Kraken get 1st-ever win vs. Canucks, surpass last year's win total

Oliver Bjorkstrand's 2nd goal puts Kraken up 5-0 (0:34)

Oliver Bjorkstrand's 2nd goal puts Kraken up 5-0 (0:34)

Oliver Bjorkstrand's two goals did more than just pace the Seattle Kraken in a commanding 6-1 victory Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks at Climate Pledge Arena.

The Kraken's first-ever win against the Canucks also came with the significance they surpassed their entire win total from last season. A year ago, the Kraken's troublesome maiden voyage led to them finishing 27-49-6 with questions about how long it would take for them to get better.

But now? They are 28-14-5, are in the discussion for the Pacific Division crown, could possibly contend for the best record in the Western Conference and per Moneypuck, they have a 95.4% chance of reaching the playoffs.

"It's a different team that's definitely figured some things out this season," Bjorkstrand said. "We're on to some good stuff. Consistency is a huge thing and I think throughout the season for the most part, I think we've been pretty consistent."

Although, not everything went as planned. Star rookie center Matty Beniers hit his head on the ice after he was hit from the side by Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers. Beniers played 9:52 in ice time and did not play in the third period.

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol was asked about Beniers' status and responded by only saying he was not available for the third period.

Naturally, the Kraken's turnaround from cellar-dwellers to a potential playoff team has created questions around how they have found success.

Turns out? There are quite a few reasons.

Some of it comes from what Kraken general manager Ron Francis and the front office did in the offseason. They switched goaltending coaches and hired Steve Briere from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Kraken also hired former Winnipeg Jets interim coach Dave Lowry, who was also an assistant with three NHL teams, to Hakstol's staff.

They signed forward Andre Burakovsky, goaltender Martin Jones and defenseman Justin Schultz in free agency. They also traded some of the assets they acquired at last year's trade deadline to get Bjorkstrand.

Burakovsky and Bjorkstrand strengthened their top-six winger group. Jones gave them a goaltender who was initially set to fill in for an injured Chris Driedger, who had offseason surgery for a torn ACL. Jones then took on a greater workload when Philipp Grubauer suffered an in-season injury. Schultz gave them a top-four right-handed puck-moving option to have another experienced figure on the blueline.

Beniers, the No. 2 pick from the 2021 NHL draft, continued tapping into his promise, building on his nine points in 10 games last season to representing the Kraken this year at the NHL All-Star Game next week. Defensemen Will Borgen and Vince Dunn, along with forwards such as Morgan Geekie and Daniel Sprong, are all examples of players who were around last season that have earned greater roles within the team.

And even the in-season moves have been fruitful, such as picking up forward Eeli Tolvanen on waivers and seeing him notch eight points in 13 games. Tolvanen, who scored against the Canucks, was one of 10 Kraken players who recorded a point on Wednesday.

Now combine those details with a veteran core featuring Yanni Gourde, Jordan Eberle, Adam Larsson, Jared McCann and Jaden Schwartz, among others.

It results in a team that came into Wednesday with 17 players who have more than 10 points, 13 players who have more than 20 points, an attack-minded approach that is fourth in goals per game coupled with a defensive structure that's allowed the fourth-fewest shots per game.

"I think the lineup that we put out every night is a little bit different than last year," said Dunn, whose two points against the Canucks gives him a career-high 36 on the season. "It's given me a lot of opportunity to create chances for myself. ... I think [it's] just the whole team doing well. You put the team first, and individual success comes from that."

Furthermore, Beniers continues to be among the favorites to win the Calder Trophy for the NHL's Rookie of the Year by leading his peers in goals and points. Meanwhile, Hakstol's efforts have allowed him to build a case to be considered for the Jack Adams Award which goes to the NHL's Coach of the Year.

There is also more to the Kraken than strong statistics, potential individual accolades, being the first team in NHL history to win a seven-game road trip and surpass last season's win total with 35 games left in the regular season.

Their latest win also means they are sitting atop the Pacific. Seattle is level with the Vegas Golden Knights on points. But the Kraken have a higher points percentage [.649] than the Golden Knights [.622] while also having two games in hand.

"Last year was not fun, right? But you gotta go through those hard times in order to work and build and there's a lot of guys in this room that went through that and stayed with it and are finding a little bit of success right now," Hakstol said. "For us, it's about the two points tonight. Now, we get a day of rest and we got two left [before the All-Star Break]. Hey, it's a hell of a lot of fun winning along the way. That's where the fun comes in. But tonight was a hard-working group."