There was some good and some issues during the Seattle Kraken opening night 4-3 loss in Vegas

There was some good and some issues during the Seattle Kraken opening night 4-3 loss in Vegas

The first step is often the most difficult and the Seattle Kraken took a strong, yet clumsy, first step Tuesday night in Vegas against the Golden Knights. Seattle dropped the opener 4-3 thanks to slow first steps during the first and second periods.

After an early shift flurry right off the opening faceoff, the Kraken got sloppy defensively.

It led to goals by Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault just over a minute apart and before the season was seven minutes old the Kraken found themselves in a 2-0 hole. It could have been nerves or adrenaline, but the Kraken and goalie Philipp Grubauer looked out of sorts early in the period.

Seattle settled down after the two scores and carried the majority of possession the rest of the first period. Despite being down two, the Kraken led Vegas with shots on goal by 9-6 and by shot attempts at even strength by 19-12. Overall, the Kraken would hold a 51-43 shot attempt advantage on the night.

But the second period started much the same way the opening 20 started. Seattle took two penalties in the first three minutes and was on its heels. The Kraken killed off both penalties – ending the night 3-for-3 on the kill – but Pacioretty would score his second shortly after the second power-play to build an imposing 3-0 Golden Knights lead.

Twice in the preseason the Kraken came back to win games and it looked like they might do it again on Tuesday.

Ryan Donato would score for Seattle just after the midway point of the period to cement himself in franchise history with the first goal. More importantly, it gave the Kraken energy and life. Just over a minute later, Jared McCann would score after a slick passing play from the top line.

Heading into the third period, down one, the Kraken would tie the game on a Morgan Geekie snipe. The play looked rather benign as Geekie glided into the Vegas zone alone while his teammates changed behind him. Rather than dump the puck in and skate off the ice, he unloaded a deadly wrist shot that found the net over Robin Lehner’s shoulder.

The Kraken had come back to tie at 3-3.

Any momentum from that goal created was sullied 35 seconds later and it came with a bit of controversy. Off the rush, Vegas center Chandler Stephenson scored to put the Golden Knights ahead. Immediately, Seattle players looked to the officials and complained that the puck was kicked in.

It was reviewed and called a good goal as the replay judges ruled that while Stephenson turned his skate to have the puck deflect off it, he did not do it with a distinct kicking motion.

That would prove to be the game-winner and the Kraken fall to 0-1-0.

The good from the Kraken on opening night

There were things to like out of Seattle’s game Tuesday.

Erasing a 3-0 lead against a top team on the road is impressive. The Kraken aren’t built with dynamic scorers and falling behind by a trio of goals is tough to come back from. Seattle didn’t panic. They stuck with their systems and were able to walk the Golden Knights down. Early results indicate that this could end up being a resilient team.

The comeback was even more remarkable considering the club went through a COVID scare over the previous 24 hours. On Monday five players were put into the NHL’s COVID protocol and it was unclear if they would play. The players, including McCann, Jamie Oleskiak, Joonas Donskoi, and Marcus Johansson, were cleared with just enough time to get to Vegas and play.

After a shaky start, Grubauer found his legs and kept the Kraken within striking distance. Specifically, during the two early Vegas power plays in the second period. The Golden Knights had some of their best looks and Grubauer made six huge stops. He would end with 18 saves on 22 shots.

Seattle needs to find some secondary scoring and got it Tuesday. The top line with McCann, Jaden Schwartz, and Jordan Eberle did their thing to score but the Kraken also got goals from Donato and Geekie. It’s a great start for those two and the Kraken will need them as contributors.

Another potential source of secondary scoring played very well. Seattle’s second line centered by Alex Wennberg with Johansson and Donskoi logged 9:16 of ice time together at 5-on-5 and dominated. They were on the ice for 13 Kraken shot attempts and three from Vegas. Their expected goals (xGF) percentage was 89. They didn’t score but that kind of puck possession moving forward will lead to scoring.

What the Kraken need to clean up

Seattle struggled at times to manage the puck. Vegas’ second goal, scored by Marchessault was the result of a turnover by Vince Dunn deep in the Seattle end. The Golden Knights first goal was helped by a poor read on the forecheck by Nathan Bastian. Pacioretty’s second goal that made it 3-0 came after the Kraken threw it away in the neutral zone.

Giving the puck away not only leads to chances but results in Seattle chasing. When the Kraken chase, they can’t get into their forecheck which is a vital part to their attack.

Expect that to be a point of emphasis for Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol over the remainder of the opening road trip.

