KRAKEN

Seattle Kraken: What we’ve learned from their first week in the NHL

Oct 18, 2021, 12:14 PM | Updated: 1:19 pm
Seattle Kraken Philipp Grubauer...
Goalie Philipp Grubauer of the Seattle Kraken defends as Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators attacks with the puck in the first period Thursday. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken took the ice in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday night looking to capitalize on the momentum of the franchise’s first-ever win Thursday over the Nashville Predators. Unfortunately, they were unable to hold onto their one-goal lead in the third period, and a game-winning overtime goal by Blue Jackets winger Patrick Laine made Seattle skate away with just the consolation point awarded for taking it past regulation.

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It was a disappointing result, but there was a lot to like about the Kraken’s performance and the growth we’ve seen in these first few games. Now with a 1-1-1 record, they hit the home stretch of their challenging five-game road trip to start the season before they finally get to welcome the home crowd into Climate Pledge Arena this Saturday.

So, what have we learned so far?

The unexpected

One of the bigger surprises of the first few games has been the offensive production of the third line – or at least the third line they settled on after moving Brandon Tanev into it during the third period of the season opener last Tuesday.

Morgan Geekie, Ryan Donato and Tanev have combined for five of the Kraken’s eight goals scored so far this season. Traditionally, you are relying on your third line for some physical defensive play that wears down the opponent, and it’s a bonus if it can generate some offense from time to time. To put it into perspective, Tanev had only seven goals in 32 games last season with Pittsburgh but is currently leading the Kraken with three goals in three games. Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol even joked with the team about it in his postgame speech following their first win.

“I forgot to mention, Turbo’s leading us in scoring right?” Hakstol said with a laugh. “Just what we expected.”

It’s only reasonable to expect a bit of a drop in pace from this group as the season progresses, but it is a pleasant surprise to see the depth that the Kraken have there. Tanev is known for his speed, physicality and, well, just plain being a maniac out there, but he showed he can add finesse too with his beautiful goal in the second period Saturday night.

Geekie, meanwhile, is brimming with potential. Andy Eide dubbed him the Kraken’s first breakout candidate of the season due to his scoring abilities and faceoff win percentage.

And though Donato was a late addition that didn’t cause much fanfare as he’s become something of a journeyman at the young age of 25 years old, there is still a lot of opportunity for growth with him. He’s scored 20 points or more in each of his last two seasons with limited playing time and seems to be developing a great chemistry with his line mates in Seattle.

While this trio won’t likely stay the top scorers for long, they may be the most intriguing line on the team.

The expected

Goalie Philipp Grubauer has been fantastic for the Seattle Kraken, and he was especially impressive against the Blue Jackets, stopping 23 of 25 shots for a .920 save percentage.

One of the more impressive moments of the night was when Grubauer denied a second period breakaway shot by Laine and then recovered in time to smother Zach Werenski’s follow up.

It seems he is getting better with each game, and his teammates are doing their part as well, compiling 22 blocked shots of their own in Columbus. That said, the team’s pattern of taking its foot off the gas in the third period in the last two games leaves Grubauer in a vulnerable position.

“We need to clean it up for sure,” Grubauer said after the Nashville win. “We can’t go into the last period giving up that many shots and we need to put some pressure on them. We can’t just sit back. So, that’s definitely an area that needs to get better for sure, but overall we grinded it out. It’s always difficult to get the first one out of the way and I’m glad we did.”

Still learning

Unfortunately for Grubauer, the Kraken appeared to sit back again during the third period in Columbus. The period ended with eight shots on goal for the Blue Jackets and seven for the Kraken, but five of the Kraken’s shots only came after Blue Jackets winger Eric Robinson scored a tying goal 10 minutes into the period.

Hakstol was asked postgame if he saw similarities in how his team performed at the end of the last two games.

“The Nashville game we had trouble breaking out,” he said. “We just weren’t calm and in control with the puck. This is different, we didn’t spend all that much time in our defensive zone. We probably had as much time on possession but we gave up too much off the rush. That’s where the most dangerous opportunities were.”

Hakstol identifying this as a different issue could be encouraging. We’ve seen this team make a lot of adjustments and improvements in just three games and this should be something the Kraken can clean up. That doesn’t mean we won’t be watching a lot of nail-biters, but Seattle is used to that, right?

“Well, that’s what stands out is winnable hockey games,” Hakstol said. “Every night is close, every night is competitive, so that’s what stands out. Those are the kind of games where you’re going to be comfortable playing in, and we’re going to be involved in a lot of them.”

Mike Salk’s initial Seattle Kraken observations

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