Even before the opening face-off Saturday, we saw signs this game between the Rangers and the Kraken was going to be a strange one.
Something was a little off in the pre-game show; maybe Game Ops had intentionally toned things down, but it didn’t seem like they were doing all the on-ice projections they normally do, and one set of lights didn’t go off like usual. More on this in a bit, but it was a sign of things to come.
The game itself was a real stinker from the Kraken. After they jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period on a Justin Schultz one-timer, it was a slow, painful slide (both literally and figuratively) the rest of the way.
Here are our Three Takeaways from an ugly 4-1 Kraken loss to the Rangers.
Takeaway #1 (Darren): Did Artemi Panarin pull the plug?
After Tommie Burton brought the house down (as he always does) with his pre-game Star-Spangled Banner rendition, the lights came up, and the puck was quickly dropped at center ice. I couldn’t put my finger on it right away, but the playing surface just didn’t quite look right. As the synthetic smoke used in the pre-game show slowly dissipated, it suddenly became clear the offensive end of the ice for Seattle was darker than its defensive end.
A set of lights had malfunctioned, causing about a 10-minute delay to the game, as the officials gave technicians at Climate Pledge Arena a chance to find a solution. There was a flurry of activity on the catwalks high above the ice, including Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke pacing up and down and talking on his cell phone.
In the end, no solution was found to the lighting issue, so the NHL decided the game should go on, and that the teams should switch ends at the first stoppage after the 10:00 mark of each period to eliminate unfair advantages.
“Switching every 10 minutes is kind of crappy,” said McCann. “Especially when you get momentum, they stop the game and switch ends, it’s obviously not great, but we didn’t have our best effort tonight. We weren’t there defensively. It felt like we were soft on pucks and we weren’t making hard plays.”
Both teams dealt with the problem, so it’s hard to say this negatively impacted the Kraken (and McCann also shared similar sentiments on the issue). But Philipp Grubauer did give up the softest goal he has allowed this season just six seconds after the switch in the second period, letting a Jacob Trouba slap shot squeeze through him and lay loose in the crease for Kaapo Kakko to push over the line.
That goal came on the brighter end of the ice, so again, you can’t blame the lighting, but it is an odd coincidence in terms of timing.
“I don’t think that had an impact on the game,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “The initial delay isn’t great; it takes a lot of energy out of the building, but that’s not a crutch we’ll lean back on.”
Regardless of if the lighting situation actually skewed the game, the Kraken had no answer for Artemi Panarin’s line with Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafreniere on this night. Panarin came away with two goals (both scored on the dark end of the ice), Chytil had three primary assists, and Lafreniere added a goal of his own.
I asked Panarin what he made of the whole lighting situation, and he said, “For me, I want it darker, so it’s harder for goalies.” He then claimed responsibility for pulling the plug himself. “I’m doing all that stuff before the game.”
Mr. Leiweke, we found the culprit!
Takeaway #2 (Curtis): Kraken offense is ice cold
By any measure, the Kraken did not generate enough offense to win on Saturday night. Total shots on goal? The Kraken had just 17 in the game, a season low. Compare that with the 36 shots the team put on goal in Thursday’s win against the Carolina Hurricanes; that’s a big drop.
How about high-danger shot attempts? The Kraken had just two all night according to Natural Stat Trick–also a season low and well off the team’s average of 11.4 per game entering Saturday’s contest.
How about total shot quality? According to Natural Stat Trick, the Kraken generated shots worth just 1.38 expected goals in the game. Again, this is a new season low. The team generated fewer expected goals just once during the entirety of the 2022-23 season (at Carolina on Dec. 12, 2022) and only one other time during the team’s low-scoring inaugural campaign (at Tampa Bay on Nov. 26, 2021).
So it is fair to say Seattle has never in its existence put out such anemic shot quality on home ice. The next worst expected goal performance was a Nov. 11, 2021, a home game against the Anaheim Ducks.
“We didn’t execute very well,” Hakstol said. “We weren’t moving. We didn’t have a lot of pace to our game. You saw that five-on-five. You saw that on our power-play opportunities. The sharpness [and] crispness [was] not there.”
In one respect, I felt a bit of deja vu when two consecutive power play opportunities in the middle of the second period came up empty and drew the life out of the offense. Hakstol pointed this out after the game, saying the Kraken took themselves out of the game in the second period.
More notable from this vantage point was the team’s overall inability to get inside and generate shots from the slot area between the circles. This has been a struggle all season, but it was especially evident Saturday. If the Kraken are going to break out of their early-season offensive malaise, they need to commit to getting to the middle of the ice.
Takeaway #3 (Darren): Andre Burakovsky injured, and it seems bad
Adding (potentially major) injury to insult, Andre Burakovsky got hurt again Saturday, and it sounds like it could be serious. About six minutes into the second period, Burakovsky was hustling toward the corner in the offensive end. He took a little shove from the oft-problematic hitter, Trouba, and slammed awkwardly into the end boards, shoulder first.
Burakovsky was hunched over skating to the bench, holding his shoulder or collar bone area. He went straight down the tunnel and didn’t return, and Trouba was given a two-minute minor for boarding.
On Burakovsky’s status, Hakstol said, “I’ll wait until tomorrow morning to make sure, but I mean, I don’t think it’s going to be something that’s real short term.”
Hakstol does not give injury updates. He just doesn’t do it. For him to say that in his post-game presser, that means Burakovsky’s injury is serious. That’s awful news for both the Kraken and Burakovsky, who was Seattle’s top scorer before he tore his groin and was lost for the second half of last season.
Burakovsky worked all offseason to rehab and be ready to go for 2023-24. He lasted just four and a half games, and now we would guess he’s out for the foreseeable future.