Kraken entering ‘magnified’ part of schedule with big playoff implications

Mar 10, 2023, 2:23 PM
Kraken playoffs...
Jordan Eberle of the Seattle Kraken controls the puck against the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 30, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Kraken have entered the portion of the season where everything is magnified. Thursday night’s 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Climate Pledge Arena was a prime example. Starting slow, Seattle fell behind 3-0 in the first period and it looked over, However, they fought back to tie the game in the second and take a 4-3 lead only to watch that disappear quickly. With just over two minutes left, Alex DeBrincat made a pass in front that hit Will Borgen and rebounded in the goal, giving Ottawa a 5-4 win.

DeBrincat’s late goal lifts Senators past Kraken 5-4

“You don’t get to start over. So obviously the start put us in a big hole,” head coach Dave Hakstol said after the game. “We’re able to dig out so that’s a real positive. But we didn’t start on time tonight. Disappointing, disappointing and we didn’t get out of our end well enough in the third period, and it ended up costing us.”

Coming back from down three goals was impressive but at this part of the playoff push, points are all that really matter.

Thursday’s loss cost the Kraken a chance to keep pace in the Pacific division.

At the night’s start, Seattle was two points from the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights and second-place Los Angeles Kings. With a chance to create a three-way tie for first place, the Kraken loss combined with both Vegas and Los Angles winning, leaves the Kraken trailing both by four points.

Seattle also is tied with the Edmonton Oilers for third place (Seattle is ahead by points percentage) as things continue to be tight.

The good news is that the Kraken remain nine points ahead of the Calgary Flames who are the first team out of the playoffs.

So, they lost ground within the division but not in their overall playoff hopes. Another example of how crazy a close playoff race can be.

The seeding and potential first-round matchups are interesting, but none of it is as key as getting in.

“We’re in a race of our own right now,” Jared McCann said. “We’re trying to stay ahead of Calgary, we’re trying to get in a better position for playoffs. We need to be focused every single night. We’re going to have to play well every single night.”

Prior to the loss on Thursday, Seattle had won five straight so it’s hard to say Thursday was a game that should cause concern. The Kraken have a favorable schedule down the stretch but not in the next week.

There are four games over the next week and the Kraken will have to play well in all of them if they want to stay in the position they are in. Here’s a look at what’s on tap for the Kraken.

Saturday and Monday, Dallas Stars at Climate Pledge Arena

Seattle gets its first look at the Central Division-leading Stars twice over the next four days. Playing a rare two-game set, the Kraken will be tested.

The Stars can put the puck in the net and have a plus-50 goal differential indicating they can defend as well. They are coming off a big win over Buffalo on Thursday where they scored 10.

Offensively they are led by a pair of 30-goal scorers in the budding star Jason Robertson and forward Roope Hintz. But you also have to be aware of their defensemen joining in on the rush. Miro Heiskanen is as good as they get for offensive-minded players on the blue line and the Kraken will have to be aware of him and where he’s at. Lose sight of him and he’ll hurt you.

In goal, the Stars will most likely throw Jake Oettinger at Seattle. The breakout star during last spring’s playoffs when he nearly single-handedly willed Dallas past Calgary, Oettinger hasn’t slowed down. He has a goals-against average of 2.40 and an excellent save percentage of .920. The Kraken will have to start on time and get traffic and shots on net all night.

At the San Jose Sharks, Thursday

Seattle hits the road for one game midweek and it’s a game that on paper should be winnable. San Jose is not in the playoff picture but rather is in the race for the number one pick in the upcoming NHL Draft.

Recent history, however, has taught us that overlooking the Sharks brings with it some peril.

Seattle was in San Jose on Feb. 20 in a game that looked just as much like an easy two points as this one does. The Kraken were flat from the opening faceoff, sleepwalking their way to a 4-0 shutout to the hands of the lowly sharks.

This game has trap written all over it so the Kraken better come to play.

Edmonton Oilers, Saturday, March 18

The Oilers come to Seattle next weekend in a game that has huge playoff implications. A division rival that Seattle is currently tied with in points and has given the Kraken trouble will be a formidable opponent.

Edmonton has won two of the three meetings this year and this final chance should have a playoff feel to it and is ultimately a four-point game.

There’s no mystery as to who the Oilers are. Connor McDavid is the best player in the world and Seattle won’t be able to stop him from having an impact but will look to keep him from destroying the game all together. This will be a big-boy game and require a top effort. Seattle can’t come out flat, will have to have its defensive play as well as they have all year.

The Kraken are good enough to win all these games. Will they? That remains to be seen and none are going to be easy. There are eight huge standings points up for grabs this next week that can go a long way in the playoff push.

How many will they win? All eight feels optimistic but can they get four? Six?

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