With another swift stroke of first period mastery that was missing the last four home games, but played a significant role in this one, the Seattle Kraken took another significant step toward their first ever Stanley Cup Playoff berth in a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks before a sellout crowd on Thursday at Climate Pledge Arena.
The evening capped off a robust sports night in the Puget Sound, with Ty France’s three-run bomb landing a deciding blow over the Cleveland Guardians in an opening night victory for the Seattle Mariners. Just three miles north, at about the same time, Daniel Sprong landed a power play bomb to put the game out of reach at 15:41 of the third period, becoming the third player on the Kraken to hit 20 goals this season.
“It’s the National Hockey League – you build wins through sixty minutes,” said head coach Dave Hakstol.
“We played a good hockey game. Could we have done some things differently in the second? Absolutely. We would have liked to extend the lead. But we settled down in the third. We needed a couple of saves from Martin Jones to do that.”
Jones made 18 saves for the win in net, over Lukas Dostal, who made 35 stops.
Jaden Schwartz put the Kraken up 1-0 on a slap shot past Dostal with 12:04 left in the first period, while on the rush. Matty Beniers tucked his 21st goal of the season at 10:37 for a 2-0 edge, and Sprong with an empty netter from Alex Weinberg in the third period cancelled out Brock McGinn’s rally effort for the Ducks, who scored a late second period goal.
“It was just about getting back to our game, not worrying about it too much,” said Beniers.
“Real positive night,” said Hakstol.
The Kraken magic number sits at nine points, outright, for a playoff berth after Nashville lost to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
1. The score didn’t indicate how lopsided the game was: Aside from Andre Burakovsky, the Kraken had all weapons healthy. This was a game the Kraken should have won decisively. In the end, they did it. Anaheim was missing their top two scorers, Troy Terry, and Trevor Zegras, out to family matters or injury, respectively. Both have inflicted the most damage against the Kraken in two seasons. The Kraken led, 2-0 after the first period. It could have been even more lopsided than that. Jordan Eberle missed an open net. The Kraken kept Lukas Dostal busy with traffic at the net. The Kraken led in shot quality at five-on-five at 66 percent. Amazingly, that was their lowest amount of traffic for one period.
When Jaden Schwartz and Matty Beniers each scored, the game was in full command. The Kraken, like any team, would love separation instead of tense, uneasy moments with a game in doubt after Brock McGinn scored, but Daniel Sprong’s power play goal helped put the matter to bed and remove all doubt.
“I keep busting his hump about the defensive play,” said Hakstol.
“It’s not an easy mark to hit tonight. He hit 20. It’s a big contribution offensively. I’m going to keep banging on him about the defensive things and being good about his detail. He’s going to continue contributing the way that he has.”
2. Martin Jones: what the doctor ordered. Whatever mojo that Martin Jones was running on early in the season had run dry. He was in net for all but one game during the iconic seven-game road trip sweep in January. Since then, he’s averaged one win per month. His last one was in St. Louis over a month ago, a 5-3 victory.
It’s clear Philipp Grubauer’s play has seized command of the net. He is 10-5-2 since late January, allowing two goals or less in nine of those wins. But burnout can be a real thing, and while the Kraken have made it clear who’s the number one guy, Jones still needs reps. Playing against a Ducks team that has been mathematically eliminated was a potential opportunity to sharpen his game, and Jones was what the doctor ordered. He made the basic saves, denied two point blank opportunities late in the first period, and kept matters stress free for most of the night, helping the Kraken go wire-to-wire for the win.
3. Another note of appreciation for depth: Why the Kraken are nine points away (and shrinking) for a Stanley Cup Playoff berth is baked into a fact that timely goaltending – while hasn’t boasted prodigious numbers – has still shown marked improvement from last season. It has relied on a terrific road record. And it has relied on depth.
You will never mistake the Kraken for a top-heavy offense. While there’s no McDavid, MacKinnon, Crosby or Matthews in the bunch, there’s no collapse from the sum of the parts if one body is missing (see: Andre Burakovsky). While the numbers have been affected in Burakovsky, the Kraken still have found ways to produce offense.
Daniel Sprong was the latest to get to 20-goals on the season. Anybody else see that coming back in September? Matty Beniers is there. Jared McCann is well beyond there. Schwartz, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Eeli Tolvanen, and Jordan Eberle all have a realistic shot of getting there. It would mark seven players scoring 20-goals or more – covering three lines on the Kraken side. Four goals were scored across three different lines on Thursday night. Come playoff time, that’s valuable depth that cannot be single-handedly targeted for shutdown assignments.
Up next: the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, (7pm PT, Kraken Audio Network), who have lost back-to-back games after going 10-0-2 in a 12-game stretch, a franchise record.
KRAKEN LINEUP VS ANAHEIM, 3/30: