The Kraken fell to the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday. They have dropped their last six games that ended in shootouts, and in this one, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Matty Beniers, and Jordan Eberle couldn’t find a way to get one across the line. Joey Daccord stopped two of three attempts on the other end, but Nick Bjugstad’s shootout tally was the game-winner.
The Kraken scored early, just 40 seconds into the game, when Eeli Tolvanen and Yanni Gourde executed a rare two-man breakaway to perfection.
After that it was a familiar refrain for the Kraken. Having built the lead, they gave it away.
“We gave up two on the [penalty kill] and ultimately that didn’t allow us to hold the lead. But it was a back-and-forth type of game,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said postgame.
Here are our Three Takeaways on this loss in Tempe, Arizona.
Takeaway #1 (Curtis): Seattle had the edge when it could keep five skaters on the ice
Hakstol indicated before the game that he was looking for the team to play with improved pace following a lackluster effort at home Saturday at home against Calgary. After watching his team’s effort, he seemed encouraged with the response he saw. “Real hard effort. Guys played hard throughout,” he said. “We played a full sixty-five minutes tonight.”
When Seattle was able to keep five skaters on the ice, the team played a fast, forechecking style that held Arizona down. “We used our legs well, we forechecked well,” Jamie Oleksiak said of the team’s five-on-five play. “We didn’t try to get too fancy with the puck. We used our speed to our advantage.”
Seattle outscored Arizona 2-1 in five-on-five situations. In addition to the Tolvanen goal in the first period, Justin Schultz scored on a pinpoint wrist shot from the top of the right-wing circle off a feed from Beniers in the second period.
This five-on-five advantage was fully earned by the shot quality the team was able to generate. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Kraken generated 58.82 percent of total shot quality in normal manpower situations.
The Schwartz-Wennberg-Eberle forward line, in particular, stifled the Coyotes at five-on-five. That unit gave up just one low-danger shot attempt against Joey Daccord, while creating 11 shot attempts on Connor Ingram, including two high-danger attempts. All in, the line generated an astounding 97.26 percent of total on-ice shot quality in almost ten minutes of five-on-five time.
The Kraken were less successful in reduced manpower situations, however. During 4:00 of four-on-four play during regulation and then 5:00 of three-on-three during overtime, Arizona found space to use their skill game, dominated possession, and seemed to have Seattle on the ropes at times. While Arizona wasn’t able to capitalize with a goal in these situations, they effectively suppressed Seattle’s offensive chances and pushed the game to a shootout where the Coyotes capitalized.
Takeaway #2 (John): Penalty kill continues to struggle
I mentioned it in my Monday Musings this week, but the penalty kill has been a big struggle for the Kraken in recent weeks, and that continued Tuesday; Arizona continued on two of their four power plays. Since the Detroit Red Wings game on Oct. 24, the Kraken have killed just 52 percent of their penalties. The league average in that span is 79 percent.
I rewatched every penalty kill from this Coyotes game, and the only observation I could make is they are not winning the 50/50 pucks often enough to clear the zone and kill time. There were several moments where the Coyotes would get off a shot attempt and reclaim the puck for more zone time.
Another contributing factor is Seattle’s face-off percentage on the penalty kill. For the season, they are around league average at 45.3 percent, but over the last five games they are at 20 percent. Losing the face-off enables opposing teams to have more zone time, which will ultimately lead to more shots and goals.
I don’t think it will solve the penalty kill issue, but help might be on the way in the form of Brandon Tanev who has been sidelined with a lower-body injury since opening night. He is on this road trip and participated in morning skate with the club in Arizona. Tanev was the Kraken’s leading forward in penalty kill time last season, and his speed might add a dynamic to opposing teams’ defense pinching in on 50/50 pucks.
Takeaway #3 (Darren): Matty’s best game of the season
I need to first address my colleagues here before I really get into my Takeaway from this game.
John, those stats about the PK are staggering. The team got off to such a hot start in that area, and things have really regressed. On Tuesday, it was interesting to see Seattle get cooked by the exact same play executed by the same two players twice. On both of Arizona’s power-play goals, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz did a simple give-and-go play between Keller on the right hash and Schmaltz in the high slot. Keller was the trigger man both times, and both times, it ended up in Seattle’s net (though Barrett Hayton got a piece of the first one to earn credit for the goal). I would love to see A.) the Kraken figure out how to defend this play, though it is tough with a good shooter in the bumper spot, since you have to respect Schmaltz there. And B.) the Kraken take a page out of Arizona’s book and use that play on their own manpower advantages.
Curtis, you mentioned in an offline conversation (sorry to put you on blast here) that you thought Matty Beniers looked a bit lost in this game, aside from his two assists. I would disagree with you on that, which brings me to my actual Takeaway.
From what I saw, this was Matty’s best game of the season so far by a long shot. I think because he has been struggling so mightily, I was hyper focused on him throughout this game, and every time I saw him on the ice, he made a play that I liked. There were a few mishandles and one bad turnover in the offensive zone that thankfully didn’t bite the Kraken. But, he made two good offensive plays that turned into goals, he had a breakaway opportunity late in the game, and he had two great looks from the left circle. Both of those he unfortunately put into Ingram’s chest, but still, the looks were there, and his hustle was constant.
We often hear slumping players say they only get concerned when the chances dry up. Matty had a lot more chances in Tuesday’s game than he has in past games this season, and that’s a sign that goals will start going in for him soon.