By the numbers

Defenseman Mark Giordano, who was just named team captain, led the Kraken with 23:20 of ice time. Jaden Schwartz led Seattle forwards with 20:20.

Donato will go down in history as the first goal scorer, but Vince Dunn will forever be known as the player with the first assist as he set up Donato’s goal.

Vegas had 10 takeaways to the Kraken’s five. Seattle led in giveaways 7-6.

The Kraken led in hits 33-26.

Up next for the Kraken is a Thursday night tilt in Nashville against the Predators.

Three takeaways from a thrilling preseason Kraken win over the Oilers

Three takeaways from a thrilling preseason Kraken win over the Oilers

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 darren@soundofhockey.com.

Seattle Kraken practice report: Lines, forecheck and Alex Wennberg back to lineup

Seattle Kraken practice report: Lines, forecheck and Alex Wennberg back to lineup

SEATTLE – In preparation for a pair of preseason games this weekend, the Seattle Kraken hit the ice at the Kraken Community Iceplex Thursday for a practice session.

The team was split into two groups which offered insight on who the club views as being in the mix to start the season with the NHL group. Before the workout, a small group of about seven players worked out separately. That group included young players like Luke Henman, Cale Fleury, and Kole Lind.

While the groupings were notable, head coach Dave Hakstol hinted those things are far from settled.

“That was more a matter of function today,” he said after practice. “We want to do some different things in our practice, and going forward for the next two games, players from both groups will play.”

The lines on Friday looked familiar.

Jared McCann again centered what would be considered the team’s top line with Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle on the wings. Behind that group was Morgan Geekie centering a line with Joonas Donskoi and Ryan Donato. Alex Wennberg was back at practice after he had personal time off for the birth of his son. He was flanked by Marcus Johansson and Calle Jarnkrok. Riley Sheahan was centered between Brandon Tanev and Mason Appleton.

A so-called fifth line was also on the ice led by Yanni Gourde – still wearing his red, no-contact jersey – with Alex True and Carsen Twarynski on the wings.

Friday’s defensive pairings included Mark Giordano with Vince Dunn, Dennis Cholowski with Adam Larsson, Haydn Fleury with Jamie Oleksiak, and Jeremy Lauzon with Carson Soucy.

Seattle will play the Edmonton Oilers Friday night at Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena before moving to Kent and the accesso ShoWare Center Saturday for a matchup with the Calgary Flames.

Wennberg and the Swedish connection

After missing all three preseason games, Wennberg was back and looking forward to playing Friday. He was all smiles when asked about being a father for the first time saying it was amazing and that “Life does a 360 on you there.”

Seattle Kraken center Alex Wennberg will make his preseason debut this weekend. (Brian Liesse photo)

Prior to training camp, Wennberg had expressed excitement to see fellow Swedes on the Kraken roster and during camp he’s found himself playing with two of his fellow countrymen. For most of camp he’s centered a line with Johansson and Jarnkrok.

We have yet to see the trio – dubbed the ‘Swedish House Mafia’ by The Athletic’s Ryan Clark – in a preseason game, but it should get its first action Friday in Everett.

“We obviously go really well together,” Wennberg said. “We’ve been really hitting it off… now to finally get a game to try it out, I’m super excited. I feel like we can really do something good so it’s a good test for us to go out there tomorrow and try it out and see how it goes.”

Kraken forecheck clicking in the preseason

One major constant through the Kraken’s first three preseason games has been the forecheck.

Hakstol hasn’t been shy to deploy an aggressive forecheck, often sending two players deep into opponents’ territory to force bad passes, steal pucks, and to generally cause havoc. The forecheck was key to the win in Calgary Wednesday and Hakstol has been happy with it, save for the 6-0 loss in Edmonton.

In that game, Hakstol felt that they couldn’t get into the forecheck enough because they were chasing the Oilers all game due to giving the puck back too easily. Forechecking is a skill and attitude and not every player is built for it, but the Kraken seem to have guys that are.

“There’s certainly a mentality to it and there’s an intelligence to it and we have a lot of guys that are able to get in, come up with pucks or create loose pucks.” Hakstol said. “It’s not just one guy it’s a five-man project so we’ve had some success.”

If you’re watching the games this weekend, keep an eye on how successful the Kraken forecheck is.

Kraken make some cuts

The group was smaller Friday as the Kraken returned their junior prospects and made some moves. In that group was 2021 second-round pick Ryker Evans and fifth-round pick Jacob Melanson. When Evans was selected there were some self-proclaimed draft gurus who felt the pick at 35 was a stretch, but the defenseman put a good showing forth at camp.

