Vancouver Canucks fans know not to assume anything. So we won’t either. But the Seattle Kraken are pretty damn good. It might not last because we’ve all seen teams go through major ebbs and flows particularly in early seasons.
But then again it just might.
Getting buy-in is more than half the battle for coaches once they have the talent to compete.
The Kraken’s significant additions this off-season included goalie Martin Jones, a North Vancouver native and the man who’s been carrying the load while now co-number-one Philipp Grubauer was sidelined with a lower body injury.
General manager Ron Francis also added a reigning Stanley Cup champion in Andre Burakovsky, who co-leads the team in scoring and remarkably, often enough, gets away with holding on to the puck too long.
And Justin Schultz, an always reliable righty on the blueline, the winner of two Cups in Pittsburgh, who just showed up again in a big way in the 3-2 overtime victory on Saturday night against the Los Angeles Kings. He had the primary assist on the game-tying and game-winning goals.
Canucks Foe Elements
In net is always a good place to start. Jones isn’t glamorous, but he’s beyond steady and usually makes the dramatic saves look somewhat effortless. He’s tied for second in the NHL with nine wins, 7th in goals-against-average at 2.30, and he’s appeared in the most games thus far, fifteen.
Jones is 3-1-and-1 in the first five games of a six game homestand, a stretch in which he and his team have not allowed more than two goals in a game.
“Jonesy’s been rock solid, he’s been really sound, he’s been great over this stretch here,” Kraken Head Coach Dave Hakstol said before the game against LA on Saturday. “His performance has been very, very consistent.”
With three days off on the schedule with a home date against San Jose coming Wednesday and a road game in Vegas two nights later, the Sharks might seem like a softer landing spot for Grubauer coming off injury. Then throw Jones to the wolves, ahem, the Golden Knights on Friday.
Then again, why mess with a good thing. We’ll see.
The special teams have been two different stories, an excellent power play and a pathetic penalty kill early in the season. That’s been correcting itself to a degree the first half of November. At one point the Kraken PK units killed off 18 straight opposition power plays. Their overall season number is up to 74.6 percent.
One technique used for improvement is to torpedo (also the name of a Swedish forecheck system introduced three decades ago) the drop pass. The sling shot or drop pass play to start the break-out, so common in NHL power plays over the last decade in particular, gets attacked by the likes of Yanni Gourde. The other defenders line-up at the blueline to make entry as difficult as possible.
Not sure why more clubs haven’t started aggressively attacking the drop pass.
The Kraken now have the second best winning percentage in the Pacific Division and sit eight points ahead of the Canucks with the same number of games played.
One thing the Kraken haven’t done yet in franchise history is beat the Canucks. They’re 0-and-5.
Coach Hakstol doesn’t usually get drawn into rivalry discussions, it’s more about process and preparation and his team worrying about themselves. However, the last loss to the northern neighbours featured three fights, two of them in the first three minutes of the game, and 42 penalty minutes. The Canucks set the stage and won at Climate Pledge Arena 5-4 back on October 27th.
Seattle dramatically out-shot the Canucks but were dramatically out-hit.
These are hockey players after all and I’m guessing that one didn’t sit too well in the sea monsters room.
Seattle’s next chance to “get off the schneid” against the Canucks will be December 22nd at Rogers Arena.