Sometimes statistics can paint a picture of how a game went. In other cases, not so much.
In last night’s Seattle Kraken, 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders at UBS Arena, the Kraken outshot their hosts, 31-27. That might give someone the idea that it was a pretty even hockey game. Or that the Kraken might have had a slight edge in play. But for anyone watching the game, the Islanders took advantage of Kraken defensive lapses, scored two goals in two minutes in the second period, and shutdown the Kraken for the remainder of the contest. Playing in an arena adjacent to Belmont Race Track, the third leg of the Kentucky Derby, it could be said that the Kraken was late coming out of the starting gate.
“We really didn’t have anything,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol. “We didn’t sustain any tempo to our game. We could not find a way to give ourselves energy and couldn’t find the ability to make a play to get ourselves going in the right direction.”
While the Kraken may have looked a bit tired at the end of January, having played 14 games in 25 days, they’ve actually struggled more coming back after five or more days off (0-4-2). Playing the first game after the All-Star break, Seattle showed the rust of having nine days off. The Kraken fall to 29-16-5, tied for first place with the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division. The suddenly hot Islanders improve to 27-22-5 as they battle for a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.
“We started okay, the first few shifts,” said Kraken alternate captain Jaden Schwartz. “But I think it was pretty evident in just our puck play and structure I thought our energy was just a little bit low. We just looked a little bit off, a little bit tired. Guys had long travel. We don’t want to use it as an excuse but we know we’ve got a lot better than that and we’ll get our energy tomorrow and look at a few things and regroup.”
Islanders’ All-Star goalie Ilya Sorokin was the star of this contest. Turning aside 31 Kraken shots, Sorokin recorded his second consecutive shutout and his fifth of the season (tying him for first with Washington’s Darcy Kuemper in that department). Sorokin, who boasts a .923 save percentage, had his biggest save on Seattle’s only power play of the game. After making one stop on Vince Dunn’s drive from the point, he slid to his right, to make a pad save on attempted tip-in by Alex Wennberg. T The Kraken have now been shutout twice this season. They were blanked by Minnesota’s Marc-Andre Fleury, 1-0, on Nov. 11.
On the injury front, it was a mixed bag for the Kraken. The team welcomed back rookie sensation Matty Beniers and Schwartz from the injured list, and hope to have defenseman Justin Schultz back in the lineup before the end of the current five-game road trip. Beniers, the leading scorer among NHL rookies had the first shot of the game, foiled by Sorokin’s kick save. But the Kraken lost Andre Burakovsky, their overall leading scorer, in the first minute of the contest. Burakovsky, who sat out one game with an injury on Jan. 21, appeared to suffer some sort of leg injury when he pulled up short at the blue line. Burakovsky only played 21 seconds in the game.
“It’s not ideal to lose a guy on his very first shift 20 seconds into the hockey game, but those things happen,” said Hakstol. “We’ve been able to adapt and overcome. (Burakovsky’s injury) is not the reason for tonight. It’s not ideal for sure to go down to 11 forwards and 59 minutes to go in the game, but that’s not the reason that we couldn’t get ourselves going tonight.”
The contest also marked the Islander home debut of former Vancouver Canuck captain Bo Horvat. Playing his fourth game of the season against the Kraken, Horvat celebrated his new surroundings with his first Islander goal. Former Seattle Thunderbirds star Mat Barzel took the puck away from Yanni Gourde along the boards and found Horvat with a lead pass that he wristed one home from the right side. That goal at 5:08 of the second period made it 4-0.
There was some speculation that the Kraken and Kings might have been interested in acquiring Horvat, but it seemed unlikely that the Canucks would trade their top player to a Pacific Division rival. Any thoughts that the Islanders might trade Horvat back to the Pacific Division were quelched earlier this week when he signed an eight-year contract with his new team.
The Islanders opened the scoring on their second shot of the game. Defenseman Sam Bolduc, playing his fifth NHL game, scored his first NHL goal on a 20-foot slap shot. Brock Nelson, who passed the puck back to Bolduc, screened Kraken goalie Martin Jones who might not have seen the shot.
Simon Holmstrom made it 2-0 off a centering pass from Jean-Gabriel Pageau stationed behind the net with a minute left in the first period. Zack Parise started the second period scoring when he deflected home a shot from Pageau.
The Kraken have a busy week as they face New Jersey on Thursday, the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday night, and the Philadelphia Flyers, in an afternoon game on Super Bowl Sunday. The Jersey Devils and the Rangers both look to be headed to the playoffs this season.
- The Kraken started the calendar year against the Islanders at Climate Pledge Arena posting a 4-1 victory. That game marked the beginning of the Kraken’s eight-game winning streak (with an historic 7-0 road trip). Eeli Tolvanen made his Seattle debut in that contest and scored his first Kraken goal on the power play.
- Only one team that won 29 of their first 49 games(which the Kraken have done) did not make the playoffs in NHL history. The 2010-11 Dallas Stars had 29 wins before the All-Star break and finished with a 42-29-11 record, missing the postseason by only two points. The Chicago Blackhawks grabbed the final spot in the Western Conference.
- Defenseman Jaycob Megna made his Kraken debut last night paired with Carson Soucy. Megna was acquired from the San Jose Sharks for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick. The Kraken will notify the Sharks whether the pick will be theirs, or the Colorado Avalanche’s by June 15. In 48 games, Megna scored a goal along with 12 points, 21 penalty minutes and a -6 rating. He also had 75 hits and 63 blocked shots. Megna, 30, has appeared in 135 NHL games over five seasons with Anaheim and San Jose. The Ducks drafted him in the seventh round of the 2012 NHL Draft. Megna’s one of the few NHL players born in (Plantation) Florida but he grew up in Chicago. His brother Jayson Megna plays for the Anaheim Ducks. At 6-foot 5, Jaycob Megna is the tallest Kraken ever, about a half inch taller than Jamie Oleksiak.
- Adam Dunn was named NHL Third Star of the Month, topping all league defensemen with five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 15 January games.
- Goaltender Chris Driedger has returned to practice for the Kraken. Driedger, who shared goaltending duties with Philipp Grubauer a year ago, suffered a torn ACL in Team Canada’s Gold Medal match against Finland at the IHF World tourney on May 29. He had successful knee surgery on June 6.
NYI- Samuel Bolduc (Scott Mayfield, Brock Nelson) 7:59. NYI- Simon Holmstrom (J-G Pageau) 18:29.
NYI- Zack Parise (Pageau, Adam Peluch) 3:28. NYI- Bo Horvat (Mathew Barzal) 5:08.
Shots on Goal- Seattle 31, New York 27.
Penalty Minutes- Seattle 2, New York 2.
Referees- Chris Rooney, Mitch Dunning. Linesmen- Johnny Murray, Tyson Baker.
Three Stars- 1. Bo Horvat, NYI 2. Ilya Sorokin, NYI 3. J-G Pageau, NYI
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