Preview: Golden Knights visit Kraken in search of third consecutive win
This is the first of four 2022-23 meetings between the NHL’s two newest clubs.
The Vegas Golden Knights (2-0-0) are undefeated and will look to maintain that status when they take on the Seattle Kraken (1-0-1) tonight at Climate Pledge Arena.
Vegas is coming off its second win of the year, a 1-0 shutout victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. Logan Thompson stole the show, making 27 saves for his second career shutout and second win of the year; it is one of just two shutouts in the NHL so far this season (Detroit’s Ville Husso shut out Montreal last night).
Thompson has stopped a combined 54 of 57 shots this season, good for a .947 save percentage and 1.50 goals-against average.
RECAP: Golden Knights ride Logan Thompson’s 27-save effort to 1-0 win against Blackhawks
Paul Cotter scored the lone goal for Vegas. Jonathan Marchessault, Jack Eichel, William Karlsson and Mark Stone scored in Vegas’ season opener against the Kings.
Stone and Chandler Stephenson had a handful of odd-man rushes against Chicago but were unable to convert; once that established chemistry fully kicks in, those two could be a dangerous combination for the Golden Knights, especially in a second-line capacity.
Brett Howden has benefited from skating with them, as he leads all Golden Knights skaters in individual expected goals (1.02) and is second in individual Corsi (11) and individual high-danger Corsi (four). He is third on the team in shots at 5-on-5 with six and is tied for first in scoring chances (seven).
One thing to keep an eye on is Phil Kessel’s ice time. He played under 13 minutes on Thursday and was benched for part of the game; only the fourth line and Cotter saw less ice time.
Interestingly, Brayden McNabb leads all Golden Knights defensemen in shots through two games with five. Shea Theodore has just two. The Vegas blue line accounted for a combined 183 points last season but has yet to get going through two games.
Seattle, which has yet to lose in regulation, suffered a 5-4 overtime loss to Anaheim in its season opener but bounced back with a 4-1 win against the Kings on Thursday.
In the Anaheim contest, Seattle held a 3-1 lead with 1:36 remaining in the second period and a 4-2 lead through the first 10 minutes of the third period but gave up two goals in the third and lost 55 seconds into extra time.
Matty Beniers leads the Kraken in scoring through two games with one goal and two assists; Jaden Schwartz, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Andre Burakovsky and Justin Schultz each have two points.
Bjorkstrand, Burakovsky and Schultz were acquired by general manager Ron Francis in the offseason.
2022-23 Pacific Division Preview: Seattle Kraken
Schultz recorded two assists against Anaheim, while Schwartz, Burakovsky and Bjorkstrand found the scoresheet in both games so far this season.
Martin Jones stopped 26 of 27 shots Thursday against the Kings, while Philipp Grubauer surrendered five goals on 27 shots for an .815 save percentage. Grubauer likely will start tonight, especially given Jones’ track record against Vegas.
Seattle has scored eight goals through two games and sits in second place in the Pacific Division with three points, trailing only Vegas (four).
However, the Kraken are coming off a disappointing inaugural campaign in which they won just 27 games and finished in last place in the Pacific Division and Western Conference and 30th in the NHL.
They went 0-4-0 against Vegas in 2021-22 and were outscored 16-7.
Five Kraken players recorded a goal and an assist against the Golden Knights in last year’s season series: Ryan Donato, Jared McCann, Alex Wennberg, Jordan Eberle and Joonas Donskoi.
Marchessault, Stephenson and Theodore led Golden Knights skaters with six, five and four points, respectively.
Not surprisingly, Seattle was excellent on the penalty kill in the season series, shutting down 88.9 percent of Vegas’ attempts. However, that may have had more to do with the Vegas power play than the Seattle penalty kill.
Even so, Seattle had the sixth-best penalty kill against Vegas last year.
Seattle has struggled on the penalty kill so far this season, however, sitting at 62.5 percent, good for 26th in the NHL.
The Golden Knights are 1-for-8 on the power play, though the difference in the mechanics of the power play between this year and last year is staggering. At least so far, the power play — even when unsuccessful — has not drained momentum or been more of a detriment than an asset. That being said, the Golden Knights will look to improve on the man-advantage as the season goes on, including tonight in Seattle.
The Golden Knights also will look for a better start tonight, something Vegas has yet to accomplish so far this season. The first period of Thursday’s game was particularly rough, though Thompson kept it scoreless until Vegas turned things around.
Ideally, Vegas also will generate more offensively. Though the Golden Knights have recorded 88 shots through two games, there have been a lot of broken plays and missed opportunities. It’s difficult to win 1-0 games on a regular basis.
Stone and Marchessault missed yesterday’s practice for maintenance purposes. Stone took a shot Thursday against Chicago, while Marchessault has a nagging lower-body injury, according to Bruce Cassidy, who is hopeful both will play tonight.