The Kraken season is officially underway, and while the effort was decent, Tuesday’s opening-night loss to the Golden Knights was deserved. Seattle made too many mistakes and left too many chips on the table (that’s a little Vegas gambling reference for you, in case you missed it) en route to a 4-1 loss.
The Golden Knights—on their Stanley Cup banner-raising night—continued their three-year dominance of the Kraken by improving to 8-1-0 against Seattle all time.
“They’re a good hockey team,” Jordan Eberle said of Vegas. “They’re the defending champs, they’re detailed, they have some skill over there, they have some size, they have it all.”
Here are our Three Takeaways from a tough opening night for Seattle.
Takeaway #1 (Curtis): A night of missed opportunities
The Kraken had their opportunities in this one. In particular, it looked like Seattle had the jump on Vegas in the first seven minutes of the game. The team was skating well, generated the first half-dozen shot attempts, including a few dangerous looks. They had the defending champs on the back foot early, struggling to generate anything offensively.
“I liked our start. We came out skating and aggressive, which I liked,” Eberle said.
Unfortunately, Brian Dumoulin lost coverage on the third Vegas forward into a transition rush at 7:16 of the first period and conceded a backdoor tip-in by Chandler Stephenson past goalie Philipp Grubauer. The goal came on Vegas’s first shot of the game, put energy back into the crowd, and handed over all of the momentum the Kraken had worked hard to generate.
There were plenty of good looks for Seattle throughout the night, including Will Borgen redirecting a Jamie Oleksiak pass wide of an open net and Adin Hill robbing Matty Beniers on a partial breakaway. But the Kraken couldn’t convert aside from one goal from Jared McCann when the Kraken had already spotted three to the Golden Knights.
From that first goal onward, Seattle couldn’t reclaim its pace advantage. A loose puck play here and a failed backcheck there, and the game was out of reach. The team was “just a half second late everywhere,” as McCann said.
Takeaway #2 (Darren): Tanev injured, Bellemare… hurt?
Seattle’s run of having a fully healthy lineup lasted all of 30 minutes of hockey this season. Newcomer Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, killing a penalty in the second period, blocked a Shea Theodore blast with his left hand and could be seen shaking his glove as he skated to the bench and headed down the tunnel. Bellemare was absent for the rest of the second and some of the third, before reappearing to kill another late penalty. So, in theory, Bellemare is ok, but you know he’s going to be dealing with that for some time, even if he does remain available to play.
Before Bellemare could get back into the game, Brandon Tanev went down with what appeared to be something significant. Skating across center ice, Brett Howden caught Tanev with an unnecessary shoulder to the chin, and as Tanev fell, he also twisted his left leg awkwardly under his bodyweight. So, not only was there potential for a head injury on the play, but also a leg injury.
After spending several minutes down on the ice, being attended to by Seattle’s medical trainer, Tanev did skate off on his own power, but he unsurprisingly did not return. Worth noting, when Tanev tore his ACL two years ago, it was on his other leg.
Coach Dave Hakstol unsurprisingly did not give an update on Tanev’s status, but that’s standard for how the Kraken communicate injuries, so there’s nothing to read into there. Howden was assessed a match penalty that came with a five-minute major. More on that in a moment from Curtis.
Takeaway #3 (Curtis): Disjointed play on the man advantage
It is well documented that the Kraken struggled to translate their prolific five-on-five scoring touch into power-play success during the 2022-23 season. The team scored on just 19.8 percent of its power play opportunities last year, which ranked 21st overall in the league.
As the team made final preparations for the 2023-24 season, the power play was a frequent topic of conversation in media sessions. On Monday, Hakstol explained that the team had been working on integrating more player movement but cautioned that the team needed to “make sure the basics are there and not try to do too much.” On Tuesday before the opener against Vegas, Hakstol again recognized that the team “need[s] to get a little bit better” on the power play and “it’s about that competitive consistency on a nightly basis.”
Unfortunately, the Kraken couldn’t find that competitive consistency or the basics necessary to be successful against Vegas. To the contrary, Tuesday marked arguably the team’s worst power play performance since the beginning of the 2022-23 season. According to data from Natural Stat Trick, the Kraken had played in only three games with more than ten minutes of manpower advantage time across that timeframe–and Tuesday night was the only one of those three games in which the Kraken failed to score even one power-play goal. They even had a five-minute major opportunity, but could not get one by Hill.
It started with losing draws and chasing the puck, but the team also looked uncertain and uncoordinated when established in the offensive zone. One player would skate around with possession for five-to-ten seconds, not see an opening, and then defer to the next without generating a significant threat.
After the game, Eberle wasn’t mincing words on the team’s issues on the power play. “I thought we skated really aggressive[ly] and carried the play five-on-five, but the big one is the power play. We’ve got to find a way to get a timely goal there… There’s a bunch of things that we’ve got to correct… We’ve just got try to maybe simplify it.”