Game Notes Kraken @ Oilers: Catch The Kraken

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
10 months ago
Things change quickly in the NHL and the adage you are only as good as your last game is often quite accurate. The Seattle Kraken were the first team in NHL history to win all seven games of a seven-game road trip earlier this month. They returned home and promptly lost 4-1 to Tampa Bay last night and had to jump back on a plane to Edmonton for tonight’s tilt. The Kraken were 4-7-1 in the 12 games prior to their unprecedented winning streak. Their hot streak wasn’t expected, and the Oilers have an opportunity to create their own lengthy, unexpected winning streak.
— The Oilers were 5-6-3 in 12 games prior to their current three-game winning streak. They were 3-3-1 in the seven games prior to winning the final three games of their Pacific division road trip, so you could argue they were starting to trend in the right direction. Regardless of how they got here, the Oilers are on a three-game winning streak and this week presents a scheduling advantage I can’t recall the Oilers having in a long time.
— The Oilers play Seattle, Tampa Bay and Vancouver, and all three teams will be playing their third game in four nights and the second night of back-to-back games when they face the Oilers. It doesn’t guarantee the Oilers win all three games, but it does give them a clear scheduling advantage.
— Combine that with the fact the Oilers have improved their defensive play 5×5 since Christmas and all arrows point to the Oilers having a good run over their next five games heading into the All-Star break. A hot streak should put the Oilers in a good position to battle for home ice in the Pacific during their final 30 games of the season.
— A regulation win would move the Oilers within three points of second place Seattle and Los Angeles and five back of first place Vegas. The key to the Oilers’ recent success has been their commitment to limiting their 5×5 goals against. The Oilers have allowed only 16 5×5 goals against in their 10 games since Christmas. They are tied with Carolina for sixth fewest goals allowed in that span. They had the sixth-best 5×5 GA in 38 games with Jay Woodcroft last season, so they’ve proven they can maintain this type of defensive success for more than 10 games.
— Edmonton had a 2-0 lead 23 minutes into their game two weeks ago v. the Kraken, but then fell asleep for 11 minutes and gave up four goals. It cost the Oilers the game. Seattle leads the NHL with 117 goals at 5×5. In their two previous meetings, outside of the 11-minute debacle, the Kraken didn’t create very much at all v. the Oilers. Seattle doesn’t have a top line to match the Oilers, who had Draisaitl-McDavid-Hyman skating together yesterday in practice. Throw in the Kostin-RNH-Janmark line, which is red-hot at 5×5 right now, and the Oilers have two lines that can beat you 5×5. The Oilers have started very well in both games v. the Kraken, outscoring them 5-0 in the first period, and they need to continue that tonight and put Seattle in chase mode.
— I read Olli Jokinen’s comments in an interview with Finnish national media outlet YLE about relating to Jesse Puljujarvi’s struggles. Jokinen spoke about how he struggled the first few seasons, but really took off when Mike Keenan became his coach, after Duane Sutter was fired, and Keenan told Jokinen to just play and not worry about mistakes. Not worrying about mistakes allows players to play freer. I get that, but I’m not sure I see many comparisons between the two players other than they are both Finnish.
Jokinen was drafted third overall by LA in 1997 and after finishing his season in Europe he played eight games at the end of the 1997-98 season with LA. He started the next season in the AHL and was recalled after nine games. He played 66 games with the Kings in 1999, but was traded at the draft to the Islanders in a blockbuster trade that involved Ziggy Palffy going to LA.
Then Jokinen spent one season with the Islanders, before being traded to Florida, along with Roberto Luongo for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish. His first two seasons with the Panthers he scored 16 and 29 points.
But in his fifth full NHL season he exploded with 36 goals and 65 points. His next four seasons he produced 26, 38, 39 and 34 goals and 58, 89, 91 and 71 points.
Puljujarvi was rushed to the NHL, and his first three years weren’t great for his development. He left the NHL and went to Finland to regain confidence, and after 72 games in Finland he returned to the Oilers a better player.
He scored 15-10-25 in 55 games in the shortened 2021 season and followed that up with 14-22-36 in 65 games last year. But this season he only has 4-6-10 in 45 games.
— When Jokinen exploded with 36 goals and 65 points in 2003, he was the Panthers’ leading scorer. Viktor Kozlov and Kristian Huselius were second and third in scoring with 56 and 43 points. In 2006 he led the Panthers with 89 points while Joe Nieuwendyk was second with 56. The following year Jokinen had 91 points and Nathan Horton was second with 62.
My point is Jokinen was their go-to forward. He wasn’t a complementary player. Jokinen is also a centre. I don’t see them as comparable in any way. Maybe Puljujarvi needs a change of scenery, but his most common linemate since he returned from Finland (165 games played) has been Connor McDavid. Puljujarvi has played 2,203 minutes at 5×5 over the past three seasons and 61% (1333) has been with McDavid. He has 18-18-36 in those minutes. Puljujarvi has played more minutes with the NHL’s leading scorer than any other Oilers forward at 5×5 the past three seasons. He’s played 400 minutes more than McDavid’s next most common linemate. No one can suggest he hasn’t had opportunities in Edmonton. I hope he has success on a new team, whether that happens this season or next, but expecting him to break out like Jokinen did is wishful thinking.
