Seattle Kraken, Jared McCann

Seattle Kraken: Crazy To Call It A Must Win?

Given the situation; the Seattle Kraken’s final game before a nine day break, one against the team with the fewest points in the NHL, and with five teams within five points of each other at the top of the Pacific Division, it’s not unreasonable to consider Saturday night’s game a ‘must win’.

It’s like winning that last game before coming home off a long east coast road trip. Teams hate to make long flights with a sour taste in their mouths. Same thing here. The Kraken have been cranking, but there’s no way they want to be thinking about slipping down the Pacific Division standings after a loss to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets.

That’s just a little bit of what’s at stake.

The first place LA Kings (52 points) are up for a challenge against the Lightning in Tampa Saturday while the second place Kraken (51 points and two games in hand) take on the Jackets. The third place Vegas Golden Knights (also 51 points, but 2 more games played than Seattle) visit the New York Islanders Saturday evening.

It’s not just a feel-very-good opportunity for the Seattle Kraken, it’s an opportunity to be sitting on top of the mountain after 49 games. The alternative is feeling not very good and potentially falling to third place.

By the way, a Kraken victory would be their first ever against the Blue Jackets, leaving just the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning as the only NHL teams the Seattle Kraken has never beaten. The Kraken got ‘off the schneid’ with a win against the Vancouver Canucks earlier this week after starting out 0-and-6.

Seattle Kraken Milestones and Moments

This will be the first game for Kraken forward Oliver Bjorkstrand against his former club, the team that drafted him in the 3rd-round of the NHL Draft in 2013. Bjorkstrand ranks 7th all-time in Blue Jackets history for goals and 8th in all-time points. Seattle traded a couple of previously acquired draft picks for ‘Ollie’ last summer.

The Seattle Kraken penalty kill has crept up to a 71.9% overall efficiency rate on the season as it continues a streak that has seen it kill off 15 consecutive opposing power plays over the last six games. Obviously the overall number isn’t a good one, but it’s how you finish the season, not how you start it. The power play has slipped a wee bit to 20.6% on the season.

Saturday evening will mark the 600th career NHL game for another former Blue Jacket, Seattle Kraken center Alexander Wennberg, who has eight points over fourteen games in the month of January. Like Bjorkstrand, Columbus took Wennberg in the 2013 draft, 1st-round, 14th overall.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.