It wasn’t quite the game the Seattle Kraken wanted to close out their preseason, but it wasn’t terrible, either. Seattle had a poor start, and at one point trailed 10-1 in shots on goal. But things balanced out as the game wore on, except on the scoreboard, which eventually tipped Edmonton’s way.
Coach Dave Hakstol called it a hard game to evaluate, because for the first 10 minutes or so, the Kraken couldn’t get the puck. But then he said he liked the next 20 or 25 minutes, which makes sense because Seattle really took over for that portion, and Jared McCann even opened the scoring in the game with a banger of a shot.
Though the team was still carrying 27 players on its roster, this was the final dress rehearsal before the regular season begins Tuesday. Here are our Three Takeaways from a 3-1 preseason loss to the Oilers.
Takeaway #1 (Darren): Grubi got the game he needed
On the latest Sound Of Hockey Podcast, we said we wanted to see a full, solid performance from netminder Philipp Grubauer before real games get underway. With 22 saves on 25 shots, Friday didn’t bring the most dazzling stat line, but Grubauer looked pretty dialed in from the jump. It was a good thing, too, because it took a while for the Kraken to get their tentacles under them. Had Grubauer been off in the early going, this game would have turned sideways quickly.
The previous game Grubauer had played was also against Edmonton in Seattle on Monday. That was an awkward one for him, as he only faced 13 shots and went long stretches without facing an Oiler offering, yet he allowed three goals. He was much busier Friday, as Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, and others were active early and often.
The goals Grubauer allowed Friday were all fine goals to allow. McDavid’s was an easy tap-in off a two-on-one rush that followed a defensive breakdown by the Kraken. The second was a power-play snipe off a rush by Hyman, and the third—which initially looked like one Grubauer may have wanted back—was a rocket shot that appeared to change directions off Yanni Gourde’s stick.
On the flip side, Grubauer made some excellent saves off breakaways and backdoor opportunities that gave the impression he is ready for the regular season. He has gotten out to rough starts in each of the last two seasons, but he is also coming off an outstanding playoff run. For the sake of Kraken fans, here’s hoping his postseason success carries over.
There’s room for improvement after this game, but we aren’t sounding any goaltending-related alarm bells at this time. That’s a good thing.
Takeaway #2 (John): Power play continues to impress
The Kraken power play has been an area of interest with the Sound Of Hockey team for a while, so there could be some human behavior bias here. But my eyes told me the power play looked really good. Yes, they did go zero-for-four on their manpower advantage opportunities, but there were moments against the Oilers where the Kraken maintained offensive pressure and were whipping the puck around the zone to eventually create scoring opportunities. I really liked McCann’s placement in the slot, where—if the team can get him the puck—he is automatically in a high-danger location.
Does the data reflect what my eyes have been seeing? It is not a big sample, but the Kraken were 50 percent in the face-off circle with the man advantage against Edmonton. That is 5 percentage points higher than their average last season. Excluding the Abbotsford game on Wednesday, where the data was not available, the Kraken finished the preseason at 57 percent at the face-off dot when on the power play.
Face-offs are generally not a huge statistic to focus on, but with the many struggles of the power play last season, we hypothesized that winning more face-offs on the power play would eventually lead to more possession. That, in turn, should lead to more goals. So far, so good in that area.
On the shot attempt side of the house, the Kraken had 16 shot attempts across the eight minutes of power-play time, which shook out to four shots per power play. Again, it’s a small sample size, but that is up from 3.3 shot attempts per two-minute power play from last season. That’s a big jump.
The power play is still not operating at 100 percent, because it isn’t scoring much yet, but there are some early signs this will improve from last season.
Takeaway #3 (Darren): ‘Twas an NHL lineup
With this being the finale to the meaningless portion of the season, both teams dressed similar lineups to what we will see on opening night. For Seattle, Tye Kartye was in the game on the fourth line, and Ryker Evans skated on the top pair with Adam Larsson.
The one caveat to Hakstol icing a true NHL lineup was Vince Dunn, who was held out Friday and whose status for Tuesday remains murky. He did participate in Friday’s morning skate, the first time he has practiced with the team since mysteriously going missing a week ago (he had been doing drills on his own for a few days). Will he be ready for Vegas on Tuesday?
Another question, if Dunn is ready, does that mean Kartye goes down to the AHL to start the season, or does he stay with the NHL team and push somebody else into the press box? Those questions will be answered soon.
Worth noting, Evans led all Kraken skaters with 21:13 of ice time and had some good looks offensively. Defensively, it wasn’t his best game of the preseason, as he seemed to get crossed up with partner Adam Larsson on a few occasions.
Meanwhile, it was interesting to see Kailer Yamamoto and Shane Wright scratched from the lineup in favor of Kartye. It’s no surprise at this point that Kartye appears destined for the NHL roster, but we weren’t sure which veteran he would overtake for playing time. Looks like the answer there could be Yamamoto, at least to start the season. We still think Wright is destined for big minutes in Coachella Valley to start the season, but we shall see.
Kartye played on the fourth line with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Brandon Tanev and also got power-play time. It’s not the ideal spot for the youngster, but the other three lines are solidified for now. We just don’t see a way to bump him up to play with more skilled players, unless somebody gets hurt or the team falters early in the season.
The Kraken have four more roster cuts to make before Tuesday’s opener.
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