penalty, they did break through just seven seconds after the penalty had ended. Wyatt Johnston tipped a shot into Philipp Grubauer’s chest, and Grubauer—like on the third Joe Pavelski goal in Game 1—couldn’t corral it. Johnston got his own rebound and made it 1-0.
Later in the period, with Seattle down 2-1, Will Borgen got tangled up with Evgenii Dadonov behind Seattle’s net. Borgen had his lower hand off his stick, and Dadonov did a good job of getting in on Borgen’s hands to draw a holding call. This time, the dangerous power play unit of the Stars struck officially, as Pavelski scored his fifth goal in two games off a Johnston rebound.
Though Seattle only took the three penalties in the game, it was enough to turn the tide. It had shades of Game 6 against Colorado, when the tired Kraken got caught chasing the Avs in their own zone and were repeatedly forced to drag players down.
Takeaway #2: Face-offs remain an issue
The Kraken have often overcome poor performances in the face-off circle this season, but Thursday’s showing in that area was especially bad. The Kraken won just 31 percent of face-offs, and an abysmal 22 percent of defensive-zone draws.
That’s damaging to everyone on the ice, but especially your goalie, who is getting worn out by his teammates being stuck in the defensive zone. He gets a whistle for you, then you go out and lose the face-off, and the pressure continues.
Fans may not realize this, but even if shots aren’t getting through, it is taxing for a goalie when the puck gets hemmed in the defensive zone for extended periods. The goalie is crouching, pushing from post-to-post, and dropping down into the butterfly position and getting up repeatedly, and all that takes its toll on the body.
Mix in some Grade-A opportunities—Dallas got plenty of those Thursday—and you’ve cooked your netminder and yourselves by losing face-offs repeatedly.
The fourth goal by Dallas, which put the game fully out of reach, came immediately after a face-off in the defensive zone. Ryan Donato lost the draw to Tyler Seguin (Donato was just 1-for-7 on the night), then Seguin went right to the net and tipped a Thomas Harley shot through Grubauer.
There isn’t an easy fix for this problem. Centers don’t just get better at this overnight; it’s a skill that players have to improve upon over time. But that’s the reason a lot of us were hoping Seattle might make a trade for somebody at the deadline who could win a key face-off. It’s also the tradeoff you make by having Morgan Geekie on the wing in Andre Burakovsky’s spot.
Takeaway #3: A good time for some rest
The Kraken have played high-intensity playoff hockey every other day for two and a half weeks. They have shown signs of being tired at times during this run, and we thought Thursday was one of those nights.
Thanks to some scheduling challenges at Climate Pledge Arena, this series now takes a two-day hiatus, giving the group a chance to get home, see their families, and recharge. With two huge home games on the horizon and the series tied 1-1, the brief break couldn’t come at a better time.
“We’re comfortable on the road, I just think we were a little bit safe, and that’s where our team struggles,” said Vince Dunn. “We need to be more on our toes, more aggressive. We’re not the biggest, most physical team always, so we need to use our speed and our sticks and our ability to be tight together and aggressive to create offensive chances.”
Getting a couple days to rest the legs should help the Kraken get back to that kind of tenacious game we’ve seen from them in these playoffs.
The Kraken remain in a good spot after a road split to open the series, but they do also need to figure out how to win in their building, where they lost two out of three in Round 1.