Can Seattle Kraken rebound after best win followed by disappointing loss?

Dec 7, 2021, 11:01 AM
Seattle Kraken Penguins...
Jeff Carter of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his goal against the Seattle Kraken on Monday night. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It took five minutes and seven seconds Monday night for the mood and vibe surrounding the Seattle Kraken to switch from hopeful to one of disappointment and frustration.

Monday: Seattle Kraken give up 3 quick goals, fall 6-1 to Penguins

Hockey games aren’t often decided in the first five minutes, but the Pittsburgh Penguins hung three early goals on the Kraken on the way to a one-sided 6-1 final score at Climate Pledge Arena. The Kraken had entered the game feeling and playing well, owning a 5-1-1 record over their previous seven games, which included wins over some of the NHL’s best.

Afterward, they said the right things.

“It just can’t happen, it’s that simple,” said Jordan Eberle, who scored the Kraken’s lone goal Monday. “We have some guys who’ve played a lot of games and this is simple stuff that we have to fix. And not only that, but it’s just competing right off the opening draw.”

The early goals looked bad, starting with Jeff Carter’s opening score. Seattle goalie Philipp Grubauer tried to break up Carter’s centering pass but instead, the puck hit his stick and deflected behind him.

Then it was Sidney Crosby who got his stick in between Jamie Oleksiak’s skates and jammed home a puck that had squirted through Grubauer.

Finally, Danton Heinen put an end to Grubauer’s night with a shot from the high slot that changed directions off a Kraken skate and in.

The goals were fluky in nature but were a result of turnovers and lack of energy from the Seattle side of things.

“I won’t even speak to one individual’s performance,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s indicative of the start by our team. We gave up three goals in the first four or five shots on goal, whatever it was, and we weren’t sharp to start the hockey game. It’s disappointing to come off of arguably our most complete performance a couple of nights ago. It’s disappointing to come out with that type of a start tonight.”

From Saturday: On their best stretch yet, it’s all coming together for Kraken

The pungent stench coming off the Climate Pledge Arena ice Monday had a familiar scent to it. Many of the issues that plagued the Kraken during their six-game losing streak in November were there on Monday.

There were turnovers, like Will Borgen’s that led to the first goal. There was a lack of timely saves. And when Seattle did create chances in the second period, it couldn’t finish.

Was Monday the start of another dip for Seattle, or was that one game, one performance in a long season where the team just didn’t have the proverbial ‘it’ for a night?

“It’s not an acceptable way for us to start the hockey game and play throughout the 60 minutes and we all know that, and we are going to own that,” Hakstol said. “I’m not going to explain more in a way, you know what I mean? That’s it the reality of it.”

Were there any positives Monday?

In a blowout loss, you really must search to find any kind of positive to build off.

There were a couple for Seattle, although nobody was in a mood to offer those up after the game.

After the early goals, the Kraken did manage to settle the game down some and create offensive pushback. Nobody folded or mailed it in.

Eberle scored early in the second period to cut the lead to 3-1 and with nearly two full periods of hockey to go, the sense was that the Kraken had time to come back. The Kraken pushed the pace for a good portion of the second period and looked like they were going to get within 3-2 when Morgan Geekie spotted a wide-open and streaking Jared McCann. The pass was on target but interrupted by Pittsburgh goalie Casey DeSmith’s stick.

“I saw (McCann) at the back door and just kind of out of habit I had my stick out there,” DeSmith said about the play. “I just kind of laid it out there and it was in the right spot, thankfully.”

While that near goal didn’t work out, it was a decent night for the McCann, Geekie, and Brandon Tanev line again. They didn’t come up with a goal but did control the puck during their time Monday, as they’ve been doing over the recent stretch of games. That trio took 64% of the shot attempts while they were on the ice, including 54.69% of the quality shots.

Unfortunately for the Kraken, any momentum they hoped to gain from the second period crashed and burned by allowing two Penguins goals in the last two minutes of the period. Instead of cutting the lead, they headed into the final 20 minutes down 5-1.

“To get a couple late, that was a huge momentum swing,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby said.

Can the Seattle Kraken bounce back?

Hoping that Monday was just one bad game during a long, 82-game season, isn’t going to help. Seattle will have to put some work in to get back to playing up to the standard the team set for itself over the last two weeks.

“It’s definitely a humbling experience,” Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak said. “We’ve been going well and we have to just get back on track with what’s been giving us success and we just have to take it as a learning experience. Just do simple things and take it shift by shift.”

When they were at their best, the Kraken played tight and structured defense. They were blocking shots, collapsing back around their net on defense, grinding out timely goals, and supporting each other on plays. Not much of that was present on Monday.

Those are fixable things, and that’s what Hakstol will be working with his players on over the next two days of practice.

One thing that the team has in their favor is that they’ve been here before. The 7-3 loss against Colorado on Nov. 19 was a similar game in terms of performance, final score, and feel. The Kraken rebounded off that and started winning games.

They’ll need to do it again.

“We’ve faced adversity and we’ve had some tough stretches and I think we’ve come out of it pretty well,” Oleksiak said. “It’s a group that’s gonna work hard and you know, make sure that we dig ourselves out his hole. I think we got a lot of character in the room, and this is a chance for us to show it.”

We’ll find out at 7 p.m. Thursday when the Kraken host the Winnipeg Jets at Climate Pledge Arena.

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Can Seattle Kraken rebound after best win followed by disappointing loss?