(Kraken story by Glenn Dreyfuss)
The Seattle Kraken currently occupy the first wild card position in the West with 88 points, three ahead of the Winnipeg Jets. With nine games remaining in the regular season, the calculus for the Kraken is simple: win the games they’re supposed to win and the second-year franchise will earn its first playoff berth.
One of those “supposed to beat” teams, the Anaheim Ducks, roll into Climate Pledge Arena Thursday night. The league’s 29th-best team is riding a five game losing streak. Of Seattle’s eight other remaining games, three are against the Arizona Coyotes (27th), with singles against the Vancouver Canucks (23rd) and Chicago Blackhawks (30th). Grab a majority of points against these playing-out-the-string foes, and a season-ending home and home with the Vegas Golden Knights should merely be for seeding.
Of course, the Kraken right now are listing, and can’t afford to overlook any opponent. Coming off a 5-1 loss in Minnesota on Monday, Seattle has won just four of its last 10, including a 5-2 pasting of the Ducks on March 7th. In that game, Kraken left wing Jared McCann (35G-24A-59Pts) led the way with a goal and an assist. In addition to McCann, top defense pairing Vince Dunn and Adam Larsson deserve much of the credit for a season of 40 wins and counting. Dunn leads the team with 48 assists and 61 points; Larsson is a club-best +26.
“We’re having a lot more fun this year. Winning games is a lot easier mentally,” center Morgan Geekie said to Fox-13. “One thing we’re really good at is depth. It shows with the amount of guys having career years.”
Geekie is one of those, having recently been bumped up to the second line. His 17 assists – one each in four of the last five games – is a career best, as is his 24 points. That’s even more impressive considering Morgan averages just over 10 minutes time on ice per game.
“I’ve become a better overall player,” Geekie noted. “It isn’t one thing in particular.” Geekie also noted his team’s adaptability. “We can play a 2-1 game, or we can score lots of goals.”
Seattle’s goaltending continues to be a night-to-night roller coaster. Phillip Grubauer careened downhill Monday, pulled after allowing four goals on 13 shots in just over two periods of work. Despite moments of brilliance from Grubauer and partner Martin Jones, the season-long numbers don’t inspire confidence. They rank 58th and 59th respectively among netminders in GAA (3.05/3.07), and 83rd and 84th in save percentage (.889/.887).
Series notes: Overall, Seattle has won two of the previous three meetings with Anaheim. On November 27 at Honda Center, Matty Beniers scored a goal and added two helpers as the Kraken edged the Ducks, 5-4. On October 12th, opening night for both teams, Troy Terry scored 55 seconds into overtime to give the Ducks a 5-4 victory. Two of hockey’s finest young centers will be on display Thursday. Beniers of Seattle leads all NHL rookies in points (20-30-50), while Anaheim’s Mason McTavish (16-26-42) isn’t far behind.
Puck drop is a little after 7 pm pacific.