The Seattle Kraken went into this weekend prepared to face two of the hottest teams in the NHL, or so it seemed. The Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals traveled to Seattle for the first time, and the outcomes of each contest could not have been more different.
Colorado Avalanche at Seattle Kraken
The Avalanche came into Seattle riding a hot streak of three wins in a row, while the Kraken were plummeting down to the depths of the Puget Sound with a five-game losing streak.
Colorado took hold of Friday’s game almost immediately and never looked back. Head Coach Dave Hakstol finally gave a rest to struggling goaltender Philipp Grubauer, which meant that Chris Driedger was the sacrifice served up to the high-flying offense of the Avalanche. Things eventually got so bad that Grubauer ended up seeing action anyway.
The Avalanche came out firing on all cylinders, scoring two goals (one power play, one shorthanded) in the opening half of the first period and peppering Driedger with 11 shots. Seattle managed seven shots of their own, but were not able to chip away at the 2–0 Colorado lead. The power play goal was unassisted by Andre Burakovsky at the 4:04 mark and the shorthanded goal was two minutes later by Valeri Nichushkin with teammate Samuel Girard in the penalty box.
To say that the Kraken fell apart in the second period would be putting it lightly. Colorado scored four goals in the middle frame, on 14 shots, and drove the Kraken starting goaltender to the showers early. Young star Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar netted two goals, while Burakovsky scored another goal on the man advantage and Erik Johnson closed out the period with a goal to send the teams into intermission with a 6–0 Colorado lead.
All was not lost, though. Following the seventh goal by new Avalanche wing Nicolas Aube-Kubel, the Kraken showed some heart by not only breaking the shutout, but scoring three late goals to make the game a bit more respectable. Jordan Eberle scored a power play goal just a minute after the Aube-Kubel goal and Brandon Tanev scored a power play goal of his own three minutes later. Winger Colin Blackwell scored his first as a member of the Kraken in the final five minutes of play, which would be all the scoring on the night.
The teams filled up the box score with 10 total goals on 58 shots and a 7–3 Colorado win. Would the Kraken take this decimating loss and continue to plummet, or would they take their third period momentum and surprise the Washington Capitals?
Avalanche anchor points
⚓ Once again, the goaltending let the Kraken down. Driedger and Grubauer only saw 28 shots and only stopped 75%. At least Hakstol tried something different by starting Driedger. Thinking that “beating the bad” out of Grubauer was a wise idea just seemed nonsensical.
⚓ I hinted at this in the previous recap, but the Kraken are actually hot on the power play. Two more goals in this game gave them power play goals in the last three games and four in their last nine opportunities.
⚓ Defensemen Vince Dunn and Adam Larsson were on the ice for three Colorado goals after starting the season as the Kraken’s best possession pair and top 10 in the league.
⚓ As evidence by the final score, analytics were not in Seattle’s favor. Colorado led 5-on-5 in shot attempts (Corsi 55%–45%), unblocked shots (Fenwick 54%–46%), high-danger chances for (HDCF% 57%–43%) and expected goals for (xGF% 52%–88%). Seattle once again crushed their opponent at the faceoff dots, 63%–37%. Oddly enough, defensemen Jeremy Lauzon and Jamie Oleksiak had a phenomenal night analytically with a 70% Corsi.
Washington Capitals at Seattle Kraken
With a bit of a sour taste in their mouths, the Kraken hosted the high-scoring Capitals. Washington actually came in top five overall in goals for, which is considerably higher than the team that just put up seven goals on the Kraken two nights previous. They were also riding wins on back-to-back shutouts against the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
Seattle fans were probably not feeling very confident when the Capitals opened the scoring on a terrible Lauzon turnover 3:34 into the game. Lauzon failed to clear the puck behind his net, had the puck stolen and fed to a streaking Tom Wilson. Grubauer had little time to react to Wilson’s one-timer, and the visitors were up 1–0 early.
One of the biggest bright spots for the Kraken lately has been the power play, which lit the Seattle fire in this one. Jared McCann ripped a backhand shot over Kraken legend Vitek Vanecek’s shoulder on a scramble in close to tie the game late in the first period. It was essentially all Kraken from then on.
Even though there were only two goals scored in the first period, on 25 total shots, the second period went off the rails. The second was one of the most successful periods for the Kraken all season. Larsson and veteran Jaden Schwartz scored just 43 seconds apart, and Calle Jarnkrok scored his first goal as a member of the Kraken to open the flood gates for the home crowd. The three goals were scored on only nine Kraken shots on goal.
Clearly embarrassed by their awful second period showing, the Capitals came out in the third period on fire and peppered Grubauer with 23 shots on net. This time, though, the Kraken netminder shined. In what can be best described as a disastrous first 14 games, Grubauer showed the fans what General Manager Ron Francis went out and signed him for this summer, after he gave a soft one up to Alex Ovechkin three minutes into the period.
Based on the prior 14 games, most people watching probably got really concerned following the Ovechkin goal, but Grubauer shut the door and stopped the final 17 shots he faced.
Snake-bitten forward Yanni Gourde added a late empty-net goal, which gave the Climate Pledge Arena fans something to celebrate in a Sunday evening 5–2 win.
Capitals anchor points
⚓ This might be as close as we have gotten to a goalie win with the Kraken. Grubauer was the second star and stopped 37 of 39 shots. He held the usually dangerous Capitals power play unit scoreless on four opportunities. He would love to have that Ovechkin goal back, but the Wilson one can be piled on the head of pylon Lauzon.
⚓ Once again, the Kraken scored on the man advantage, taking advantage of their lone chance. This gives them five goals in their last 10 opportunities and power play goals in their last four games.
⚓ The possession and analytics numbers were split right down the middle. The 5-on-5 shot attempts (Corsi), unblocked shots (Fenwick) and expected goals for (xGF%) were slightly in favor of Washington 51%–49%. The high-danger chances for favored the Kraken (HDCF% 57%–43%). Washington also had a slight lead in face-off wins 52%-48%. The line of Eberle, Marcus Johansson and Alexander Wennberg held a positive Corsi percentage and Fenwick percentage over 75%. Dunn and Gourde had a rough night, giving up 18 and 17 shot attempts up, respectively.
⚓ The Kraken are off today and tomorrow but are back in action Wednesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, who are no slouches. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. PST.