We don’t want to sound too hyperbolic, but we think that was one of those Kraken wins that will stick with us for a while. Aside from Seattle skating away with a last-minute 4-3 win over the Avalanche, there were storylines galore in this one, and we felt several adrenaline spikes while watching it.
Ryan Winterton made his NHL debut and looked very good. Shane Wright played his first game of the season with the Kraken and was fast and confident. Matty Beniers scored his first goal of the season and even did the “monkey off the back” celebration. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored two goals, including a late game-winner, in his first game back at Ball Arena after scoring two goals in Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vince Dunn, Eeli Tolvanen, Jamie Oleksiak, and others put their bodies in harm’s way in the closing moments of the game to solidify the win. Should we continue?
“There’s going to be some ebbs and flows in a hockey game,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “But ultimately, we showed great resiliency at the end of the game and found the game winner. It’s a great win.”
Here are our Three Takeaways from a big 4-3 Kraken win over the Avalanche.
Takeaway #1 (Curtis): Winterton shows off two-way skill in solid debut
Ryan Winterton, 20, made his NHL debut Thursday. It began auspiciously, with a no-bucket warm-up.
“I was pretty nervous for my first lap without my helmet on,” Winterton admitted after the game with a laugh. When did he know he’d be taking the ice without his helmet? “I go to my stall and there’s no helmet there, so you got to go out without one.”
By traditional counting stats, Winterton’s night was fairly quiet–Natural Stat Trick credited him with just two shot attempts (one on goal), one takeaway, one giveaway, and one hit in a team-low 7:01 time on ice.
But those stats don’t tell the whole story on the young forward’s night. From the moment he stepped foot on the ice, Winterton’s play consistently stood out; he generated a shot on goal on his very first shift.
“After my first shift everything started to calm down,” Winterton said. He settled into a game where he played fast and responsible two-way hockey. He diagnosed plays well, used his body to win battles, and got to the right spots on the ice to create opportunities for himself and others. At 9:12 of the first period, he converted defense into offense when he sprung Devin Shore on a breakaway with a tape-to-tape pass.
Later in the first period, effective play from Winterton and his linemates set up Seattle’s first goal. The fourth line hemmed in Colorado for a protracted defensive-zone shift, and when the Avalanche finally broke the pressure to center ice, they were slow to the bench, allowing a clean Kraken re-entry that led directly to Jaden Schwartz’s score.
All of these details contributed to excellent relative shot quality analytics. When Winterton was out there, Seattle generated 82.02 percent of the total expected goals. This was the second-best mark on the team.
Post-game, Hakstol said Winterton and Wright had “rock solid” outings. “Both showed poise. They looked like they were comfortable to me. The moment was definitely not too big [for them].”
Winterton’s overall takeaway on his first game? “It was pretty surreal, to be honest.”
Takeaway #2 (Darren): Bjorkstrand loves Ball Arena
The Kraken didn’t make it easy on themselves on this night, again temporarily blowing a two-goal lead, as has been commonplace for the team this season. But give credit to the Avalanche, who are a very good club and who feed off their home crowd well. Once Bjorkstrand scored to make it 2-0 at 4:29 of the second period, we had this hunch that a Colorado answer was coming.
Regardless of whether we are clairvoyant or simply observant, the hunch proved to be correct when Nathan MacKinnon passed to Bowen Byram on a two-on-one rush, and the Avs were suddenly back within one goal just 28 seconds after Bjorkstrand’s tally. From there, you knew it was going to be a tense contest the rest of the way.
Things reached a fever pitch when Valeri Nichushkin got his stick on a Devon Toews point shot and redirected it past Philipp Grubauer at 12:15 of the third period. That tied the game 3-3, and it seemed like the game was heading south for the Kraken.
But have no fear, Bjorkstrand is still here!
He snuck out from behind the net and cleaned up a Tolvanen rebound that happened to skitter right onto Bjorkstrand’s stick with 31 seconds left on the clock.
“We just stuck with it,” Bjorkstrand said. “We kept pounding it, and we were able to find a way to get that last goal, so it’s a good step for the team.”
It was a heroic night for Bjorkstrand, but he has been outstanding all season and is closing in on point-per-game status with six goals and six assists through 14 games.
“His numbers are starting to speak for themselves offensively,” Hakstol said. “But you know, over the last six, seven games, his 200-foot game is really rounding out. You see that night in and night out.”
Takeaway #3 (Darren): Matty magic is back
It was really hard to pick what should be our last Takeaway, but Beniers scoring his first goal of the season felt like an inflection point. The reigning Calder Trophy winner had his best game of the season to date Tuesday in Arizona and posted two assists that night. But he still had not found the back of the net on the season, prompting many (we are included in that group) to use phrases like “sophomore slump” and “gripping the stick too tightly.”
“It felt good… It felt great,” said Beniers, summing up the moment succinctly.
Beniers’s goal came on the power play at 11:35 of the second period and made it 3-1. He flew into the offensive zone to apply pressure on the forecheck and help Schwartz force a turnover. Then, he passed to Dunn at the point and raced back up to the blue line to make himself available for a return pass. Once he got the puck back, he started rolling downhill toward Prosvetov, but he smartly recognized that Colorado was giving him a lane to skate almost all the way down to the blue paint.
When Beniers finally pulled the trigger, he picked his spot just under Prosvetov’s glove, learning from his two similar looks against the Coyotes that ended up in Connor Ingram’s chest.
“I think I’ve had those chances in games past, and sometimes they just don’t go in,” Beniers said. “I was fortunate to get one in tonight.”
Matty was very impactful on this road trip and notched three points in two games. Do the floodgates open for him now?
Before we go, we want to wish Avalanche forward Artturi Lehkonen a speedy recovery. He slammed head-first into the boards in the second period after a nudge from Oleksiak threw off his balance in exactly the wrong way. It was one of those scary plays that you simply never want to see in a hockey game.
Though he required assistance getting to the bench and down the tunnel, we were relieved to see him get to his feet. Wishing him the very best.