In the moments after a Seattle Kraken 4-0 defeat on Monday to the San Jose Sharks, a team well out of the playoff picture who spoiled an attempt to tie the Pacific Division lead, Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol was blunt in the hallway at SAP Center when it came to any reconciling of the damage.
“We got our asses kicked tonight,” said Hakstol.
Sometimes, a game is a work of art. Other times, the outcome is as ugly as a mud pit.
One of the league’s top offenses was held quiet for just the third time this season as James Reimer earned the 27th shutout of his NHL career, in a game the Sharks, missing top line forwards Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl, broke open a scoreless game at 10:45 of the second period. Logan Couture was awarded his 20th goal of the season.
He barely touched the puck.
Off a face-off win in the defensive zone by Yanni Gourde, who intended to steer the puck back to defenseman Vince Dunn, the puck casually slid by Dunn and – to make matters worse – the right pad of goaltender Martin Jones for a shocking 1-0 Sharks lead. Couture was the last Shark to touch the puck before the Kraken scored on their own net by accident.
“I’m trying to win a face-off,” said Gourde. “It’s unfortunate. I don’t see Jonesy sees the puck at all from the face-off. Dunner’s right there and I think it goes by Dunner’s foot.
“Bad luck, bad bounce.”
San Jose erupted after that, with a pair of late second period goals by Evgeni Svechnikov and Noah Gregor for a 3-0 cushion by the intermission. Michael Eyssimont punctuated the game with his fourth goal of the season and a 4-0 lead with 3:03 left in regulation.
Jones, 0-4 since a win over the Canucks on Jan. 25, took the loss on 19 saves.
1. Blame the 1pm start time? It’s maybe not a productive exercise to look at that excuse in a vacuum, because the Kraken have found ways to win in games that start earlier than normal. Matter of fact, they’re 2-3 when the puck drops earlier than a 4pm local start (both wins on the road at Florida and Philadelphia). The record isn’t exactly flattering, and hockey players tend to be creatures of habit, calculating and measuring much of their day by the minute to be mentally and physically refreshed for usually a 7pm game. Earlier start times demand them to back up their schedule and revise to be ready for much earlier in the day.
“We’re NHL players for a reason,” said Gourde. “Can’t find excuses, and you have to go out there, battle it out, find ways to win, find ways to find your legs, and be at the top of your game.”
This is the NHL, it’s a showbiz league, and earlier start times will always be around for the sake of gate attraction and family entertainment value. On a Monday where the Kraken found a sluggish start, they’ll be challenged to deliver with more energy for the next early one, not too far away – Sunday, 4pm PT at home against the Maple Leafs.
2. The Kraken transition game: stuck in the mud. There’s that mud pit reference again. Because the Kraken are built like a team to generate offense with the pace of a premium set of wheels racing through the Autobahn. Instead, the tires were stuck in the mud all day, with the transition game virtually absent, and just 14 shots on James Reimer through two periods. The Sharks went to work and limit any chance the Kraken had with a conservative puck possession in the third period, far after their damage had been done with three goals in the final ten minutes of the second. When they move, the offense comes.
3. There are no “guaranteed win nights” in the National Hockey League. Ask any team the Kraken upset last year when they struggled in their expansion season. Ask the Maple Leafs, who were upset by the Blackhawks on Sunday. Ask the Lightning, who were upset (1-0 shootout final) last Wednesday by the host Arizona Coyotes. Despite a 25 point differential entering Monday, the Kraken dropped a chance to gain valuable points against a division rival that had no Meier, no Hertl, and all season long had been struggling – but won battle after battle.
“The footraces, the hardness in the battles at the puck, (San Jose) won a majority of those for a lot of stretches of this game,” said Hakstol.
That exercise with “must have” games now goes away for the rest of the week, where the Kraken will really have to bring their best. On Thursday, the Boston Bruins, who are smashing league records with 43 wins in their first 56 games, come into Seattle. Following that, the Maple Leafs, whose 73 points would lead the Western Conference but are 18 behind the Bruins just for the Atlantic Division lead.
The Kraken also have beaten both the Bruins and Toronto. Encouraging, from the standpoint of potential, but daunting, from the standpoint of both opponents seeking possible payback.
Game on. The Kraken and Bruins drop the puck for a 7pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) face-off at Climate Pledge Arena on Thursday, where fans are asked to wear ice blue for an “ice out” game.
KRAKEN LINEUP VS SAN JOSE, 2/20: