September 26th, 2021 will be a day Pacific Northwest sports fans will never forget. It is the day the Seattle Kraken made their NHL debut. Traveling to Spokane, WA to play a home game, the NHL’s 32nd franchise put on a show versus their neighbor to the North, the Vancouver Canucks.
Seattle Kraken Hockey
Electricity filled the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena as the Seattle Kraken took to the ice in their stunning HOME sweaters. Accordingly, the crowd was filled with Deep Sea Blue, Ice Blue, Shadow Blue, and Red Alert. And for the first time, John Forslund and JT Brown were in the booth to make the game call.
After a rip-roaring start where the Kraken had possession in the offensive zone for almost ten minutes, the Canucks came storming back with two quick goals, one right off the penalty kill (PK) and another on the powerplay (PP). In the second and third periods, Seattle took the game to another level and outscored Vancouver 5-1 to take the win in their first preseason game, 5-3.
Here at Kraken the Ice we are going to do things a little differently for the preseason. We will go over the players that were in the lineup and discuss their play. This will not only get you ready for the cuts that are coming but also the start of the season and help you better understand who these guys are.
Previously, we mentioned Morgan Geekie in our Introduction series. Unfortunately for us, we had him on the 4th line. If he plays the way he has been in camp, the scrimmage, and this game, Coach Dave Hakstol has a tough decision to make. Geekie, 23 years old, played a strong game at both ends of the ice. The one knock we had on him was his skating ability and it seems as though that concern was addressed. His work along the boards on the backcheck was stellar. Comparatively, his work in the open ice and on the cycle was textbook. All that led Geekie to collect two goals and seal the victory for Seattle. As an aside, his chemistry with Donato and Donskoi was seamless.
Jared McCann B-
Faceoffs lead to possession which leads to scoring chances, and McCann had a great night in the circle. McCann and his linemates, Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz led the charge the first ten minutes with constant pressure and great work along the boards. Where he really shined was the PP which the team has only had a walkthrough of. Cozied up to the half boards on his off-wing, McCann and Giordano were the quarterbacks, opening up lanes to try and get shots or spreading the D for cross-ice passes. The latter of which led McCann to score a PP goal in the second period on a wicked snapshot from the left circle over the right shoulder of Canucks netminder, Arturs Silovs.
“Boi” Calle gets a C. And it’s not a bad thing or a good thing. For all intents and purposes, he was fairly quiet in this one as was his whole line. What he needed was a standout performance and that didn’t come. Maybe he will settle down, not grip the stick so tightly, and let it rip? We shall see.
The first goal of the Kraken season fell onto the stick of Riley Sheahan from a stellar pass by Nathan Bastian from behind the net aka Gretzky’s office. Besides that bright spot, Sheahan did what he is known for, grinding away and outworking his opponents. Like we have mentioned before regarding Sheahan, he is a veteran presence that is going to push the fringe players to play hard or lose their spot to him. His North/South style was on full display today.
On a stellar night from his linemates, Schwartz had a ho-hum kinda night. Held to zero points and zero shots, Jaden who is a lock to start with the club, had some great chem with his line, worked hard along the boards, and didn’t come up with anything to show for it… and that’s ok. Expect to see him pick it up as the preseason moves forward.
Ryan Donato B+
In the case of Ryan Donato, we see a man taking full advantage of the ice time being given. With Colin Blackwell out day-to-day with a lower-body injury and Wennberg out for a family matter, some players have a chance to show the coaching staff what they have… and Donato did just that in the scrimmage and this game. Scoring on a beautiful one-timer from the right circle on the PP, Donato had chances like that one all night long. Consequently, the coaches will have to give him some serious consideration.
Another player that didn’t do anything to stand out, good or bad. Marcus showed flashes of good speed through the neutral zone and some slick passes deep in the offensive zone. Once Blackwell returns, Johansson will have to pick it up or risk losing a spot in the lineup.
Quickly becoming a fan favorite, Tanev showed why the reputation he brought to Seattle preceded him. Brandon finished the game with two shots and an assist on the Sheahan goal. This man simply works. His no-quit attitude along the boards led to the setup pass from Bastian and all night his compete in the corners routinely kept the puck in the offensive end for the Kraken. By keeping this up, not only will he set the tone for the team, but could see him wearing a letter on the sweater.
If anyone should have a sign around their neck saying “better than advertised”, Eberle is that man. His work rate is unparalleled and he is setting the example of how to play the game at both ends. His saucer pass to Donato on the PP was ::chef’s kiss::
Skating like the wind, Donskoi makes it look easy out there. He’s fast, smart, and decisive. He may have not had the best game in comparison to the scrimmage, but his chemistry with Geekie and Donato was next-level and fun to watch.
Believe it or not, the first thing that came to mind while watching Appleton while he was on the ice was Bubble Hockey. Straight up and down the right-wing and very low percentage shots.
One great pass does not a great player make. Here at KTI, we felt Bastian was weak on the puck behind the goal line and a step behind the speed of the NHL game. Another player Blackwell will have in his sights once he returns to the ice. And with a similar skill set, Bastian better pick it up.
Surprisingly, Gio looked a bit sluggish tonight and that’s just fine. It’s early on in camp and there is plenty of time to get the gears going. Strong on the PP and solid at even strength, Giordano is going to have a wonderful year for the Kraken and his positional play today shows just that.
Penny’s brother showed exactly why he was chosen to be part of this team. On the PK and at even strength, Oleksiak made every second count. Two key blocks on the PK and a wonderful defensive play in the goal mouth saved the momentum from shifting back to Vancouver.
Adam Larsson B+
Didn’t see him that much and that is just the way he plays. Larsson played exactly how he is supposed to, with minimal mistakes while shutting down the opposition.
Carson Soucy C+
Another player that didn’t shine through, but didn’t have to. An extremely blue-collar performance from an extremely blue-collar player.
Haydn Fleury A-
Talk about a player that needed a performance like this! Fleury took the game to the Canucks. Showing exactly what we mentioned HERE, the older Fleury brother made his case. Poise with the puck in the neutral zone, creative passes on the breakout, and even some well-timed attack in the offensive zone. If he keeps it up, he’ll be a lock to start the season.
Fresh off an awful turnover to Kole Lind in the scrimmage, Cholowski HAD to have a good game. And a good game did he have! Dennis kept things moving at the point and made some wonderful passes to set up high percentage shots. He’ll need to keep it up or risk starting the season in the press box.
Hard to believe, despite giving up two goals on seven shots (one was a breakaway right out of the penalty box), Grubauer showed us why he was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season. His lateral movement from post to post was on point. The way he pushes off the opposite foot to cover the ground from one side to the other is otherworldly.
It’s all about those angles when it comes to Driedger. And he covers them expertly. Not afraid to come out of his net to challenge and shooter, Driedger gave the opposing team nothing to shoot at. Plus the goal he let in was a fluke.
On a momentous occasion for the Pacific Northwest and hockey in general, the Seattle Kraken came out like a roaring sea. The tide went out in the second half of the first, but the king tide made its way in the second and third periods. As a fan of this new team, you have to think to yourself that everything is going to be all right.
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