The Kraken returned home after Saturday’s game in St. Louis with one measly point to show in the standings following a three-game road trip to open the 2023-24 season. In all three games so far, we can pinpoint moments where a bounce or two going Seattle’s way could have turned the tide and given the Kraken at least a chance to win. But that’s hockey, and you have to take advantage of your opportunities so that bad bounces aren’t as damaging.
Regardless of how the hockey gods are treating them right now, the fact is the Kraken haven’t been able to score goals thus far, so they head to their home opener with an unimpressive 0-2-1 record with just two combined goals in three games.
Saturday’s game was a little different than the previous two, in that the Kraken did so many things right and had every chance to come away victorious. They looked faster in transition, they maintained control of the puck through the entire overtime period, and they even got a power-play goal. They were on the front foot for a lot of the night.
“I thought the team played great; we played really well,” said goaltender Joey Daccord. “We did a lot of good things, we got a lot of chances. It just didn’t drop for us tonight, but if we keep playing like that, the puck will go in for us.”
Here are our Three Takeaways from an unsatisfying 2-1 Kraken shootout loss to the Blues.
Takeaway #1 (Curtis): Schwartz brings juice in return to St. Louis
Jaden Schwartz played with the St. Louis Blues for 10 seasons, including the 2018-19 Stanley Cup winning campaign. On Saturday, Schwartz returned to his former home arena as a visitor for only the second time, and it was clear he had a jump in his step early.
Schwartz played with excellent pace, perhaps the best we’ve seen in the regular season during his time with the Kraken. In the first period, he chased down Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in open ice and generated an extra possession. In the second period, he created a two-on-one opportunity with speed by driving wide. And he got in on another rush in the third.
But no play was more important than his net-front work on the power play early in the second period when he tracked an Oliver Bjorkstrand shot and tipped the puck past Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington. The goal gave Seattle its first lead of the season.
Even more significantly, Schwartz’s work broke the ice for the Kraken on the power play. Seattle had gone 0-6 (including a major penalty) through the first two games of the year. This power play futility had been a topic of conversation recently, but for one night at least, Schwartz took the pressure off that unit. Unfortunately, the Kraken didn’t get the opportunity to build on Schwartz’s success because the team didn’t draw any other power plays on the night.
Takeaway #2 (Darren): Nice outing by Joey
After he earned the full-time backup NHL job out of training camp for the first time in his career, we were curious to see what kind of performance Joey Daccord would have in his season debut.
“I felt pretty good in there,” said Daccord. “It was nice to be back in a real game.”
Good on coach Dave Hakstol for getting him in there early in the season and resisting the urge to keep riding Philipp Grubauer, who was coming off an outstanding game in Nashville.
Daccord rewarded Hakstol for the decision, and if he was at all nervous, it didn’t show. Daccord looked calm, cool, and collected throughout, and the one shot that beat him came from a prime scoring area, off a rush, by Jordan Kyrou. On that play, Jared McCann did a good job to back check and turn a three-on-two into a three-on-three, but he flew right by Kyrou, the eventual goal scorer.
Daccord stopped 24 of 25 shots, with his best save of the night coming against Sammy Blais with five minutes left in the third period.
On the play, Will Borgen stumbled, allowing Blais to barrel right in toward Daccord. But Joey stood his ground and got the left pad out to reject the scoring opportunity.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Blues had 2.29 expected goals for, meaning Joey stopped 1.29 goals more than he should have in the game. Hakstol called the performance “rock solid.”
That’s a nice start to Daccord’s career as a full-time NHLer.
Takeaway #3 (John): Penalty kill still perfect
One bright spot for the Seattle Kraken so far is their penalty kill. Saturday night against the Blues, the Kraken went to the kill four times and still kept their unblemished record intact.
“The special teams were solid tonight,” said Hakstol. “Our PK did a really good job.”
That brings the total of successful penalty kills this season to 11 out of 11. Though Seattle was quite good in these situations in the second half of last season, it was still an area that we expected to improve in 2023-24 with the additions of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Brian Dumoulin.
In Bellemare’s case, he is revered for his play in manpower disadvantage scenarios and ranked first for penalty kill time on ice amongst Tampa Bay forwards last season.
Bellemare’s defensive instincts especially shone through with three minutes left in the first period Saturday, when he intercepted a Robert Thomas pass and cleared the zone, despite not having a stick in his hands.
It is also important to note that Brandon Tanev, who has been a staple of the Seattle Kraken penalty kill unit, has been out the last two games with an injury.
Three games is still not a big sample, and last season, there were several stretches of five games or more where the Kraken did not allow a power-play goal. But we like what we have seen so far. With the Avalanche, Hurricanes, and Rangers coming to town this week, the penalty kill unit will certainly be tested.