It’s easy to have negative feelings after a 4-1 loss, but in the preseason, it’s important to think about the *way* a team played. Plus, there will be ample time for negativity during the regular season, so let’s save those feelings for now.
For Kraken fans, there were plenty of positives to take out of the team’s preseason loss to the Edmonton Oilers Monday. For one, Seattle didn’t give up much defensively to a team that dressed Connor McDavid AND Leon Draisaitl. Coach Dave Hakstol called this out as one of those positives, and the game’s stats bore this out, as Philipp Grubauer faced just 13 shots on the night.
Grubauer’s play could be seen as a negative, being that he had just a .769 save percentage, but it was one of those weird nights where he went long stretches without facing a shot, then would get the best player in the world barreling toward him with the puck on his stick. We aren’t reading into it too much, but it is notable.
Ah! Sorry, we let a negative sneak in there. Sticking to the positives the rest of the way! These are our Three Takeaways.
Takeaway #1 (Darren): Power play progress
We had a story on Sound Of Hockey recently about how Seattle aims to improve its power play this season, and—although it only converted once on five opportunities Monday—we did see improvement.
“[I saw] a lot of progress, power-play wise,” said Hakstol. “Not only the goal that we scored, but the other opportunities we got, and not just the opportunities, but where they came from. We had some real good looks.”
We got our first live look at a power play unit that featured Justin Schultz, Andre Burakovsky, Jared McCann, Jordan Eberle, and Matty Beniers, and that group was dynamic for most of its opportunities. The movement was good, and the passing seemed to be a little more creative than we saw last season. Beniers down low and McCann in the bumper spot are giving positive early returns.
With the score tied 1-1 early in the third period, the top unit was buzzing. Beniers saw the puck pop loose in the crease for what looked like an easy goal, but he whiffed on it and then got buried by Ben Gleason. Had that gone in, this game probably had a different outcome.
“The power play is huge for momentum and obviously a big part of winning [is] special teams on both sides,” Jaden Schwartz said. “We’re just trying to get numbers around the net, try to get inside. That’s kind of how you create space and allow other plays to happen around [the outside].”
The other unit was a bit of a hodgepodge Monday, but it too was effective with Ryker Evans quarterbacking and Andrew Poturalski, Schwartz, Alex Wennberg, and Kailer Yamamoto rounding out the quintet.
Unsurprisingly (because we’ve been so impressed with him in training camp), Evans had another impactful play in that role, creating Seattle’s lone goal on the night. On his off-hand side, he held the puck in the zone at the blue line, then smoothly spun and walked the line. He made a no-look pass to Poturalski at the right halfwall, Poturalski fired a shot-pass toward Schwartz, and Schwartz deflected it past Jack Campbell, only to see his goal get stolen from him by Yamamoto. It was a nice piece of work by that second unit.
Takeaway #2 (Curtis): Kartye builds on 2022-23 postseason breakout
Tye Kartye continued his impressive preseason Monday night against Edmonton. Noticeable as much for his physicality and disruptions on the penalty kill as his skill game, Kartye brings a diverse skillset that can fit up and down the lineup. If the 22-year-old forward makes the opening day NHL roster for the first time in his young career, his versatility will be a big reason why.
After the game, Kartye noted that he was just “trying to play a role” and “listen to what the coaches are telling [him].” He said he was pleased with how training camp has gone so far because he has been able to put his best foot forward. “I try to bring a positive attitude and my best effort every day.”
The effort on Monday night demanded attention. While Kartye did not factor on the scoresheet in his 14:12 of ice time, digging a bit deeper, there was a lot to like. According to shot quality data tracked by Natural Stat Trick, no Kraken player tilted the ice in Seattle’s favor at five-on-five more than Kartye. While he was out there, Seattle totaled 16 total shots, nine scoring chances (with four deemed “high-danger” chances), and produced 1.03 expected goals. On the other end, Seattle conceded just seven total shots, one high-danger scoring chance, and just .17 expect goals against. All told, Seattle generated 85.93 percent of the shot quality with Kartye out there.
One of Kartye’s more impressive sequences came midway through the second period when he finished a penalty kill shift forechecking in the Oilers defensive zone. His pressure caused the defense to attempt a contested pass up ice, which Kartye disrupted leading to a neutral-zone turnover. He quickly jumped on the loose puck, turned into the Oilers zone, and saucered a pass on the tape to a streaking Cale Fleury in front of the net.
No matter how the Kraken opt to construct the bottom-six forward group, Kartye’s blend of physicality and skill would fit. And there is little question Kartye is among the team’s 13 best forwards. The only question is whether the teams wants the waiver-exempt Kartye to play regularly in Coachella Valley to begin the year while it evaluates other options.
Takeaway #3 (John): Early looks at the faceoff circle
The Kraken were 43 percent in the faceoff circle on Monday and 45.8 percent through the four preseason games in total. Evaluating preseason faceoff percentages is a bit of a fool’s errand since the sample size is so small and several of the players taking faceoffs might not end up in the NHL this season. Regardless, it is an area that has room for improvement from last season, and it is something to keep an eye on to see how the Kraken might deploy their quiver of left-handed centers.
One aspect of faceoffs I would really like to see improved is the win percentage on the power play. Winning more faceoffs will lead to more possession, and more possession will lead to more power-play time in the offensive zone and should help the power-play percentage. It is a small sample size, but the Kraken were 50 percent in the faceoff circle against Edmonton, which is below league average but above their 2022-23 regular-season average.
Individually, Matty Beniers was 50 percent at the faceoff dot, which should also be a good sign since he won just 42 percent of his faceoffs last season. Conversely, Alexander Wennberg was just 20 percent in the faceoff circle Monday, and he has traditionally been one of the stronger players in this area for the Kraken.
Of course, faceoffs are not as meaningful as once thought, so take this commentary with a healthy dose of salt. The more important stat is possession after a faceoff, but until that data is publicly available, we will use the faceoff percentages as a leading indicator for possession. Here’s hoping for more improvement when we get into the regular season.