He showed a keen offensive skill set and instinct with no fear in making plays. Evans will now return to the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League.

Also waived were Brent Gates, Tye Kartye, Ryan Lohin, Cole MacKay, and Frances Marotte.

Three takeaways from a thrilling preseason Kraken win over the Oilers

Three takeaways from a 4-3 Kraken shootout win over the Flames

Apparently having your top players in the lineup is helpful after all. On Tuesday, Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol held Jared McCann, Jordan Eberle, Jaden Schwartz, Mark Giordano, and Philipp Grubauer out of the lineup—standard practice for any team in preseason—and the result was unsurprisingly a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. On Wednesday, the Kraken dressed those top players, and the result was a good, even battle with the Calgary Flames that ended in a 4-3 shootout win for Seattle.

Here are our takeaways from the Kraken’s third preseason game.  

Takeaway #1: Seattle might have something cooking with its top line

So about that Eberle-McCann-Schwartz line…

There’s some obvious chemistry forming here, which bodes well for the Kraken. When the top-scoring trio was on the ice Wednesday, the pace and the passing seemed to ratchet up a notch and went up even higher when they got out there at the same time as the top defensive pairing of Giordano and Adam Larsson.  

On the first goal, just three minutes into the game, Cale Fleury made a nice stretch pass from the defensive zone to Schwartz near the far blue line. Schwartz, while falling, found McCann who carried it into the zone, then dished to Giordano who was streaking into the slot. Giordano slipped one through the wickets of Dan Vladar, and the home Calgary faithful went giddy for their beloved Gio.

It was a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play that allowed Seattle to go from regrouping in its own zone to scoring at the other end in about five seconds.

In the third period, with the game level at two goals apiece and the teams playing at four-on-four, Eberle picked off an errant Michael Stone pass behind Calgary’s goal line and immediately found an open Schwartz in the slot, who buried his second of the game. That sequence took two seconds.

There was almost a third goal by Schwartz, which also would have been assisted by Eberle, but Vladar robbed Schwartz of the hat trick with a desperation toe save.

There’s bound to be some line shuffling throughout the course of the season, but Hakstol has to like what he has seen in two games from McCann, Eberle, and Schwartz. It will be interesting to watch if he continues to play them together for these last three preseason games—when they’re all in the lineup, that is—or if he moves any of them around to see how the chemistry might look with other mixes.

Takeaway #2: Seattle could use some work on three-on-three

The game in general looked a bit sloppy Wednesday, as is often the case in contests that feature just 43 combined shots on goal between the two teams. When we got to three-on-three overtime, we were expecting to see the high-octane, flowing brand of hockey that we’ve become accustomed to in past regular seasons.

That isn’t what we got, and it was a reminder that although we are a full week into training camp, the Kraken have really only had a few days of practice. And with the squad split into two groups, Hakstol and his staff have spent very little time on the finer details like special teams and three-on-three.

It’s also a stark reminder that Seattle has a unique challenge in that it has never done any of this before. Hakstol has maintained that every year poses similar challenges, because every team is—in a way—starting over and building something from scratch. But other teams have the luxury of familiarity between most of the players and usually between the players and the coaches. The Kraken have no such luxuries, so they will need to continue to ramp up quickly as we approach opening night just 12 days from now.

Takeaway #3: Don’t cross check guys

In yesterday’s NHL, cross checking was easily the most frequently committed offense that got penalized with the least frequency. Did that make sense? What I’m trying to say is that players got away with cross checking all the time as recently as last season.

The NHL has decided to crack down on cross checking this season, and we’ve already seen it called a handful of times in the Kraken’s three preseason games, including once for each team in Wednesday’s game.

The change evokes memories of the period after the NHL returned from the 2004-05 lockout and decided that the clutch-and-grab era was officially over. Suddenly every stick infraction made through the neutral zone—remember, in the clutch-and-grab era, there was a stick infraction made on every trip through the neutral zone—was penalized.

History has proven that players will eventually adjust and stop cross checking guys in the lower back when they’re already down on the ice or hitting them so hard with the shaft of the stick that they topple over. But that will take time, so for now, expect a lot more of these calls to be made.

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 darren@soundofhockey.com.

Three takeaways from Seattle’s 5-3 preseason-opening win over Vancouver

Three takeaways from Seattle’s 5-3 preseason-opening win over Vancouver

Hello from downtown Spokane, where the Kraken defeated a bunch of guys in Canucks sweaters (there’s a reason I’m not simply calling them “the Canucks”) 5-3 in Seattle’s first-ever preseason game at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Although the outcome was moot, it was a night that will live on in the hearts and minds of Kraken fans everywhere, especially for those in the sellout crowd of 10,208. 

