If the Seattle Kraken were suffering any post-playoff clinching hangover, it didn’t show on the scoreboard as the Kraken scored seven times to beat the Chicago Blackhawks last night, 7-3, in the penultimate regular season game at Climate Pledge Arena.
Actually, shots on goal were pretty even in the game, 31-29 in Seattle’s favor, and the puck was in the Kraken defensive zone more than they would have liked. But the Kraken took advantage of some leaky Chicago defense along with shaky goaltending to post their 45th win of the season and clinch no worse than the first wild card spot int the playoffs.
A total of 12 different players chalked up a point and seven different players scored goals. With a 45-26-8 mark, the Kraken can reach the 100-point mark in standings points with one more victory in their final three regular season games.
Last night’s victory also opens the door for the Kraken to still finish third in the Pacific Division. The Los Angeles Kings dropped a 4-3 decision to the Colorado Avalanche and lead Seattle by only two points. The Kraken have three games remaining while the Kings have only two. Of course, there’s a giant question mark around whether finishing third with be beneficial to the Kraken. Most likely, they would have to face the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, one of the hottest teams in the league over the second half of the season. The Oilers are led by Connor McDavid, who has 150 points this season, the most of any National Hockey League player since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96.
If Seattle remains in the first wild card slot, they would play the Western Conference division winner with the second best record. That most likely will be the winner of the Central Division of the Western Conference – Colorado or Dallas, who each have 102 points or Minnesota currently with 100 points. Most likely, the Vegas Golden Knights (or Edmonton if they catch Vegas) will be the top division winner and number-one seed.
“There were sloppy portions to the game,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol. “Some of that is inherent coming off of a big win the other night (a 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes, 4-2 victory on Thursday). You can talk yourself out of it as much as you want, but in reality, it looked like some of that maybe leaked into our game tonight.”
It also might have been a bit difficult for the Kraken to get pumped up, facing a team they scored six goals against in the first period, in an 8-5 victory on Jan. 14. The Blackhawks, who traded away some veteran players at the deadline (including future Hall-of-Famer Patrick Kane), have won just four games out of the 18 that they have played. In their previous game in Vancouver, they were shutout for the ninth time this season.
“Our strength all year is our depth,” said Kraken alternate captain Jordan Eberle. “Every line, it seems like we’re getting contributions from different guys, different lines, defense pairings, whatever it may be. That’s obviously a big skill to have going into the playoffs and something that’s tough to beat.”
Eeli Tolvanen opened the scoring for Seattle at 4:40 of the first period. He scored off a drop pass from Jesper Froden, who was in the lineup replacing Jaden Schwartz, who’s been bothered with nagging injuries this season. Eberle and Yanni Gourde added goals while Seth Jones notched the first of his two goals for Chicago. Adam Larsson and Daniel Sprong added second period goals, but the biggest play of the game may have been a goal that didn’t count.
Late in the second period, the Blackhawks appeared to score a goal to cut the lead to 5-4 but the Kraken asked for a review of the goal. The twin scoreboards showed that a Chicago player was clearly offside when the Blackhawks brought the puck into the zone and the officials quickly disallowed the goal.
“Our guys (video coaches Tim Ohashi and Brady Morgan) have done a great job all season,” said Hakstol. “They’re right on top of those plays as soon as they happen.”
Jared McCann added his 39th goal at 11:54 of the third period, firing his patented shot from the left circle. McCann has three games left to reach the prestigious 40 goal mark. Morgan Geekie completed the scoring for the Kraken.
The prettiest goal of the game came from Larssen, primarily known as a hard-nosed defensive defenseman, in the second period, the Kraken were briefly down five players to three, when Larsson jumped out of the penalty box and took a stretch pass from McCann. With no Blackhawk in sight, Larsson made a goal scorers move, switching from the forehand to the backhand and beating Chicago goalie Peter Mrzak on the far side. Another defensive stalwart, Jamie Oleksiak, was the game’s number-one star with three assists.
Martin Jones, who started in the nets for the Kraken, sat out the third period. A shot in the first period hit Jones square in the face mask and he had to go to the bench for repairs. (“let’s just say, he wasn’t available for the third period,” said Hakstol.). Philip Grubauer replaced Jones between the pipes and picked up where he left out from Thursday night’s playoff clincher against the Coyotes. ‘The German gentleman’ stopped all 11 shots he saw, including a nice stop on Wyatt Johnston early in the third period.
The Kraken play at Arizona on Monday night and then travel to Las Vegas the following night to face the division-leading Golden Knights. The Kraken conclude the regular season on Thursday with another game versus Vegas.
- Jordan Eberle reached the 20 goal plateau for the eight time in his 13-year career. He was a member of the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders before being selected in the expansion draft. Other Kraken players who’ve tallied 20 goals this season are Jared McCann (39), Matty Beniers (23), Daniel Sprong (21) and Jaden Schwartz (20). Eberle also picked up a career high 43rd assist on Yanni Gourde’s first period power play goal.
- While the Kraken have made the playoffs for the first time, they boast a fair number of players who’ve played on Stanley Cup winning teams. Andre Burakovsky, who the Kraken hope to have back in the lineup for the playoffs, won Cups with both Washington and Colorado and Yanni Gourde won two championships with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The other cup winners were Justin Schultz (Pittsburgh), Philip Grubauer (Washington), Martin Jones (Los Angeles) and Jaden Schwartz and Vince Dunn (St. Louis).
S- Eeli Tolvanen (Jesper Froden, Jamie Oleksiak) 4:40. C- Seth Jones (Anders Bjork, Andreas Athanasou) 5:44. S- Jordan Eberle (Oleksiak) 8:55. S- Yanni Gourde (Eberle, Daniel Sprong) PPG 14:09.
C- Jones (Lukas Reichel, Andreas Athanasou) 10:39. S- Adam Larsson (Jared McCann, Oleksiak) 12:21. S- Sprong (Justin Schultz)13:16. C- Reichel (Alex Vlasic, Jason Dickinson) 15:02.
S- Jared McCann (Oliver Bjorkstrand) 11:54. S- Morgan Geekie (Sprong, Ryan Donato) 14:51.
Shots on Goal- Chicago 29, Seattle 31.
Penalty Minutes- Chicago 8, Seattle 8.
Referees- Kyle Rehman, Brandon Blandina. Linesmen- David Brisebois, Justin Johnson.
Three Stars- 1. Jamie Oleksiak 2. Jared McCann 3. Daniel Sprong
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