Who can step up for the Kraken with Andre Burakovsky out of action?
It took 21 seconds after their break for the Seattle Kraken to lose their leading scorer. During his first shift of last Tuesday’s game in New York, forward Andre Burakovsky leaned on his skates looking to make a cut. It didn’t go right as he immediately appeared to be in some pain and went straight to the bench. After the game, the news was that Seattle would be without its leading scorer and Burakovsky was put on the injured reserve list, out at least week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
The Kraken were shut out that night and only mustered one goal the next game in New Jersey. They potted three against the New York Rangers but didn’t score until they were down 3-0, on their way to a 6-3 defeat.
Sunday, in Philadelphia, they managed four goals in a win, but will need to find players to step up as long as Burakovsky is out.
Losing a leading scorer is less than ideal and head coach Dave Hakstol will not only need to juggle his lineup, but will need to have players step up to fill the void.
One of the strengths of the Kraken this year, maybe the No. 1 reason they are in a playoff spot so far, is their scoring depth. Seattle has 10 players on the roster who have scored 10 or more goals so far this year.
Everyone on the roster will need to step it up and play their best hockey for the Kraken during this playoff push.
Jared McCann leads the way in goals with 24 and he probably has the best shot on the team. He’s been solid all year and will be leaned on while Burakovsky is out. But who else? Who are the main candidates to step up, not only to help assuage the loss of Burakovsky, but step up to help get the Kraken into the playoffs?
One of general manager Ron Francis’ key acquisitions this past summer, Bjorkstrand has had an odd season so far. He’s scored 10 times with 19 assists, but there is more there. Bjorkstrand has had bad luck with shots either hitting posts, getting blocked, or just missing.
He’s shooting seven percent on the season, which is below his career average and would end up being one of the worst in his career. If he can get some more puck luck and get closer to his past numbers, he could be in for a good second half.
That hot streak may be starting. He’s been playing with Yanni Gourde and Eeli Tolvanen and things are starting to click.
“It feels good, better,” he said after scoring twice in a late January game against Vancouver. “I think I’m creating more things and as a line were playing real well together. It’s definitely nice to get going.”
In his last seven games, Bjorkstrand has scored thrice and has seven points.
Scoring a goal and adding an assist during Sunday’s 4-3 win over Philadelphia vaulted Eberle over Burakovsky in team scoring.
The goal was refreshing and was his first in 13 games for the historically streaky scorer.
“I’ve had stretches before where I haven’t scored,” Eberle said Sunday. “I’ve had stretches where things go, you just try to stick to the same things. As long as you’re getting chances, eventually one’s going to go in.”
If Sunday was a sign that he’s entering a stretch where things are going in that will be a huge boost for the Kraken.
It’s hard to ask more of a rookie who is the leading candidate for the Calder Trophy, but now would be a good time for Beniers to find the scoresheet.
Has he hit a rookie wall? He’s got 51 games under his belt this year which is more than he played in any one season at the University of Michigan so he’s in uncharted waters. It’s been tough on him lately after missing a couple of games after his head hit the ice thanks to Vancouver’s Tyler Myers. He finished Sunday’s game by blocking a shot with his kneecap and hobbled off the ice at the horn.
He’s been playing hard since coming back from break but is in a scoring slump.
Beniers has not recorded a point in a month, since Jan. 14 when he had a goal and assist against the Chicago Blackhawks – a span of nine games.
If he can fight through a rookie wall – if that’s the issue – then the Kraken won’t miss Burakovsky as much. Beniers has shown that he gets it so far, his hockey IQ off the charts for a player who’s just turned 20. Either way, this slump will be a nice learning experience for Beniers who still hasn’t come close to his ceiling.
As with Beniers, it’s tough to want more out of Gourde. His game is about much more than goal-scoring, but it is odd that of the 10 players who have double-digit goals, Gourde is not one of them.
He is contributing, however, with 26 assists, which is one off what he picked up last year. With Burakovsky out, Seattle could use a goal here and there from the spark plug Gourde.
Gourde looks close and Sunday against Philadelphia he was buzzing all game and created some good looks for himself. He’s gone six games without a point and his shooting percentage this year is down to 6.9 percent which would be a career low.
If that shooting percentage starts moving closer to his career numbers, Gourde is another player who could be on the verge of a big second half and stretch drive.
It’s the time of year when all the Kraken need to start playing their best games. Heading into Tuesday’s game at Winnipeg, the Kraken are percentage points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers for third place in the Pacific Division but only five points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. It’s time to step up.
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