Who knew preseason hockey could be so thrilling? In front of a jam-packed Angel of the Winds Arena (one Angel, two Winds) in Everett, the Kraken pulled goalie Joey Daccord for an extra skater late in the third, still trailing the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. Jaden Schwartz got his stick on a Mark Giordano shot and deflected it past Stuart Skinner, and the building erupted.
Then in overtime, Haydn Fleury drove hard to the net to draw a four-on-three power play, and Jared McCann one-timed a Jordan Eberle pass against the grain on Skinner to send the newly minted Kraken faithful home happy.
Now, there’s no reason to get overly excited about a preseason victory, but also, there’s no reason not to get excited. After all, this is still just the fourth “game” in the history of this franchise, and getting some exhilarating moments this early in the process is a great way to energize a fledgling fanbase.
Here are our takeaways from a riveting 2-1 Seattle Kraken overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers.
Takeaway #1: The Kraken have a power play
We talked after last game about how good the trio of Jaden Schwartz, Jared McCann, and Jordan Eberle has looked in the preseason and how they seem to be solidifying themselves as the team’s top scoring line.
On Saturday, with Alexander Wennberg in the lineup for the first time, we consistently saw a group on the man advantage that consisted of Schwartz, McCann, and Eberle with Wennberg and Giordano up top. That group looked excellent, and head coach Dave Hakstol agreed.
“That group was good tonight,” he said. “I don’t really judge it by zone time, but we did a good job in terms of creating possession, getting in the zone. I thought we did a good job getting pucks back and we created good scoring opportunities, so that unit tonight was pretty effective.”
Hakstol also implied that it will not be the last time we see that unit together.
“Does it have a chance to start together? Absolutely. But, I mean it’s Game 4 of the exhibition season, so we’ve got a long ways to go, but that unit did a good job and created opportunities.”
By the way, Hakstol said on Friday morning he doesn’t want to anoint the Schwartz/McCann/Eberle line as “the number one line,” but let’s be honest here; if they stick together, they are the top group, plain and simple.
Takeaway #2: Alex Wennberg does it all
In his first exhibition game in a Kraken sweater, Wennberg looked like he was ready to play regular-season hockey. Slotted between fellow Swedes Marcus Johansson and Calle Jarnkrok, he did create several offensive opportunities and was credited with four shots, while his linemates had five and six respectively. He also had the secondary assist on the last-minute tying goal by Schwartz.
But it was on special teams where Wennberg really showed his value. With the Kraken marching to the penalty box in the first period, Hakstol repeatedly turned to Wennberg and paired him with Jarnkrok to help kill. And later in the game, when the tides turned, there was Wennberg once again, making tic-tac-toe passing plays on the top power play unit alongside Giordano.
“My type of game is I like to play in both ends, so I take a lot of responsibility on the [penalty kill]” Wennberg said after the game. “So obviously there’s a lot new with the system and all, so I think it’s great to get a chance to practice it and try it, and same with the power play. I like when they put me out there and challenge me to play those spots, and then you just sort of make the best out of it.”
With this being Wennberg’s first appearance, there may have been some level of evaluation being done by Hakstol to see how effective the center could be in certain situations, but if so, he had to have passed most of those tests.
Takeaway #3: Seattle still has plenty of room for improvement
Hakstol noted in his post-game press scrum that Seattle spent some long stretches in the defensive zone, and it sapped a lot of their energy. If we were in the business of reading too deeply into what that means, being that the Kraken dressed a lot of their best players and the Oilers held out the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, we would be concerned. But we aren’t in that business, so we will show no concern here.
Hakstol himself wasn’t terribly concerned either, though he indicated that the roster didn’t bring the same pressure from top to bottom as he may have hoped.
“I take everything into account, I look at matchups, I look at the result of those shifts, and the bottom line tonight is that they were more ready coming out of the gates than we were,” he said. “And then there were several shifts in each period where they did a good job with possession. They didn’t get inside on us very much, but they won a lot of puck battles.”
And he’s right. If you look back at the opportunities, there are very few that jump to mind for the Oilers that one would consider “Grade A” chances.
Still, Hakstol was not shy in indicating that not all of the lines brought the same momentum generation as, say, the McCann line.
“If I take anything away from it, you know, I look at those things, and I’m going to look at the individuals that are involved in those battles and what the results are. That’s part of training camp. That’s what we’re trying to figure out here. We’re trying to figure out guys that can help us build shifts and build momentum.”
Five players dismissed from camp
On Saturday morning, the Kraken made five cuts from their NHL camp, placing Connor Carrick, Antoine Bibeau, Cale Fleury, and Gustav Olofsson on waivers and assigning Luke Henman to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers.
The team still has some decisions to make as it trims down to a 23-man roster before the opening of the regular season.
Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at Sound Of Hockey and the host, producer, and editor of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is an inconsistent beer league goalie who believes that five players have to make a mistake before the puck gets to him. Follow him on Twitter @DarrenFunBrown or email firstname.lastname@example.org.