On their best stretch yet, it’s all coming together for Seattle Kraken

Dec 4, 2021, 12:28 PM
Seattle Kraken Carolina Hurricanes...
Marcus Johansson celebrates his game-winning goal against Carolina with Jeremy Lauzon on Nov. 24. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It wasn’t all that long ago that the prevailing question among those following the inaugural Seattle Kraken season was regarding how bad things could get. That’s certainly not the case anymore.

Friday: Seattle Kraken take early lead, hold off Oilers in 4-3 win

Not after the Kraken handed Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers (16-6-0) their first loss to a Pacific Division opponent on Friday night, a 4-3 Seattle win that was the Kraken’s fifth victory over its last seven games.

The Kraken are now 9-13-2, a record that looks a lot more impressive when you consider that they were 4-12-1 when this current stretch of success started and that four of their five most recent wins have come against teams that are either first, second or third in their respective divisions.

“The Kraken have battled back after a little down period and really have been playing some much better hockey,” 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk said Friday ahead of a conversation with John Forslund, the voice of Kraken games on ROOT Sports. “I told you how much I thought they really battled hard down a couple of guys and managed to find a point on the road in (a 4-3 shootout loss Wednesday in) Detroit. That was actually their best game of the year in some ways.”

Well, until that night, that is. The Kraken took a 1-0 lead inside the first minute Friday at Climate Pledge Arena, answered quickly twice when the Oilers tied the score, and staved off a 6-on-4 Edmonton attack (due to a Kraken penalty and empty Oilers net) in the final moments to preserve the win.

Forslund, who has been calling NHL games for over 25 years and is considered one of the great play-by-play announcers in hockey, explained what he’s seen from the Kraken over the last seven games, which came right off the heels of a demoralizing losing streak.

“I think you’re onto it how you laid this out – you used the word ‘battle’ and I think that’s something that was extracted out of their character when they went through that six-game losing streak,” Hakstol said to Salk. “When they were losing those games, I thought they were just concentrating maybe way too much on positioning and how they’re trying to defend and maybe trying to get a hold of (head coach) Dave Hakstol’s system, and they were coming unglued. It was kind of working in reverse. … When they started this stretch, they decided to battle harder, block more shots, crowd the front of the defensive area in front of the goaltender, make it easier on the goalies, give (Phillip) Grubauer and (Chris) Driedger a little bit more help, and then (the goalies) comply because they (had been) coming off their game and they weren’t getting enough saves at the appropriate time. So it all kind of came together.”

Team chemistry has been a big storyline of the season for the expansion Kraken, as one might expect considering the squad had never played together until the preseason and had very limited ice time between then and the late July expansion draft. Forslund said that chemistry has clearly been building on the ice in recent weeks.

“When you look at sports, we get caught up in how complex they can be. We look at football gameplans, we look at analytics – and baseball analytics have now come in to hockey and basketball – but basically all of these sports are very simple, right?” he said. “The foundation of every game is simple, and in hockey so much is based upon emotion and how you want to play as a group. And I can tell you they’re a together team. Being around them now for as much as the Kraken have been on the road, they have good chemistry, and that’s important.”

An identity is beginning to form for the team, and Forslund points to one player who has set the tone for that identity. Anybody who has watched a few Kraken games can probably guess the answer, too.

“I’m like the fans. Brandon Tanev has delivered so much energy,” Forslund said. “I think at this point of the season, he’s the one player that carries the identity of the Seattle Kraken. And that short-handed goal, I don’t know if you saw it or not Monday night in Buffalo, that short-handed goal was as brilliant an individual effort as you’re going to see, and that kind of epitomizes for me the way they want to play the way, they’re going to play, and that’s what it’s all about.”

The way that the Kraken have been playing fits what people like Forslund figured would be their strength when the roster was put together.

“That’s what I was expecting before the season started, and I was shocked that the period of six games, they weren’t playing that way. They were they were kind of in a fog a little bit. They’re not going to score a ton, although that hasn’t been too much of a problem. Their power play has woken up. But I really believe when you look at the personnel, they’re gritty, too, and that’s what you want to see. And I think Tanev kind of does that by wearing his heart on his sleeve.”

The Seattle Kraken will be back in action at 7 p.m. Monday night at Climate Pledge Arena against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsbugh Penguins (10-8-5).

You can hear the full conversation between Forslund and Salk in the player below or in the podcast at this link.

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On their best stretch yet, it’s all coming together for Seattle Kraken