Kraken can make statement, improve in standings in key division matchups
The Kraken return from the holiday break with two important division games at home. On Wednesday, the Calgary Flames will be at Climate Pledge Arena and on Friday it’s the high flying Edmonton Oilers who will be in town. The two Alberta clubs are looking up at the Kraken in the standings, giving Seattle a chance to make a statement, while banking more points, and solidify their chances to be in playoff contention.
Both teams were among the preseason favorites to win the Pacific Division, something the Kraken were not.
Coming into Wednesday’s game, the Flames have 39 points, just a point behind the Kraken, but Seattle does have three games in hand and a higher points percentage meaning the divide is larger than it appears. That’s no reason to take them lightly however.
If Seattle sees itself as a playoff team, this is one of the teams the Kraken will have to beat out. The Kraken have played Calgary once already this season, on Nov. 1 when they erased a two-goal deficit early in the third period to win 6-5.
The Kraken have yet to see Edmonton this season. They have an 18-15-2 record which is good for 38 standings points. Again, the Kraken have games in hand but this week’s game can help pad the league.
After these two games Seattle starts a stretch of eight out of nine games outside the division so this is a week to make hay in the Pacific.
It won’t be easy and the Kraken will need to be the team that won back-to-back games against Winnipeg and St. Louis before the holidays and not the club that blew a two-goal lead against Vancouver last Thursday.
The Flames are one of the better defensive clubs in the NHL so goals won’t come easy. The Kraken need to stay patient, and get pucks on net. They are at their best when they are tough on the forecheck and create offense by creating turnovers in deep. They have to stick with the game plan and not look for shortcuts against a sound Flames club.
Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau are the marquee names but Calgary has been getting strong seasons out of former Carolina first-rounder Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli. That depth will need to be matched by all four Kraken lines.
Edmonton presents a whole different set of problems.
The Oilers are the top scoring team in the Western Conference and are led by two of the brightest stars in the league, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. As much as a grind the Flames game will be, the OIlers will try to run and gun. The Kraken have been in games where the play has opened up but it’s not their strong suit.
The key for Seattle here is to not offer Edmonton chances they don’t have to earn. That means staying disciplined and limiting the number of times the Oilers potent power play is on the ice. Also, the Kraken need to manage the puck well. Edmonton will create chances so don’t fuel their offense by turning the puck over in your own end or in the neutral zone.
Kraken coach and his staff break down the schedule into five-game segments.
“The simpler you make it, the better,” Hakstol said. “That;s why we break it down into your five game segments. Try to worry about a short-term focus and some of the short-term goals knowing where we want to end up at the end of the regular season. It’s a simple math equation, every ten points there’s a certain amount you need to be a playoff team. All it is, is a tool to allow us a little shorter term focus.”
Breaking the schedule down to five-games at a time is not unique to the Kraken, a lot of teams do it but as Hakstol said, it’s a way to manage the enormity of a long season. Seattle is two games into the latest segment and has three points out of four (1-0-1 record).
Looking at the three upcoming games you would hope that you could get at least seven points in the segment, which would require two wins in the next three games – the segment will end with a New Year’s Day match up with the New York Islanders.
With the start that Seattle has has, there have been successful segments and they’ve banked points.
But that doesn’t mean they’ve clinched anything yet. They need to win the majority of those ten points. So each five-game segment you would want at lieast six or seven points, which means continuing to win some hockey games.
It’s not quite the halfway point of the season yet but Seattle has teams that are nipping at their heels. They need to start putting some distance between them and it all starts Wednesday night at Climate Pledge Arena.