It hasn’t been the hottest start to the Seattle Kraken’s season through two games, both of which they have lost while mustering just one combined goal. They scored zero against Jusse Saros and the Nashville Predators Thursday en route to a 3-0 loss.
After a decent first period, Seattle got dominated in every metric in the second period, but was largely bailed out by netminder Philipp Grubauer, who stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced on the night. A shorthanded goal by Colton Sissons was a huge turning point for the Predators, though, and Seattle couldn’t find a way to fight back.
“They took a lot of momentum out of that [shorthanded goal] for the second half of the second period,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “I wouldn’t say ‘chaotic’ is the word, but on the offensive side, a few too many missed nets.”
Here are our Three Takeaways from a 3-0 Kraken loss to the Predators.
Takeaway #1 (Darren): Grubauer’s awesome night spoiled
After Grubauer got off to rough starts in each of his first two seasons with the Kraken, we were curious if his stellar playoff run would carry into 2023-24. So far, we would say it has. While the German Gentleman gave up three goals on 27 shots against Vegas on Tuesday, we were unsure of what to make of his performance that night. His stat line wasn’t outstanding, and he did allow a goal on the first shot he faced, something we’ve seen from him many times before. But that goal was an easy tap-in off a rush, the second was a wonky redirect off a Brandon Tanev booboo, and the third was a partial breakaway.
Though he took another ‘L’ Thursday, there were no questions about his play in Nashville.
“Grubi’s been solid both nights here,” Hakstol said. “He’s been sharp, he’s seeing the puck well, and I really like his competitive level. So he played a good hockey game tonight.”
You could tell he was on his game early with how he was reacting to shots from in close and through traffic. Even with bodies in front, pucks were hitting him, and on plays where it seemed he shouldn’t have had enough time to react, he was still getting his extremities in the way.
Grubauer’s best save of the game came just past the midway point of the second period, when Roman Josi found himself with the puck on his stick and plenty of net to shoot at. The Kraken netminder made two big pushes with his left skate to get all the way across his crease and throw his blocker in front of what looked like a sure goal.
It wasn’t just about the shot volume Grubauer faced. With Seattle playing way too loose, especially in the second period, the Predators seemed to be getting breakaway after breakaway after open look, and Grubauer kept standing tall. In fact, according to Natural Stat Trick Nashville generated 65 percent of the shot quality in all situations, including a whopping 86 percent in the second period.
Unfortunately for Grubauer and for the Kraken, his teammates weren’t able to give him any offensive support, and his superb night was wasted.
“Grubi’s been great the first two nights,” said Yanni Gourde. “I thought he was unreal again, kept us in the game the whole night… We’ve got to give him more leeway a little bit, find a few goals.”
Takeaway #2: Adam Larsson’s tough shift
Adam Larsson had a few great moments defensively on Thursday, especially when he sprinted back to thwart a prime scoring chance by Cole Smith in the first period. But he also had one terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad shift in the third period when a Gustav Nyquist goal that directed off his foot literally added insult to injury. It effectively wiped out any chance for a Kraken comeback.
Larsson tried to hit Filip Forsberg in the corner behind Grubauer, but Forsberg sensed it coming and caught Larsson with a high “reverse” hit, throwing his back into Larsson’s face and causing some damage to his nose and lip. Incensed, Larsson retaliated with a wicked cross check, which caused the official to put his arm up for a delayed penalty.
With Saros pulled for an extra skater during the delayed penalty, the Kraken couldn’t get ahold of the puck long enough to get a whistle. So Larsson went to the front of the net and kept whacking away at Forsberg, perhaps figuring he wouldn’t get another penalty, so he might as well get a couple more licks in. Well, as he stood there at the top of the crease, Nyquist got a nice deflection off Larsson’s skate, just to drive home what an unfortunate sequence it was for Seattle’s most consistent defensive defenseman.
Of course, Larsson is a top-pairing stud, and we think the world of him as a player. His undisciplined penalty was uncharacteristic, and having a shift like that that goes from bad to worse is almost unheard of. Still, it cost the Kraken significantly on this night.
Takeaway #3 (John): Power play struggling while improving
Yes, we are going to talk about the lack of production on the power play again (it was minus-one on the night), but we are seeing promising signs. The Kraken failed to cash in for the second straight game on Thursday, though they only had four minutes of power-play time versus Nashville compared to 11 minutes on Tuesday against Vegas. We talked about it quite a bit on the podcast this week, and my theory is that with the team making so many changes in this area compared to last season, it will take some time to get everyone on the same page.
One thing I called out on the podcast this week was, despite the lack of goals scored on the power play, the Kraken averaged 3.6 shot attempts per two minutes of power-play time Tuesday compared to last season’s average of 3.3 shot attempts. That’s hardly a significant sample size, but they were still generating chances.
On the Kraken’s first power play against Nashville, they generated three shot attempts, with all of those coming from what I would call the first power-play unit of Justin Schultz, Andre Burakovsky, Jared McCann, Matty Beniers, and Jordan Eberle.
On the second power-play opportunity, Hakstol sent out the second unit to start, but with one wrinkle; Gourde subbed in for Jaden Schwartz, and the other four players on that unit were Eeli Tolvanen, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Kailer Yamamoto, and Vince Dunn. If my counting is correct, that group had nine shot attempts on that power play and kept the puck in the offensive zone for almost the entire two minutes.
“We switched up the unit with some tired bodies coming off of the previous shift to draw the penalty,” said Hakstol. “They generated good O-zone time. We missed a couple pucks that were directed towards the net early in that power play, so you’d like to get those on the net and find a way to find rebounds later in the power play.”
After only two games, it is still not close to a significant sample size, but I believe this shows promise. To really know what we have going on the power play, it will take about 10 games to even start to form real opinions.