KRAKEN

Seattle Kraken set up to build momentum after exciting end to 9-game skid

Jan 19, 2022, 10:18 AM | Updated: 10:48 am
Seattle Kraken Mason Appleton...
Seattle Kraken center Mason Appleton reacts to Vince Dunn's goal against Chicago on Monday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Ryan Donato scored a goal and a shootout conversion Monday afternoon as the Seattle Kraken beat the Chicago Blackhawks to end a morale-crushing nine-game losing streak.

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“It’s very relieving,” Donato said after the 3-2 win. “I’ve said this to a lot of guys that I’ve been praying for a win for a long time. Sometimes when things get tough you kind of forget what it feels like to have good things happen like that. Tonight, things are great. And hopefully, we can get some steam off that and keep it rolling.”

Seattle has a chance to keep rolling with a pair of winnable games this week against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday and the St. Louis Blues on Friday, both at Climate Pledge Arena. Could the Kraken find themselves on a three-game win streak out of nowhere?

Monday’s win was a good one on many fronts for the Kraken and they were able to check off some milestones off their inaugural season bucket list. It was the first time they had won in overtime or in a shootout, and it was the first time that they had come from behind in the third period to win – the Blackhawks had a 2-1 lead after two periods.

Philipp Grubauer was sharp in net, making 25 saves to earn his first victory since Dec. 3. It continued a recent trend of good goalie play by the Kraken. Over the last three games, Kraken goalies have allowed two goals or less in each game and have a combined save percentage of .925.

Joonas Donskoi, who has yet to score a goal, converted in the shootout to clinch the win. There were smiles all around.

“That felt really good,” Donskoi said. “It hasn’t gone our way lately and we’ve been losing a lot of games. I think the will (was there) and everybody had been wanting to win for a long time now, so going into overtime and shootout you could feel that everybody wanted to get their brain out of the way and kind of start from fresh.”

Can the Kraken build off finally getting two points? If so, what does that mean to the rest of the season?

The losing streak

Not much went right during the nine straight losses for the Kraken. Some nights they scored enough goals but would get let down by either bad goaltending, defensive play, or both. Other nights, like in recent games against St. Louis and Los Angeles, they had good goaltending but couldn’t score enough goals.

The Kraken were plagued by response goals against, some of which occurred a shift after they scored what should have been a momentum-changing event.

Frustration was growing as the Kraken continued to find new, gut-wrenching ways to lose games. Some cracks started to show in postgame comments.

“Enough is enough,” Jared McCann said at one point.

The one redeeming quality is that no matter what the score or how much time was left on the clock, the team played hard. In fact, they played hard all game despite the lack of results.

Sometimes that doesn’t show on the scoreboard, but Seattle’s opponents were aware of it.

“It was a battle, fight for ice both ways,” Los Angeles Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “They checked hard, they closed the gaps, they took space away and won some races to the pucks. We did the same thing. Very tight game.”

What getting on a roll looks like

If the Kraken are truly going to get on the roll that Donato suggested, they need to improve in a couple of areas.

First, Seattle is going to need to find more goals.

When it comes to scoring, the Kraken are averaging 2.08 goals per 60 minutes, which is 26th in the NHL. That’s not cutting it and will have to improve if they want to find more ways to win.

Having Jaden Schwartz, Morgan Geekie, and Branden Tanev on injured reserve isn’t helping the offensive attack. The Kraken will need to find ways to grind out goals from the players in the lineup as they did on Monday.

Vince Dunn’s goal in the second period came with traffic in front of the Chicago net. Seattle needs to continue to get bodies there to make the opposing goalies uncomfortable, and that hasn’t been consistent throughout the season.

Donato’s tying goal came on an aggressive attack of the net where he was able to score on his own rebound. It was the kind of scorer’s mentality goal that also has been missing at times.

The Kraken got 37 shots on net Monday, and if not for a herculean effort from Blackhawks goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Seattle would have won the game in regulation. That was a good sign and the Kraken will need to keep creating like they did Monday.

Goaltending has been an issue all year but is trending up of late. Both Grubauer and Chris Driedger, who is currently in COVID-19 protocol, need to ride the momentum of late. If they can, the Kraken can finally find that game where the goaltending and offense both play well in the same game.

Making the playoffs is off the table for Seattle based on the 18 points back they stand. That doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towels, and the effort the team played with on Monday was a strong indicator that the Kraken have not done so.

Building momentum over the second half is key and should be the focus for the second half of the season. Monday was the first step.

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