KRAKEN

3 Seattle Kraken players keying turnaround after 6-game skid

Nov 29, 2021, 10:45 AM
Seattle Kraken Jaden Schwartz...
Jaden Schwartz of the Seattle Kraken controls the puck behind the net against Florida's Patric Hornqvist. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken are finishing November strong after putting an end to a brutal six-game winless streak. They have now won three of their last four, with those wins all coming against quality opponents – the Florida Panthers, who lead the Atlantic Division, and the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals, who are battling it out for the top spot in the Metropolitan.

Saturday: Seattle Kraken win 4-1 to deny Panthers home-ice win record

What has started clicking for the Kraken at the quarter mark of the season? Coach Dave Hakstol highlighted some of the players that are stepping up after each of those wins.

The win that snapped the Kraken’s losing streak was their 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals last Sunday, Nov. 21. Veteran winger Jaden Schwartz had a strong performance, scoring a goal in the second period and adding three assists on the night.

Hakstol spoke postgame about switching Schwartz out of his usual line pairing with Alexander Wennberg and Jordan Eberle and what it did for him in that game.

“We made a little adjustment in our line combinations, he was out there with Gourde and Jarny (Calle Jarnkrok),” he said. “We love his competitiveness but one of the bigger things with that switch is I knew he was going to be playing some heavy minutes against a good line. Schwartzy is really good down below the circles in the offensive zone. You saw him, he was in his office tonight and he produced, right? He produced and had a really good night offensively.”

After a bit of a slow start to the season, Schwartz is starting to show what he can bring to the offense on a nightly basis. Despite only having four goals to Jordan Eberle’s 11, he is tied with Eberle for the team lead in points with 16 because he has an impressive 12 assists. The Kraken have played 21 games so far and Schwartz has doubled both his shots on goal and assists in the second half of that stretch. He has had five seasons with 50 or more points, and that mark seems within reach again if he can avoid the injuries that have plagued him in recent years.

The Kraken followed up the Capitals win with a 2-1 victory over Morgan Geekie’s former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, on Wednesday. The forward didn’t record a goal, an assist or even a shot on goal in the game, but his coach was impressed with his play.

“I was interested to see if there were any questions on him because I thought he had a hell of a hockey game tonight,” Hakstol said. “I loved his competitiveness in the faceoff dot. I thought he was good up and down the rink, 200 feet, and that for me is a good sign of growth for Morgan Geekie in a very competitive game.”

Geekie was 4 for 4 on faceoffs against the Hurricanes and has a 53% win rate this season. It’s an area that he can really help the Kraken keep moving in a positive direction, especially on the power play. We knew Geekie, who is only 23 years old and had just 38 NHL games under his belt heading into this season, was a skilled shooter when the Kraken took him in the expansion draft, but seeing the development of that two-way game that Hakstol referenced is a really encouraging sign for his future in Seattle.

Following the win over the Hurricanes, the Kraken fell to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday, but they rebounded the next night by handing the Florida Panthers their first home loss of the season. It was veteran forward Joonas Donskoi who drew praise from the head coach this time.

“Every night he contributes in some of the things that go unnoticed but I thought tonight he was on it,” Hakstol said. “Not just the assists, but the play that he made late on the power play to Eberle, that’s a huge momentum swing for us. In the second period, I just thought he looked like himself. He took one to the net, a little inside-out move through his stick in the second period that deserved to go in the back of the net. It was a hell of a play. He looked good, he looked confident.”

Donskoi has done well setting his teammates up this season with nine assists so far, but he has yet to score a goal of his own. It’s not for lack of trying as he has 29 shots on goal.

“I think I’ve been getting enough looks, that’s for sure,” he told reporters ahead of the Avalanche game. “I just have to kind of get it over with and get the first one out of the way.”

This is Donskoi’s seventh season in the NHL and he’s hit slumps before. He is coming off of a career-high 17 goals last season with Colorado and feels that he will start finding the net if he keeps doing things the right way just as Hakstol acknowledged.

“I think it all starts playing good both ways. You do things good defensively, you work hard, you forecheck, the puck is going to start bouncing your way,” Donskoi said. “I think you just have to earn it.”

His next chance to earn it is Monday night as the Kraken are in Buffalo to take on the Sabres at 4 p.m.

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