I’ll speak from personal experience here. I did not expect to get choked up as the puck dropped and fans started chanting, “Let’s go, Kraken!” But get choked up I did. There were a lot of emotions that came rushing in at that very moment, as the gravity of it all suddenly hit home. 

The Expansion Draft was neat. Training camp has been great. But this was different. This was real hockey being played by Seattle’s shiny new NHL team, and thankfully, the rest of the night did not disappoint.

Though it’s right to feel optimistic after the victory, expectations should be managed a bit. The Kraken looked like a much better team on Sunday, but the caveat is that they also dressed the majority of what will certainly be their regular lineup when the season gets underway. Vancouver, on the other hand, trotted out quite a few young players and prospects, including two goalies who are unlikely to crack an NHL roster any time soon. 

Here are our takeaways from Seattle’s preseason-opening win Sunday night in Spokane. 

Takeaway #1: The depth players mean business

At the onset of training camp, I delved into which Kraken players I thought should be carefully monitored by fans. I had Ryan Donato and Riley Sheahan as probables for making the roster but perhaps challenging one another for playing time. Meanwhile, I surmised Morgan Geekie would really have to prove himself in camp just to make the big club on opening night. 

Lo and behold, all three found themselves on the scoresheet Sunday, with Geekie notching two goals (his first was a strange and lucky gift, courtesy of Vancouver), and Sheahan and Donato getting one apiece. 

But it wasn’t just about the goals. Those guys were involved offensively seemingly all night. Geekie easily could have had a couple more, as could Donato. It’s still very early, but if training camp were to end this week, it would be nearly impossible to leave any of those three in the press box or off the initial roster. If things continue this way, head coach Dave Hakstol is going to have some extremely tough decisions on his hands over the next couple weeks.

Takeaway #2: Jared McCann could be a stud

At the Expansion Draft in July, Brandon Tanev — who had previously played with McCann in Pittsburgh — confidently stated that not only was Seattle getting a great guy, it was getting a great player as well. 

McCann was slotted on the top line with Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz and came out with guns ablaze on Sunday, driving offensive zone time and creating scoring chance after scoring chance. 

In the first period, he hit the post on Seattle’s first power play and later had two consecutive open looks from right on the doorstep but was robbed twice by Latvian man of mystery Arturs Silevs. 

Jared McCann stickhandler
Jared McCann was outstanding in the Kraken’s win over the Canucks. (Photo Brian Liesse)

In the second, McCann rifled a shot from the left halfwall that caught Silevs up high and caused the Canucks netminder to delay the game while he recovered. Seconds later, with Seattle on the power play, McCann took a similar shot from the left face-off dot that found it’s way just under the bar and leveled the score at 2-2. 

After the game, McCann said he recognizes general manager Ron Francis is giving the players a great opportunity here, and he plans to “take full advantage of it.” Sunday was a great start toward proving that to the Kraken brass.

By the way, since I mentioned Brandon Tanev in this takeaway, we do need to point out that he did one of the funniest things in the history of post-game media scrums on Sunday:

Honestly, that’s some pretty quick thinking to use the curtain in that way to slide past. He’s like the world’s worst magician doing the world’s worst disappearing act. 

Takeaway #3: Hints at what Kraken Game Ops department has up its sleeve

Though this game was played in a Western Hockey League building — the Spokane Chiefs’ home building, there was definitely an NHL feel to the overall presentation. The videos played throughout were funny, thoughtful, and well produced. My own personal favorite piece of content was when the voice of Freddie Mercury rang through Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, getting the crowd to sing back with several variations of “Day-o!” 

Though the voice heard was that of the legendary Queen frontman performing at Live Aid from Wembley in 1985, the image on the video board was that of an animated blowfish. It reminded us once again that we are in the world of the Kraken, which exists solely at the bottom of the sea. There, the inhabitants are fish that sound exactly like Freddie Mercury. 

We also saw the likes of SpongeBob and Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory requesting additional noise from the fans, and we heard several options for goal songs during the course of the night. I also loved hearing a little riff from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Posse on Broadway,” which played under and just after the announcement of the first goal. 

Without the bells and whistles of the state-of-the-art Climate Pledge Arena, the Kraken put on a really good show in Spokane. I, for one, cannot wait to see how the finished product will look.

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 darren@soundofhockey.com.