Despite recent Seattle Kraken struggles, their resilience shines through
The difficulties that come with navigating roster decisions in the middle of a pandemic aren’t unique to the Seattle Kraken – or even the NHL – but the added challenge of being an expansion team is.
Just one game after getting captain Mark Giordano back from a 10-day stretch in COVID-19 protocol, the team had more bad news. For the second time this season, the Kraken’s roster was in flux Saturday due to multiple players being placed in COVID protocol. Yanni Gourde, Riley Sheahan and assistant coach Jay Leach would join Colin Blackwell in COVID protocol and miss that night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Head coach Dave Hakstol addressed it with the media after the team’s morning skate.
“Obviously we get the information in real time here and we got some new information this morning so I want to make sure we’re clear in our minds as to who is available for tonight’s game,” Hakstol said. “It’s not ideal to have these types of changes on the morning of a game but as you said, it’s not new for anybody in the sports world right now.”
This has to be incredibly frustrating for a team that is still attempting to find consistency in their line combinations, but one thing that we’ve seen throughout this season is that this team has a lot of fight.
“It’s part of the game right now,” center Alex Wennberg told reporters. “There’s not much I can do about it. So instead of seeing it as a challenge you’ve just got to accept it and do whatever you can.”
The Kraken didn’t look up to that challenge for much of Saturday’s game. Though they held the Blue Jackets scoreless in the first, they found themselves in a 4-1 hole after an uncharacteristically poor second period. They came out in the third period looking like a team on a mission, however, with Jaden Schwartz and Morgan Geekie scoring less than a minute apart. Vince Dunn then added the tying goal off the bench with about four minutes left in regulation as the crowd at Climate Pledge Arena went wild.
It felt like the Kraken had all the momentum, but unfortunately Columbus defenseman Jake Bean’s wrist shot 55 seconds into overtime found its way past Kraken goalie Phillip Grubauer, sending the Blue Jackets home with two points while the Kraken received one for the overtime loss.
Hakstol was asked post-game about his team’s resiliency in taking it to overtime. He explained why the power-play goal by Schwartz (assisted by Joonas Donskoi) to start the scoring in the third period was so important.
schwartzy taking one for the team! 🤝 pic.twitter.com/lnnJWPUfGC
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) December 12, 2021
“That was obviously the spark that we needed in the third period. The group talked about it earlier today in their power-play meeting,” he said. “We’d been on a good run for probably close to a month where we’ve been on top of it and really efficient. The last couple games we haven’t been at our level, a level that we expect out of ourselves. The guys took it upon themselves to make sure they were ready to impact the game tonight and that was a great way for them to do it.”
Another show of resiliency this weekend came from Alexander True. The 24-year-old center, originally from Denmark, found out he was being recalled from the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers to the Kraken on game day. He flew to Seattle on Saturday morning and played against the Blue Jackets that night, recording two shots on goal, four hits and a blocked shot in 11 minutes of ice time.
True, who is currently leading the Checkers in scoring with 18 points in 22 games, is very familiar with Seattle hockey as he played for the Seattle Thunderbirds from 2014-17, and on Saturday he became the first former Thunderbird to play an NHL game for the Kraken when he made his season debut against Columbus.