Seattle Kraken have something to build on despite loss in home opener
Hours before puck drop on Saturday night, there were blue Seattle Kraken jerseys spilling out of doorways and packed into bars around every corner of the arena.
Little pockets converging as one, a massive blue swarm descending upon Climate Pledge Arena, anticipation and curiosity building to a fever pitch for the start of something new, something bigger that only sports can provide in galvanizing a city to come together.
It was also a reminder that many things are still new for the Kraken on the ice. We’re finally starting to see coach Dave Hakstol’s ideal line combinations as Calle Jarnkrok was activated from the COVID-19 protocol list and suited up on the top line, making it the second straight game a Kraken player made his debut on that top line after Yanni Gourde appeared for the first time Tuesday against the Devils.
It did appear that having a few days to practice boosted the on-ice cohesion and familiarity for the Kraken. Jaden Schwartz’s flick of the puck to Gourde mere seconds into the game looked like two guys completely in rhythm, and the Kraken had terrific opportunities like that all night. They just couldn’t put all of them into the back of the net. After the game, Hakstol even mentioned the “three or four Grade-A chances” they had after they took the lead in the third period.
The result wasn’t a quick fix or reassurance that this team is bound for immediate success. It reaffirmed that this will be a process and there will be setbacks along the way. The outcome, a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, felt like the overtime defeat in Columbus a week before: hold a lead in the third only to see it disappear and end in a loss.
Yet after Saturday’s game, the Kraken players stressed there was growth and momentum to build on moving forward.
“I thought we got off to the right start,” said Vince Dunn, who scored the first goal in Seattle’s new arena in the first period. “It’s frustrating for us, we’re trying not to lose, and we have to just keep pushing and playing aggressive all game.”
“That was our best third period,” Hakstol said. “We had a few more chances but just couldn’t extend it.”
While it goes down as a loss, the lasting impact of that game will be remembered as a resounding win for the franchise and the city. The fans were engaged all night and the promise of Climate Pledge Arena having a chance to be one of the loudest in the league was delivered, especially after captain Mark Giordano’s go-ahead goal early in the third period.
“That’s right up there with anywhere,” Giordano said. “There weren’t too many moments where there was silence. Actually, there wasn’t any, to be honest.”
The subterranean rink and unique architecture of the building helps funnel sound down onto the ice, but it takes an engaged fan base to bring the energy and noise, which the fans did in full force. One game doesn’t provide enough of a sample size, but if the crowd replicates that effort night in and night out, even on a random weeknight, months into the season against a team like the Arizona Coyotes, the building will generate a few wins.
On Saturday, the Kraken might have pressed a little, feeling the weight of needing to deliver a win for a night years in the making.
“We wanted that one bad,” Giordano said. “I think you can feel the buzz in the air. The crowd, everyone was excited for that one, to be honest.”
The good news is there will never again be an inaugural home opener and the weight of expectations can now turn to adrenaline, fueled by 17,000-plus fans that can lift a goalie to stand on his head or a team to wear down an opponent with a relentless forecheck throughout the game.
Before we turn to the second home game in Seattle Kraken history on Tuesday, there is one lasting memory of the home debut: dozens of fans outside the arena pressed up against a massive floor-to-ceiling window facing out to street level on the north side of the building, standing all night to peer in and get a peek of the night the NHL began in Seattle.
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