The Kraken hit the ice in split squad fashion for a pair of games against rival Calgary, earning themselves a split by the end of the night. It proved to be two very different games, but it was clear the Kraken were dialed in on playing their style of fast, aggressive hockey they had established last season. For those expecting some sort of regression and fall off, there certainly did not appear to be any whatsoever. Dave Hakstol and the coaching staff have the players buying in, and fans should be excited for what is to come.
GAME ONE in the Saddledome in Calgary, saw the team backstopped by Chris Driedger and Ales Stezka. Driedger would take the net for the first two periods before giving way to Stezka. In front of them, the goalies would have arguably the stronger overall team out of the two split squads. Calgary would strike first after a bad defensive clearing attempt coughed up the puck Walker Duehr got the puck in the slot and put a backhander past Driedger. The Kraken immediately responded back however, with Cale Fleury tallying from Morrison and Petman to tie the game back up. Marian Studenic with time running out then put a bad hit on Jakob Pelletier which would see him leave the game, and set off a far more intense chippy game the rest of the way.
The second period saw the Kraken take over the game, with Kailer Yamamoto being in the right place for a fortuitous ping pong bounce he buried for a powerplay tally on Dustin Wolf. Calgary got even three minutes later on a Backlund powerplay tally to tie the game again, before Tye Kartye finally solved Wolf on a forced turnover with just three seconds left in the period to put the Kraken up 3-2. 9 penalties marred the period, capped by MacKenzie Weegar racking up a whopping 24 minutes and being tossed leaving Calgary shorthanded.
The third saw an early Kraken goal by Will Borgen, assisted and set up by Devin Shore and Ryan Winterton. Andrew Mangiapane would draw Calgary back to down one with another powerplay tally on Stezka, but Yamamoto would again strike on the powerplay for his second of the night to cap off the victory.
Observations of the Game – Ryker Evans is right on the cusp. While he made the typical odd mistake, he looked poised and comfortable out there. While I think he gets another year in Coachella, he is almost ready for the show. Tye Kartye was the most noticeable forward. He was driving play, fast, and finally was able to solve Dustin Wolf who robbed him numerous times, including a breakaway chance. Cale Fleury stood out as well on the backend with a strong game. Kole Lind was engaged, quiet but steady in driving the play as well. On the flipside John Hayden was undisciplined and did himself no favors. Chris Driedger did not look terrible, but did not look sharp. A pair of fortunate posts could have turned this game the other way, and the first goal of the game went right through him backhand or not. Shane Wright also was mostly invisible and did not make a case for sticking with the parent club.
GAME TWO at Climate Pledge in Seattle was a far tighter affair, despite Seattle being more dominant in shots and chances. Calgary would start Dan Vladar who played the whole game. In the home net it was a Grubauer and Daccord split. Gru started the game, playing just the first period and facing just six shots. With a lineup of a lot of rookies, they did sport the McCann – Beniers – Eberle line up front. Dunn and Larsson anchored the backend, and the fans got their first look at Eduard Sale. A little added moment was Firebirds Assistant Coach Jessica Campbell being on the bench for the Kraken, making her the second woman to ever coach in the NHL.
Tucker Robertson would score the opening goal for the Kraken, assisted by Goyette and Henman just 2:40 into the game. Dryden Hunt would answer for the Flames two minutes later, followed by a goal by Ilya Solovyov. That lead would hold until the second period.
The Kraken finally solved Vladar, and of course it was Matty Beniers from Poturalski and Dunn on the powerplay that locked things at 2-2. After that it was a steady back and forth. Joey Daccord slammed the door at one end while Vladar would not be beaten again in the other net. A scoreless third period was followed by nothing solved in overtime.
The game would go to the shootout, where Eberle and McCann were both denied, while Sharangovich and Dube for the Flames would both solved Daccord to seal a hard fought 3-2 win for Calgary.
Observations of the Game – While the team was weaker offensively, they showed stronger defensively with Bellemare, Dumoullin, Larsson, and Dunn all out there. David Goyette had a good game and factored on the scoresheet, which offset the struggles of Firkus and Sale among other prospects on the night. Beniers looks like his regular season form and the line of McCann and Eberle flanking him will continue to give the opposition nightmares. It's a good sign the chemistry is still there and hasn't waned at all. While it is preseason, Gru wasn't that great with only six shots and letting in a pair of goals. Not reading too much into it, but Seattle wants him sharp and locked in for the start of the season in two weeks.
Overall the Kraken looked fast, engaged, and stuck to playing their style. They looked on the same page and ready for the start of the season. It is clear the battles in camp are coming down to a few names, and while early on some have pushed themselves ahead there is still a lot of runway for things to change. Bellemare seems the lock for 4th line center, and Yamamato, Lind, Kartye all are showing well out of the gate. Daccord has been the best goalie so far, and that includes over Grubauer who was a bit disappointing letting in two goals on six shots. Still, it is preseason so you can’t read much into the performances of guys avoiding injury and just getting in reps knowing they have their roster spot locked up.
Seattle gets Vancouver next this coming Thursday as their next game.