3 burning questions after a 5-2 loss to Minnesota

2024 Discover NHL Winter Classic - Vegas Golden Knights v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 01: Andre Burakovsky #95 of the Seattle Kraken waits for play to begin against the Vegas Golden Knights during the second period at T-Mobile Park on January 01, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

It’s one thing to address the ramifications in a 5-2 defeat like the Seattle Kraken suffered to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night. 

It’s another when it comes at a crucial time of year. Just ask Vince Dunn for his takeaway, who scored the game opening goal 36 seconds in, then had his effort erased by five unanswered goals from the Wild. 

“Just remember how it sucks to lose,” said Vince Dunn. “Being outworked in the second period in our own building, that’s not what any of us deserve in this dressing room.” 

“It’s a big loss right now; We know these points are important.” 

The Kraken have dropped five points back of the wild card spot with 25 games to play. That may seem like a paltry deficit to work on, except they have to jump four teams (within five points or less) to dislodge anyone from the final wild card position. Minnesota is one of them, who used a five point night from arguably the hottest line in the NHL - Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy and Joel Eriksson-Ek. Add to that: the homestand now has a steep climb uphill, with the Bruins (Monday), Penguins (Thursday), and Oilers (Saturday) looming ahead. 

After Dunn scored, the Wild took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission on former Kraken forward Marcus Johansson’s ninth goal of the year, and a five-on-three goal by Kaprizov. 

Joey Daccord, who allowed the Kaprizov goal on loose coverage at the left post, wouldn’t last the night and was pulled after allowing four goals on 13 shots. Dakota Mermis greeted Philipp Grubauer’s first look with a snap shot through traffic and over Grubauer’s shoulder for a 5-1 lead at 6:58, and the Kraken were only able to muster a third period Jordan Eberle deflection past Marc-Andre Fleury for a 5-2 deficit. 


1.     What will happen with the Joey Daccord and Philipp Grubauer goaltending share?

It’s fair to suggest Grubauer could see more action, based on the rocky outing that Daccord endured on Saturday, and an effective Grubauer since his return from injury (2-0 record, added to 17 saves on 18 shots in relief). Pulling Daccord for Grubauer on Saturday, to Hakstol in the second period, wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when.” And “when” happened with Daccord surrendering a clean wrist shot to Kaprizov from the left circle for a 4-1 deficit. 

“To be honest with you, I had the instinct one goal earlier,” said Hakstol.  but Joey’s been really godo for us. He’s fought hard, he’s battled. Tonight wasn’t his night. This is not on him. He, just like everybody else, has to address his own performance, shake it off, and be ready to go for the next one.”

This point of the season still suggests Daccord, though starting 21 of the last 25 games, is the guy for the big games this season. The body of work that generated a nine-game win streak to resuscitate Kraken playoff hopes around Christmas had was signature work by Daccord in a watershed season. That “next one” Hakstol referenced could include a rematch with the Bruins, who fell to Daccord’s masterful effort 10 days ago at TD Garden. 

2.     Can special teams muster a turnaround? 

They made a difference: the Wild went 2-of-6 on the power play, while the Kraken came up empty on five chances. But it was the kind of penalties that frustrated Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol – from matching minors that knocked Vince Dunn and Brandon Duhaime into the boxes, to the type of infractions that dislodged the Kraken from their controlled chaos of five-on-five.  

“Especially stick penalties,” said Hakstol. “Penalties that put us down five-on-three and give the other team free opportunities and a team who’s been 30-plus percent on the power play last dozen games, down to other things.”

“That’s me included head of the line. I’m not frustrated. I think we should be pretty upset with ourselves on this one tonight.”  

3.     Buyer or seller? 

The margin for error became incredibly slim, if not non-existent with the slew of challenging games on the horizon. After the homestand, the Kraken will have to deal with a back-to-back against Calgary and Winnipeg, then host the Jets on trade deadline day. 

Questions are getting louder about the future of pending free agents, from Jordan Eberle’s future and reported talk of an extension, to Tomas Tatar deflecting talk about his future at morning skate on Saturday, with uncertainty still clouding the Kraken this week. 

“It’s early to talk about it,” said Tatar. “There’s a lot at stake right now on the table.” 

Rallying once again validates a roster that’s ready for another run. But it’s an incredible fine line. Further slipping out of the playoff picture means the Kraken will be forced to address their future, and jump into the scenario of playing the long game. They have a stable of prospects ready to potentially contribute to significant roles next season (Shane Wright and Ryan Winterton among those in Coachella Valley) while shedding payroll north of potentially $20 million this summer opens up more roster opportunities with an impressive free agent class.

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