— Do you think Warren Foegele would break out if he goes to a new team?
Foegele has scored 51-51-102 in 314 NHL games.
Puljujarvi has produced 50-58-108 in 304 NHL games.
Foegele has played a total of 159 minutes with McDavid at 5×5 in his career and six minutes on the power play. Puljujarvi has skated 2,610 minutes at 5×5 and 135 minutes on the PP in his career with McDavid. I’m curious why so many feel Puljujarvi is due for a huge breakout in a different city? Is Puljujarvi that much more offensively skilled than Foegele?
Puljujarvi could score 20 goals in a season. It wouldn’t shock me, but to date he has shown very little improvement in his shot, passing or overall puck handling skills. His in-game work ethic is outstanding, but he will need to work on improving his puck skills in the summer if he wants to become a regular 20-goal man.
— Vincent Desharnais is such a great story. He was passed over in the 2014 and 2015 drafts before the Oilers selected him in the seventh round of the 2016 draft. He played three more seasons at Providence in the NCAA and earned a degree. He turned pro by signing an AHL deal with the Bakersfield Condors and started his career in the ECHL. He played 31 games in the ECHL before getting into six AHL games in 2020. The following year he started in the ECHL again, but after six games he was recalled to Bakersfield and finished the 2021 season playing 37 games. Last year he emerged as a solid defender and chipped in with 5-22-27 in 66 games and that earned him his first NHL contract. He signed a two-year, two-way deal on March 2nd, 2022.
Desharnais was injured during last year’s training camp, he got banged up again this year, and was unable to play any preseason games. But he kept grinding and this past Wednesday he made his NHL debut. It was the first time he’d ever worn an Oilers jersey. To say he was thrilled would be a major understatement. I, along with two other reporters, had a chance to speak with Desharnais yesterday. He was beaming. The excitement in his voice was booming. It is great to see someone accomplish their dream. He described his emotions.
Today feels a little more real than yesterday. I was talking to my parents this morning. They asked, ‘Oh how ya doing?’ and I said it all kind of felt like a dream for like a week. LA, Anaheim, San Jose, Vegas. One after the other, private jet, nice hotels. It was just like, I’m not used to this. What’s going on here? But yeah, I want to stay here, but I’m going one game at a time. I wake up every morning and just try to get better. That’s all it is.”
Desharnais is a large human. We interviewed him with his skates on which made him even bigger. His excitement matched his size.
— I asked Desharnais if he had a moment where he was able to applaud himself for finally making it to the NHL.
“I did, I actually did Saturday night on the plane (home from Vegas). I had a glass of red wine and I put my headphones in. Put on some music and I just closed my eyes and I talked to myself. I was like, ‘Do you realize what just happened?’ cause it all happened so quickly. You know I’m playing, and I didn’t have time to think about it. So, I was just next game, next game, next game. Then Saturday night I was thought, ‘Do you realize what just happened? The week you had?’ It was nice to think about it and really realize everything in the last 10 years, and then the week I had. It was a great moment.”
You couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. He was genuinely happy and was very open about his experience the past week. He didn’t look out of place in his three games, and he also mentioned being on the ice for the second last shift of the game with the Oilers protecting a one-goal lead. He loved it. He knows his role is to defend, and to get a shift that late in a one-goal game was huge for his confidence. It is a very small sample size, but Desharnais played very well. I’m intrigued to see how he does moving forward.
— Since Christmas the Oilers have scored the most first period goals (17) and Seattle is second with 16. The Oilers have allowed the second fewest goals (5) in the first. They have been ready to play from the opening whistle.
— The Kraken have won games recently despite a porous PK. Their PK is 70% since Christmas, allowing nine goals on 30 kills. The Oilers allowed four goals on seven kills v. LA, but in their other nine games they’ve killed off 24 of 26 power plays. Edmonton enters tonight with better special teams.
— Seattle’s goaltending stats don’t look good over the full season. Martin Jones has a .895Sv% and 2.76 GAA, while Philip Grubauer has an .888Sv% and 3.37 GAA, but Jones is 21-5-3. Wins matter, but in 2023 both goalies have performed much better.
Jones is 7-0 with a .926Sv%, a 1.86 GAA and two shutouts. Grubauer is 1-1 with a .922Sv% and 2.51 GAA. If the Kraken can get consistent goaltending, they suddenly become an even tougher opponent.
— Stuart Skinner put in a lot of work after practice yesterday. It was his first time on the ice in six days as he and his wife Chloe welcomed their son, Beau, into the world last Thursday. “I thought I was going to be worse,” said Skinner. “I felt better than I expected. It was tough early, but I pushed through it and my legs felt better by the end of practice.” I won’t be surprised if Jack Campbell starts tonight, and they give Skinner a few more days to get his legs back and then he starts Thursday v. Tampa Bay.
Campbell is 4-0 in his starts in 2023 and has posted a .921Sv% and 2.00 GAA.

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