ESPN’s Buccigross: Why Seattle Kraken will have a great shot at playoffs

Oct 12, 2021, 10:53 AM
Seattle Kraken...
Carsen Twarynski and Jamie Oleksiak of the Seattle Kraken skate against Edmonton in preseason action. (Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
(Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken will finally take the ice in a regular season game Tuesday night, and it will be broadcast all around the world at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Seattle Kraken Preview: Three things to watch in history-making opener

The man who will be calling the first-ever Seattle Kraken game for ESPN is John Buccigross, and he joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy on Monday to discuss his expectations for the Kraken, their opening night matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights and much more.

One storyline that’s hard to ignore, Buccigross said, is that the Kraken are taking on the NHL’s previous expansion team in the Golden Knights, who have been one of the league’s best teams since debuting in 2017.

“The fresh new team with the cool uniforms with the expectations going up against Team 31,” he said. “It’s Team 32 against Team 31, and Team 31 went to the finals their first year, have made the playoffs all four years and they’ve gone to conference finals three of the four years. So that’s a pretty interesting storyline. What path will Seattle take? … It’s a tantalizing temptation to want to be good as soon as you can, but that’s not always the smartest thing to do.”

As he prepares to call the Kraken’s first game, what does Buccigross think of how the team is built?

“They’re a very good defensive team,” he said. “They’re built from the goalie out. Two good goalies, a good, stout defense, and then a lot of forwards who play both ways so they should be a good goal-prevention team. Obviously everyone’s talking then about whether they’ll have enough goal scoring.”

Buccigross thinks the team has a few guys who can score 20 or more goals, but in Vegas’ first year, the Golden Knights got major production from forwards that few expected.

“You need some unexpected guys to step up. Watching (Jared) McCann, could he continue to go? Could a (Calle) Jarnkrok get it done scoring like 27 or 28 (to set a new) career high?” Buccigross asked.

Buccigross thinks some guys may excel in Seattle and prove themselves by getting time on power plays and having a bigger role on the new team.

The first matchup

As noted, the Golden Knights are among the best teams in the league, having gone to the Western Conference Finals three of the last four years.

Buccigross said that Vegas is among the fastest teams in hockey.

“This is a top five NHL team so this is a tough challenge on the road for your first NHL game,” he said.

Buccigross thinks the Golden Knights could be very aggressive against Seattle goalie Philipp Grubauer, so the Kraken’s other defenders will have to help him out.

“They’ll get out-shot, so it’s just a matter of surviving the onslaught early – the crowd, the speed of Las Vegas,” he said. “(The Golden Knights will) turn the puck over, so make them earn it. Vegas has not had a good power play, so we’ll see if that changes for them … It’s a tough match for Seattle. Again, it’s one of the top teams in the NHL, but it’s a division foe and there’s lots of excitement. They’ve just got to play their simple defensive game. That’s how they’re going to win games – defense first.”

Expectations for the Seattle Kraken

Will the Kraken have a Vegas-like debut season? Will they even make the playoffs?

Buccigross thinks Seattle is in a good spot when it comes to tasting the postseason from the start.

“Seattle will be included in my playoff teams,” Buccigross said. “I think the goalies, the defense, the goal prevention… if they play and stay healthy, they’ll score enough and they’ll be that fourth playoff team in the Pacific Division.”

Being in the Pacific Division, Buccigross said, makes a playoff appearance for the expansion Kraken more likely. The top four teams in each division clinch a postseason berth, and the Pacific offers the best opportunity of any division, according to Buccigross.

“They’re in the weakest division in hockey, for sure,” Buccigross said. “Vegas is the best team and will make the playoffs. Edmonton, I think … they’re a really good team and they’ll make the playoffs. And after that? Now it’s open. You really are fighting for those last two spots. Calgary is very good and you could almost give them a nod, but then from there, Seattle should be right there.”

Buccigross said he’s not the only one with high expectations for the Kraken, either.

“Vegas had no expectations and made the playoffs. That’s the difference. Seattle has (expectations),” he said. “The analytics people of the world love the Kraken. They see them as a high 90-point team with a great chance to make the playoffs … They have some expectations and maybe some unfair pressure, especially with the Vegas comparison so fresh … The analytics and the division do point to they should be in this thing for most of the regular season.”

Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the player below.

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