Wednesday night marked the first time that the Chicago Blackhawks and Seattle Kraken squared off. Seattle had their home crowd fired up and ready to go, but they ran into the same problems they have dealt with all season long: Facing a hot goalie and goalie problems of their own. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, took advantage of some defensive miscues and sub-optimal goaltending to win their fourth game in a row to begin the Derek King era.
The opening period was slow for the Kraken. Chicago limited them to just three shots on goal, most of which were early on. In fact, Seattle was not able to get to Marc-Andre Fleury for the final 10 minutes of the first period. Fifteen minutes into the game, Blackhawks star wing Patrick Kane led a 3-on-2 rush which went tic-tac-toe from the stick of Kane to Alex DeBrincat and finally ended up on the open stick of defenseman Seth Jones. Jones, who was wide open to the left of the Kraken net, deposited the puck past Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer for his 300th NHL point and a 1–0 Chicago lead. This would be the only period that Chicago led in shots on goal, 8–3.
Having finally woken up during the intermission, the Kraken came out and peppered Fleury in the second period. As has been the problem all season, though, it was finishing that they struggled with. Just two minutes into the second, DeBrincat got his second point of the night, taking a stretch feed from Kirby Dach before out-skating Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak en route to the net. DeBrincat snapped a shot over Grubauer’s shoulder to give the Blackhawks a 2–0 lead. Despite the overall 19–15 shot advantage, the Kraken went into the second intermission down by two.
The Kraken once again fell victim to Kane five minutes into the third period. This time, the rush was led by second-year Blackhawks forward Philipp Kurashev, who ended up 2-on-3 with Kane. Kurashev dished a nice saucer pass to a surprisingly wide-open Kane, and Kane did what he has done over 400 times in his career, as he snapped the puck past Grubauer to give Chicago a comfortable 3–0 lead.
Seattle did give the home fans some excitement, albeit far too late. The Kraken took advantage of a late power play to try and break the shutout, which is exactly what happened. Jared McCann found a loose puck on his stick and shoveled it into the net to cut the Chicago lead to 3–1. Head Coach Dave Hakstol pulled the goaltender with just over three minutes remaining in regulation, and Yanni Gourde scored on a one-timer a minute later, which cut the Chicago lead to just one goal.
However, the comeback bid was still too little, too late, and Chicago finally twisted the dagger with a long empty-net goal from Jake McCabe to leave Seattle with their fourth win in a row and extend the Kraken’s losing streak to five.
⚓ This is going to sound like a broken record once again, but goaltending killed the Kraken on both ends of the ice. Grubauer saved just 15 of 18 shots while Fleury was sensational, saving 31 of 30 shots he faced. This game was won and lost in the crease.
⚓ DeBrincat finished the night with a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight). The fight should have been labeled a super flyweight bout with the generously listed 5-foot-7 DeBrincat facing the also generously listed 5-foot-9 Gourde.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 18, 2021
⚓ Has anyone seen Joonas Donskoi or Calle Jarnkrok? The normally reliable Donskoi is still scoreless after 16 games, and Jarnkrok has not been any better—without a point in 11 games this season. If the depth players are not producing, the Kraken are going to have a long and painful first season.
⚓ Again with the broken record. Analytics heavily favored the Kraken. They led 5-on-5 in shot attempts (Corsi 61%–39%), unblocked shots (Fenwick 58%–42%), high-danger chances for (HDCF% 64%–36%) and expected goal for (xGF% 62%–38%). Colin Blackwell and Haydn Fleury were the only two Seattle players without positive even-strength Corsi. The Kraken need to finish and they need a goalie to make a save. Just average numbers would have them at .500 or above. Seattle also crushed the Blackhawks at the face-off dots, 60%–40%.
⚓ The Blackhawks, on the other hand, were caved in most of the night. Only two players, Jones and Calvin de Haan, were above water in even-strength Corsi. Jujhar Khaira, Dominik Kubalik and Connor Murphy were all on the ice for 20 or more shots against.
⚓ Not all is lost, though. The Kraken scored a power play goal for the second straight game. They are improving somewhere.
⚓ The Kraken have a day off but things don’t get any easier for them. They face the juggernaut Colorado Avalanche at Climate Pledge Arena on Friday. The puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PST.