Greetings. It’s time for another Screenshot column, which tackles some of the issues and breaks them down into smaller chunks. Get your hands on it right away.
– The Seattle Kraken Open is in the middle of their first real leaderboard to slip, losing five games in a row and winning only three times in the past 10 (including seven losses in allotment time) and only once in eight games have passed. They are stuck at the bottom of the Pacific standings with a record of 4-11-1, 9 points and 4 teams behind after a playoff kick.
It’s not hard to see what’s missing from the Kraken. In all of the current 5 consecutive defeats, Seattle has conceded at least 4 goals, and in those 2 games, they scored an average of 6 goals. All three scorers they’ve used so far have a save rate of 0.877 or worse.
However, you cannot blame everything on the goalkeepers. Part of Seattle’s struggle has to be blamed on defense in front of No. 1 smash Philipp Grubauer and defenders Chris Driedger and Joey Daccord. Despite starring veterans Mark Giordano, Adam Larsson, and Vince Dunn, the defending corps looks dazed and confused, often in the early parts of the game. Kraken’s strikers were of no help in their area, and the end result left little support for Grubauer, Driedger and Daccord.
The news for Seattle is only getting worse over the next week: starting Friday, they host the Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals and Carolina; they then set off to confront the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Their 5-game losing streak could be 10 by the end of this month.
The Vegas Golden Knights’ first-year performance may have raised expectations too high for Seattle, which has avoided some big-name NHLers, whose big paychecks in the draft expansion in favor of having the space salary limit. Now, they have to contend with a roster that in part is unable to attack or defend as hard as many, if not most, teams. They’re struggling, but we’ll see how GM Ron Francis builds his roster as the season kicks off.
– At the other end of the win/loss ledger is the Winnipeg Jets, who currently top the Central Division with a 9-3-3 record and a current three-game winning streak. In many ways, they are the opposite of the Kraken; Winnipeg’s two top lines are attacking opponents, with the front line of wingers Andrew Copp and Nik Ehlers and centre-back Mark Scheifele combining for 32 points (and that is with Scheifele playing only nine of 15 games), and The second line saw wingers Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor and center back Pierre-Luc Dubois taking 40 points (and that was with Wheeler playing in just 10 games).
Combining Winnipeg’s powerful offensive capabilities with a smart, mobile defensive team (including Josh Morrissey, Nate Schmidt, Brenden Dillion and Neal Pionk combined for 32 points) and star goalkeeper Connor Hellebuyck, and you have an elite squad that can adapt to any opponent and play a run and shoot game, a high score game or a tight, low offense game. Since they started this season 0-2-1, they have gone 9-1-2. Just one loss of allotted time in that span has brought the Jets to the top spot in Central, but they’ll need to maintain this staggering pace to beat their championship rivals in Central. in Minnesota, Colorado and St. Louis. They have depth and talent, and now it’s all about staying healthy and peaking at the right time of year.
– On the subject of Connor McDavid’s critics – including veteran coach John Tortorella, who said on ESPN last week that McDavid should “shut up” about the lack of penalties when called upon against opponents. The player is wearing him – McDavid shouldn’t give them any oxygen, and continues to play the amazingly skilled, high-paced game for which he is now famous. He deserves more support from the league and its officials, who regularly cast the rule aside and allow top talent to be dragged down.
McDavid’s power (including efforts to limit it) is the latest in a long line of top NHLs whose skills are limited by the conditions of the game. Recall the New York Islander legend, Mike Bossy, whose career was stalled by repeated physical assaults on his people; or think of Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, who in 1992 called the NHL a “garage league” that allowed players to be held, hooked, and held without any penalty. Both Lemieux and Bossy are correct – the league does not impose sanctions on the game of obstruction; indeed, it encouraged it.
While modest achievements have been made in allowing NHL stars to shine, there’s clearly a lot of room left before things turn out to be ideal. In response to Tortorella’s backlash, McDavid said, “I guess I just need to shut up about this.” It doesn’t sound like an honest rendition of the Oilers superstar, and more like a way to defuse the uproar that came with his early-season displeasure.
Don’t listen to Tortorella, Connor. You are you, and keep plugging away. Let the game adapt to you, not the other way around.
https://www.si.com/hockey/news/screen-shots-kraken-jets-and-tortorella-vs-mcdavid Screenshots: Kraken, Jets and Tortorella vs. McDavid