It’s here, it’s here! It’s finally here! The first home playoff game in the history of the Seattle Kraken will be played Saturday night at Climate Pledge Arena.
The excitement from Kraken players was palpable at morning skate at Kraken Community Iceplex, where Seattle appeared to be working through some slight tactical adjustments to the power play and executing quick transitions through the neutral zone.
One housekeeping item, Morgan Geekie was not on the ice for the session, but coach Dave Hakstol said it was a maintenance day. That indicates Geekie should be good to assume his spot on the wing next to Jaden Schwartz and Alex Wennberg, but we will keep an eye on that in warmups.
Jesper Froden took Geekie’s spot in line rushes and did not stay out with the healthy scratches for extra work at the end of practice. He normally would continue skating if he was not planning to be in the lineup, so we thought that was worth noting.
Colorado’s personnel changes in Game 2
One thing we found interesting in Game 2 was Avalanche coach Jared Bednar’s decision to split up Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. It seemed to work, at least for that game, but the idea that Bednar felt the need to counter what Seattle brought with its depth in Game 1 went against the narrative coming into the series. While everyone was asking what Seattle could do to stop Colorado’s high-octane attack, nobody expected Bednar to be tinkering after one game, trying to find a way to make his big guns more effective against the Kraken.
“I think it’s just a different look for them,” said Ryan Donato. “If anything, it spreads out— I mean, those two guys together are very dynamic. So I think there’s strengths for them being together and strengths for them not being together, but for us, it doesn’t change anything.”
Eeli Tolvanen added that having them on the same line makes them very dynamic, but with the duo split apart, it means there’s one of the two on the ice almost all the time. “I think you have to be more careful on line changes and all that because they’re not playing the same line,” said Tolvanen, who is celebrating his 24th birthday Saturday. “I feel like they’re going to be on the ice for more, but I think all our lines are doing a good job defensively. So it doesn’t matter who’s out there.”
Hakstol echoed Tolvanen’s sentiments. Although being at home gives Hakstol the advantage of the last change before face-offs, he says the team won’t be overly hung up on which line is out there at any given time.
“We’ve never been a big line matchup team, if you look at it historically throughout the year,” Hakstol said. “There’ll be some of that. Being at home allows you to get some matchups, it allows you to avoid some matchups. But like I said, we haven’t been a hard match team all year, and we’re not going to start now.”
While the Avalanche have been tinkering with their lines, the Kraken have tried to stay focused on themselves and only change things if they fit better to their strengths. “It’s still about what adjustments we can make that make us more effective,” said Hakstol. “It’s not just about the adjustments; if you’re not good at something, you’re not going to adjust to that. So it’s finding adjustments that fit your game, that fit the opportunity.”
Kraken players expect an electric atmosphere
The atmosphere in Climate Pledge Arena has been fantastic all season long, but we are expecting some big-time goosebump moments on Saturday. Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said last week there’s a new pre-game show coming for the playoffs, and we know a plaza party will be happening outside. So, the organization is doing what it can to bolster the excitement, but it will be the crowd that should hoist this game into “unforgettable” status.
“I think it’s going to be awesome,” said Tolvanen. “The whole regular season it was really loud. Everybody showed up; the fans did a really good job in the regular season. So [with the] playoffs, I think there’s going to be a notch more, and I think everybody’s really excited about it.”
We had boots on the ground around Climate Pledge to scope out what was getting set up over there, and we can confirm there will be a beer garden with TV’s for earlier playoff games and for people who want to come experience the atmosphere that don’t have tickets to the game.
Inside, Tolvanen says he’s hoping the home faithful will bring a similar jolt to what Colorado’s fans brought in Game 2. “I think it’s going to boost us,” Tolvanen said. “They got momentum last game out of their fans; they did a really good job of that, and I think we have to take advantage of that today. The fans are going to be behind us, and I think all the support and all the energy we can get out of them, I think we have to use it to our advantage.”
While Tolvanen is hoping the fans push the team forward, Donato wants the players to give their fanbase plenty of reasons to cheer. “I’m looking forward to getting there and seeing them all there,” he said. “They’ve been great all year; now it’s our turn to return the favor by winning a playoff series, hopefully.”
By the way, we heard from a source within the organization that players have been quietly campaigning to get the crowd on the same page with a massively loud “SEA” at the beginning of the Star-Spangled Banner. So, for those in attendance, it’s “O, say can you SEA!”