Preseason takeaways in a 4-1 Kraken loss to Edmonton

Dallas Stars v Seattle Kraken - Game Six

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MAY 13: Tye Kartye #52 of the Seattle Kraken warms up before the game against the Dallas Stars in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Climate Pledge Arena on May 13, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Connor McDavid, not surpsingly, spearheaded a three-goal push by the Edmonton Oilers in the third period to break a tie game and send the Seattle Kraken to a 4-1 defeat before a sellout crowd on Monday night at Climate Pledge Arena in the pre-season home finale. 

The Kraken fell to 2-1-1 in the pre-season with two games remaining to determine roster spots ahead of the Oct. 10 season opener at Vegas. Jack Campbell turned in a stellar performance for the Oilers with a 32 save effort, while Philipp Grubauer took the loss with 10 saves on 13 shots. 

Xavier Borgault, Edmonton’s first round pick two years and making a push for the Oilers roster, led the way with two goals. 

Three immediate takeaways: 

1.     TYE KARTYE HAS JUST ABOUT CHECKED EVERY BOX. At 22 years of age, it’s almost at the point where it’s bizarre to think about putting Kartye anywhere else but on the opening night roster. He was in on three individual scoring chances, nearly setting up Cale Fleury on a shorthanded break. He earned the most ice time out of any forward on the penalty kill. He blocked three shots. He played the body. He led the team with three hits, along with Fleury. The only fault on Monday was Kartye “lost a couple of seams” according to Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. But at this point, he has done nearly everything asked of him. 

“I’m pretty pleased,” said Kartye. “I’m obviously putting my best foot forward every time I’m on the ice. That’s all I can control.” 

The challenge in this exercise lies in the fact there are four solid left wingers ahead on the depth chart, who were a part of the regular crew last season: Jared McCann, Jaden Schwartz, Eeli Tolvanen, and Brandon Tanev. Putting Kartye in one of those spots displaces someone with more experience. An alternative is putting Kartye in a position (for instance, right wing) that’s not normally suited for him. Or, he could make the roster as an extra forward, and slide into the lineup if a change is needed based on performance, or injury. 

Either way, Kartye appears ready for the next step. 

2.     THE MATTY BENIERS LINE DESERVED MORE. By the looks of puck possession with Matty Beniers flanked by Jared McCann and Jordan Eberle, they’re set. The trio combined to generate a whopping 12-2 advantage in shot attempts at full strength, along with a shot quality mark of 71 percent. The problem: no goals, and Jack Campbell happened. Beniers – though this came shorthanded – was stoned on a break in the second period, while McCann was denied on a highway robbery save in the third period, via Campbell’s glove, that kept the Kraken at a two-goal deficit. 

As results matter less on the scoreboard in preseason, and the optics of individual fit are closely examined in the pre-season, they’re ready to hit the starting blocks right where they left off. 

3.     THE POWER PLAY BEGINS WITH FACE-OFFS. The Kraken scored their only goal on the power play which included a tap-in by Kailer Yamamoto following impressive puck movement (guess what: he leads the team with three pre-season goals!), but in an overarching sense, we’re seeing another step taken with this part of the special teams unit. It begins at the face-off circle. Edmonton won the face-off battle for the game, 55-45 percent. But on the power play, the Kraken were sufficient, winning draws at a 50 percent clip. As puck possession dictates offensive zone time and an increased rate in scoring opportunities, improvement not just overall, but on special teams may make a big impact in fortunes this season. 

“A lot of progress, power play wise,” said Hakstol. “Not only the goal we scored, but the other opportunities. Just the opportunities, where they came from. We had some real good looks. You need to take the next step and finish those, and those affect the game, but I liked what we saw on the power play today.” 

To note, Vince Dunn did not play, and Ryker Evans took a spot on the point, where Hakstol credited Evans’ “poise” with a week to go in pre-season. 

But back to the dot: Matty Beniers, who struggled at a 42 percent pace last season at the dot, was the most deployed member of the Kraken last night and went 10-of-18, winning 56 percent of his face-offs. As he is a top-bill member of the power play, team success on the power play and his success at the face-off circle will likely go hand in hand. Monday night was the continuation of a good start. 

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