Who: Seattle Kraken (13-25-4, 30 points, last place Pacific Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (27-10-5, 59 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) locally in the Western PA viewing area, Root Sports Northwest for the away market, ESPN+
Opponent Track: This is the first game out east in a while for Seattle, who just finished a six game home-stand (3-3-0 record) on a down note, losing 4-2 to Nashville on Tuesday in their last game before making the long flight yesterday. Overall the Kraken have struggled outside of Seattle, going just 4-11-2 on the road this season, including four straight away losses.
Pens Path Ahead: The home cookin’ continues when the Red Wings come to town tomorrow night and then it’s another Sunday afternoon home game (this weekend against the LA Kings). Following that, the suddenly struggling Capitals come to Pittsburgh next Tuesday (February 1st) to wrap up the six game home-stand for the Pens, as well as their pre-All Star Game schedule, with the team inactive until February 8th.
Hidden Stat: The Penguins are 13-4-4 against Western Conference opponents this year (h/t Pens PR).
Hidden Stat II: Notorious Penguin killer Jordan Eberle has 0 goals in his last 17 games (dare we point out that he last scored against the Pens, naturally). Eberle has 11 goals in his last 21 regular season games against Pittsburgh, dating back to the start of the 2016-17 season (and six more goals in 10 playoff games vs PIT in this span).
Hidden Stat III: The Penguins are 7-1-0 this season with Evgeni Malkin in the lineup
Season Series: The Pens opened up a can and won 6-1 out in Seattle on December 6th. Jeff Carter and Jake Guentzel notched two goals a piece in the blowout win, and as mentioned above only Eberle scored for the Kraken since it’s apparently a cosmic rule that Jordan Eberle is going to score against the Penguins. Tonight will conclude the first ever Pittsburgh/Seattle season series.
Trivia question: Jake Guentzel (297) is on the door-step of 300 points and is lining up to be the seventh fastest player in team history to reach 300 points from the start of their careers with Pittsburgh (important hint). Which six players went from 0 to 300 all with Pittsburgh faster? Answer at the bottom...
SBN Counterpart Blog: Our Seattle blog Davy Jones Locker Room has the newest takes on the NHL’s newest team.
—After opting to not pick a lot of high-end, proven NHL scorers available in their expansion draft (like Vladimir Tarasenko, Nino Neiderreiter, James van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek, Max Domi and impending FA Gabriel Landeskog, to name a few) a lot of observers were left wondering where all the goals would come from for Seattle. They’re still left wondering it half a season in with Seattle only have two players with double digit goals, and no one above 25 points. A lack of dynamic talent has turned into a big problem for the expansion team.
Where did it all go wrong?
Over at Davy Jones, they have a really in-depth and good look at just what has gone wrong in the first half of the season for the Kraken (tl;dr: pretty much everything that could go wrong, has). It’s worth checking out:
I won’t belabor any of the major things that have befallen the Kraken: Bottom of the Pacific Division, inconsistent, infuriating 2/3rds of an effort that usually come apart at the very beginning of the game or very end, multiple jobbings out at the hands of referees having trouble identifying what a kicking motion looks like, a season-long catastrophic goaltending performance crash that puts even Grubauer and Dreidger’s positive performances into question, Fancystats that build up to a team that’s ultimately just kind of okay...and the cherry on top of the shit sandwich, the heart and soul forward Brandon Tanev being out for the rest of the season.
Only Seattle could have a season start not just so poorly, but so bizarrely poorly. The results have been more or less understood, but how we get there seems destined to drive people nuts, and for good reason.
And you know what? maybe we shouldn’t have expected Vegas levels of success out of the gate, that’s fair. That only happens with a lot of help from GMs not being particularly wise to what they have in their cupboards and this time they probably had the wherewithal to recognize that the Kraken were still going to play games at some point. The Kraken still got a pretty decent team out of this, at least on paper...but in practice? Things feel off, and it’s translating to hair-pullingly poor play on their worst nights.
