Seattle Kraken may have taken big step playing red-hot Avs tough

Jan 11, 2022, 11:28 AM
Seattle Kraken Yanni Gourde...
Seattle Kraken center Yanni Gourde reacts as time runs out in their loss to Colorado on Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Seattle Kraken forward Jared McCann shook his head to say ‘no’ when asked if there was such a thing as a moral victory after Seattle’s 4-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday.

Seattle Kraken still looking for consistency, chemistry after another long break

It was the sixth straight loss for the Kraken, the second such skid this season, but it came in a game where Seattle played some of its best hockey in months. The Kraken built a 3-1 lead only to watch the red-hot Avalanche storm back with three unanswered goals.

“We played a pretty darn good hockey game,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “But at the end of the day, you have to address what the result is. We didn’t come here to play a good hockey game; we came to win a hockey game.”

Hakstol and his players said the right things.

Yes, it was good to play well against one of the best teams in the NHL (if not the best), especially at the Avalanche’s home arena where they’ve won 12 straight. Overall, it was Colorado’s fifth straight win, and in all five it came from behind as the Avs did Monday. But all that is moot since the Kraken didn’t pick up any points in the standings.

“I felt like we controlled most of the game and had some D-zone shifts,” McCann said. “Obviously, they’re a high-powered offense and we kind of kept them in check there for the first couple periods, but that doesn’t really mean anything unless you get the win.”

Monday was the first time in nine days that the Kraken played a game after three postponements due to COVID-19 related issues. Instead of games, they took advantage of the time off to hold a mini training camp of sorts in an attempt to tighten up their game and get their minds right. It was just one game, and it was a loss, but the early results were positive.

Can this game be a step forward for the Kraken?

At this point, the playoffs are not much more than a fading mirage in the distance of a nine-losses-out-of-10 desert but that doesn’t mean Seattle should throw in the towel. If nothing else, the team should work to get closer to a .500 record for a better feeling over the second half.

It looked better Monday, but the real test will come over the remainder of this week with the Kraken set to play three more games. It starts Wednesday in Dallas against a Stars club that is 13-3-1 at home.

What worked for the Seattle Kraken on Monday

Right off the bat, the game in Colorado was better than the first time the two clubs met. Back on Nov. 19 at Climate Pledge Arena the Avalanche scored the first seven goals of the game on their way to a 7-3 win – that was the first time the Kraken lost six in a row this season.

Monday, Seattle allowed the first goal but had a push back. Giving up the first goal has been a constant for the Kraken this season and put them in comeback mode early. On Monday, though, not only did they push back and tie the game in the first period, but they also scored three unanswered to build a 3-1 lead.

McCann had a big night and continues his strong season. His goal in the second period was his 14th which tied his career-high. McCann also added an assist Monday for his fifth multi-point game this year, which leads the Kraken.

In the first period, Seattle tied the game with a power-play goal by Marcus Johansson. Seattle was 1 for 2 with the man advantage, which is a positive, and good special teams (the penalty kill held off a high-powered Colorado power play on three attempts) can be the equalizer when playing a more talented team.

Johansson’s goal was big because the forward had not scored since Nov. 24. At even strength, Johansson played on the Kraken’s top line with McCann and Jordan Eberle, replacing the injured Jaden Schwartz, and the line performed well.

Overall, the Kraken played a sound defensive game. They didn’t let the Avalanche turn the game into a track meet, which is what happened the first time the two teams met. Shots were kept to the outside and Seattle forwards made some key backchecks.

The Kraken battled all night and will need to keep doing so moving forward.

What didn’t work

“You have to be diligent in being above (the puck) and not giving up those out-numbered situations,” Hakstol said about one of the areas that cost the Kraken Monday’s game. “It happened sporadically throughout this game.”

Allowing odd-man rushes has been a problem all season and it reared its head Monday. As has been the case, it led to grade-A scoring chances and two of the Avalanche goals, which was the difference in the game.

Nazem Kadri scored the game-winning goal after an aggressive pinch by defenseman Jeremy Lauzon backfired and nobody covered in the neutral zone. On the first goal, it was the Morgan Geekie line that got too deep without a third man high, which caused a 3-on-2 rush in the other direction.

Ryan Donato attempted to race back and help backcheck, but the line was at the end of a shift and he was unable to find the speed to do so. To make matters worse, defenseman Carson Soucy ran into goalie Philipp Grubauer, making it harder for him to try and make the save.

Grubauer, who started his first game against his former team, turned in a decent night despite the four goals allowed. Two goals were off odd-man rushes while the game-tying goal deflected off Devon Toews’ skate but was ruled a good goal.

Monday was a strong effort by the Kraken but once again they came up short. Can they build off this game and start to string some wins together? We’ll find out Wednesday.

“I think we played a decent game,” Grubauer said. “Got to build on it. Can’t get caught with your head down. Gotta keep your head up and keep working hard.”

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