A closer look at consistent Kraken defensemen pairing of Dunn, Larsson
One of the biggest reasons for the good start to the season for the Seattle Kraken is the consistency in the lineup.
Head coach Dave Hakstol has been able to put the same lineup on the ice each game. There have been some slight variations thanks to injuries, but for the most part, the forward lines and defensive pairings have remained mostly untouched.
“I think we complement each other really well out there,” Dunn said. “We understand our strengths and weaknesses as individuals and as a pairing. I think communication has always been a big thing for me as a player. He’s someone that’s easy to talk to before games, during the games, on the ice, so yeah, I love playing with him.
“He’s been a steady guy in this league for so long. I’m just doing my part on the left side and knowing he’s gonna do his part on the right so it’s just a trust factor and I think we really gelled together and made a good dynamic on the backend.”
The pairing has played together an average of 16 minutes at five-on-five per game and get along on and off the ice.
“I think obviously chemistry, you build that,” Larsson said about what’s been key for the two. “It’s hard to build it if you don’t get time on the ice together. So, I mean, we talk a lot on and off days, like on the bench and in the locker room.”
Individually, the numbers are decent. Larsson has scored a pair of goals so far after a season where he set career records with eight goals and 25 points. Dunn is off to a nine-point start and led Seattle’s defensemen in scoring a year ago with 35 points.
But the two’s contributions to the team come while playing together.
Looking at their underlying analytics, you can see their worth.
Together, at five-on-five, the Kraken have taken 53.47 percent of unblocked shot attempts when they are on the ice. That number, known as Corsi, indicates that the Kraken have the puck more with Larsson and Dunn on the ice than the opponent does. That comes from good defensive play and indicates they limit shots against.
They’ve been on the ice, again at five-on-five, for 14 goals for and just nine against. The Kraken also take 54.18 percent of the shot quality while Dunn and Larsson are on the ice together.
Their possession numbers are made more impressive when you consider the competition.
Hakstol has confidence in putting Dunn and Larsson out against the top offensive forwards each night. They’re doing it against the best players in the league and still coming out productive.
“It’s almost a match within the match,” Larsson said. “It’s something I’ll take a lot of pride into. I think it’s fun and you always want to go up against the best, I find.”
The two make a great match.
Dunn is a left-handed shot while Larsson is a coveted right-handed defenseman. As well as they’ve played together, they have somewhat different styles, which has meshed well together. Dunn is the more offensive of the two.
“It’s good to have that,” Larsson said. “I think he can do it even more. I mean, he’s coming into his own in the league, right? So, he’s just gonna learn but I think he’s been pretty solid, even defensively, this year. He was all right before but I think he has taken another step defensively.”
Having an offensive guy matched with more of a stay-at-home defenseman is a classic pairing. Dunn can jump up and join the rush knowing his partner is there to protect against any counter attacks.
“I think he knows I like to have the puck and gives me it when I demand it,” Dunn said. “Other than that, I think he’s very instinctive too. He makes good reads offensively and is not afraid to jump into (the play) … I know that my partner can just do his thing out there and not worry about things so much on the back end.”
Chemistry is important and while playing in games, practice, and training camp have helped build that, so has communication off the ice.
Dunn is 26 years old and Larsson is 30. Age difference aside, the two have become fast friends despite never playing together prior to last season.
“We’re good buddies.,” Dunn said. “Go for dinners together a lot on the road and things like that. I think that definitely helps, we understand our character on and off the ice. It’s a long season and there’s a lot of ups and downs. We come to the rink every day but that’s not our whole life, there’s a lot to it. I think just understanding family dynamics and things like that makes it a lot easier to have a D partner like that.”
Dunn has been able to experience Larsson’s funny side.
Larsson presents a stoic figure publicly, to the point where the Kraken social media admins are constantly trying to catch an actual smile from the veteran on camera.
Dunn says not to be fooled.
“I think he holds back from you guys. He’s a funny guy,” Dunn said.