Would this finally be the night?
Leaving little room for doubt, the Seattle Kraken scored five unanswered goals to rout the Vancouver Canucks in a 6-1 victory and accomplish something they’ve never done before: beat their presumed Pacific Northwest rivals, all before a sellout crowd of 17,151 at Climate Pledge Arena on Wednesday.
“We played sixty minutes,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “We made it hard right away from the start. We played a direct game, did everything pretty quick.”
Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice to help the Kraken conquer an 0-5-1 streak against the Canucks and surpass their point total of last season, marking his first multi-goal effort of what’s been a slow, perhaps even snake bitten, start to the season on a surface level, also coming off a 28-goal campaign last year in Columbus.
COMPLETE RADIO GAME HIGHLIGHTS
“It feels good, better,” said Bjorkstrand, who ended the night with nine goals so far. “I feel I’m creating more things and as a line we’re playing well together.”
They jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Canucks, playing their first road game since Rick Tocchet replaced Bruce Boudreau as head coach on Sunday, a process that’s been a bit messy. Vancouver won in Tocchet’s debut on Tuesday, and the Kraken left the Canucks with a mess after Wednesday’s game.
“Soft,” said Tocchet, whose team is now 14 points out of the playoffs. “You hate to call your team ‘soft,’ but we didn’t participate on the wall battles, didn’t get a rim out, we knew they were going to be a good team. We didn’t play predictable.”
“Old habits came. We were just talking to the coaching staff, ‘I wish I had about ten practices.’ I really do.”
Bjorkstrand and Alex Wennberg scored in a span of 1:49 for a 2-0 lead in the first period, forcing Tocchet to burn his timeout. The Kraken kept piling on: Jared McCann rifled his 23rd goal of the season for the second Kraken power play goal of the night at 5:55 of the second period, and Eeli Tolvanen uncorked a one-timer past Spencer Martin for a 4-0 lead just 1:55 later.
Bjorkstrand scored his second goal of the night with 3:45 left in the period before Conor Garland ended Martin Jones’ shutout bid (19 saves) with 7.2 left. Ryan Donato tacked on the final goal with silky smooth backhander at 2:36 of the third period, closing a night where six Kraken players earned multi point games.
“It’s a huge part of our success and it’s obviously hard to defend,” said Bjorkstrand. “Every line can score.”
That depth has come in handy, given the absence of Jaden Schwartz and recently for one game, Andre Burakovsky. They may need to dig deeper, depending on the health of Matty Beniers. The All-Star rookie center was last seen in the second period, taking a malicious hit 20-feet away from the puck by defenseman Tyler Myers. Beniers, whose head contacted the ice, did not return.
Hakstol said Beniers was not available to play in the third period. No timetable has been established for his return.
The Kraken will return to play on Friday against Calgary, 7pm (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) to start a set of back-to-back games, which will then usher the All-Star Break.
1. The Kraken made sure this one got into blowout territory quickly. If we learned one thing about the Canucks, you can put a band aid over a wound. But underneath, it’s still a wound. The Tocchet band-aid had an expiration date of one game. The Canucks were unorganized, flat, and even “soft” – as per Tocchet above in his postgame media availability. The Kraken were ripe to take advantage of it for their first win over the Canucks in franchise history, and they wasted no time. They outshot the Canucks 5-1 in the opening minutes, owned a shot quality at five-on-five pushing 90% for the game, crushed the Canucks on special teams, blistered them in the face-off circle, and got solid goaltending from Martin Jones (19 saves). This was a rout-and-a-half.
2. You hope for the best with Beniers. Part of the danger by playing in a blowout is the possibility of injury, whether it may come from a freak play or an opposing channeling anger. Unfortunately for the Kraken, the latter resulted in the loss of Beniers for the rest of the game the hit by Tyler Myers, that was well away from the puck and frankly, excessive. The Kraken are now proving depth to sustain multiple injuries (Jaden Schwartz and Justin Schultz already have been sitting for nearly the last two weeks), but 17 goals and 36 points for a 20-year old just beginning to scratch the surface is a significant loss. The Kraken are hoping it’s shorter than usual.
3. Depth once again rears its vicious head. On-brand Kraken hockey relies on offensive depth. So, no problem with six players earning multi point games while 13 in total hit the scoresheet. Amazingly, 12 players are tracking to hit the 40 point mark if their pace keeps up. They’re playing like it. Yanni Gourde’s line again was spectacular at both ends of the ice: five points combined, while holding Elias Pettersson’s line scoreless at a combined minus-7 (Pettersson himself, after racking up a five-point game on the Kraken last month, was held to one shot with a -2 rating). Again, the beauty of deploying an offense that operates like a four-line monster is providing benefits. Through 47 games, that benefit includes a tie for first place in the Pacific Division.
4. We lied. We're going to do four takeaways in this post because of a special guest. Jackson Boboth, 9, recovering from a leukemia diagnosis from two years ago, made some special friends via Make-A-Wish Alaska & Washington, and deserves everything that's good, even the honorary first star of the game plus Davy Jones hat honors.
KRAKEN LINEUP VS. VANCOUVER: 1/25