There’s plenty of angles to look into, but it boils down to: far from optimized expansion drafting, making Dave Hakstol the coach, good goaltenders inexplicably and maddeningly playing like poop on top of the normal injuries and COVID absences. Tough times.
Even quicker, if you want to see why Seattle is bad, just look below. They made a big bet on Philipp Grubauer with a six-year contract. It didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time. It’s been a dreadful year. Goalies often are going up and down, so the hope now is that Grubauer rebounds next season (ala Tristan Jarry or Carter Hart this year) like nothing ever happened.
Starting Goalie Rankings - January 22 pic.twitter.com/LwUornUHlR— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) January 22, 2022
Tuesday Game Lines
Marcus Johansson - Jared McCann - Jordan Eberle
Calle Jarnkrok - Yanni Gourde - Mason Appleton
Ryan Donato - Alex Wennberg - Joonas Donskoi
Karson Kuhlman - Riley Sheahan - Colin Blackwell
Mark Giordano / Adam Larsson
Vince Dunn / Will Borgen
Haydyn Fleury / Jeremy Lauzon
Goalies: Philipp Grubauer and Joey Daccord
Scratches: Carson Soucy, Jamie Oleksiak (day-to-day injury), Morgan Geekie
COVID Protocol: Chris Dreidger
IR: Jaden Schwartz, Brandon Tanev
—If you missed it, former Penguin and fan favorite Tanev is out for the season with a torn ACL. He was having a great season for Seattle and quickly ingratiated himself as a core player and even face of the team type player. Now he’s 30, will have to work back from a bad knee and still has three years left on a hefty contract, which is again why a lower-line player shouldn’t get a super long-term deal that is also worth a lot of money. But folks sure do like him!
—This team doesn’t really look like a last place team, but with awful goaltending and no stars (ala a Marchessault or Reilly Smith or William Karlsson like Vegas had) to pour in goals, it’s just missing that something.
—And, seriously, you have years to plan every little detail of an expansion team and choose Dave Hakstol to be coach? This is tough to get over.
And now for the Pens..
Projected Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Evan Rodrigues
Zach Aston-Reese - Brian Boyle - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Projected Starting Goalie: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith backup)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Radim Zohorna
COVID Protocol: none!
IR: Drew O’Connor (week-to-week, lower body injury), Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Louis Domingue, Teddy Blueger (broken jaw, out 6-8 weeks)
—The Penguins practiced yesterday in the alignment above, same as their Tuesday night win over Arizona.
Hitting the rocket boosters
The Pens have totally taken off since about the beginning of December. Per the team’s PR department:
Head coach Mike Sullivan has the Penguins playing some of the best hockey in the league over the last two months, as they have just two regulation losses in their last 19 games, going 17-2-0 since December 4. Pittsburgh’s 17 wins in that stretch are tied with Colorado for most in the NHL and their 34 points are second most.
On the morning of Dec. 4, the Penguins were tied for 17th in the NHL with a 10-8-5 record and 25 points. Despite 75 man-games lost due to injury since Pittsburgh’s 17-2-0 stretch began on Dec. 4, which includes games missed by key players such as Evgeni Malkin (11), Bryan Rust (11), Jason Zucker (11), Jake Guentzel (5), Danton Heinen (4), Brock McGinn (3) and Jeff Carter (3) among others, Pittsburgh has climbed to fifth in the NHL with a 27-10-5 record (59 points) and just one point from first place in the Metropolitan Division (NY Rangers, 60).
Milestone and streak watch
- The Penguins are currently on a six game winning streak overall, the second longest active streak in the NHL behind Colorado (8).
- PPG Paints has been friendly as well, with the Pens boasting an active eight-game home winning streak.
- Sidney Crosby is now three goals away from 500 in his illustrious career.
- Jake Guentzel is three points away from cracking the 300 mark.
Speaking of that last note, which six players got to 300 points from the start of their careers with Pittsburgh faster than Jake Guentzel (entering his 336th game tonight) will?
-Mario Lemieux (186)
-Sidney Crosby (219)
-Evgeni Malkin (240)
-Kevin Stevens (273)
-Jaromir Jagr (298)
-Mike Bullard (321)