NEWARK, N.J. — Seattle will Krak open its new arena, Climate Pledge Arena, on Saturday night. It’s expected to be a show-stopping opening — reminder: Jerry Bruckheimer is one of the owners — as the NHL officially hits the Pacific Northwest.
But before things get Krak’ing (just a few more, promise), the Kraken kickstarted their inaugural season with a five-game road trip that saw a few things slip through the Kraks. While the team scored its first franchise goal — via Ryan Donato — and recorded its first franchise win — 4-3 over the Predators — the start of the season wasn’t all it was Krak’ed up to be. With a 4-2 loss to the Devils on Tuesday, Seattle headed home 1-3-1.
“We’re getting to know each other and we’ve taken huge steps as we’ve gone through training camp [and] on this nine-day road trip. There’s a lot of positives in here even though we walk away with a record that we’re not happy with,” noted coach Dave Hakstol after the game.
It’s not easy being the new kids on the block. The team is a mish-mash of 18 skaters and two goalies who, up until training camp in late September, hadn’t spent a whole lot of time together. Players like captain Mark Giordano (Flames), defenseman Vince Dunn (Blues) and forward Jordan Eberle (Islanders) came over in the expansion draft. Standouts Jaden Schwartz (Blues) and Philipp Grubauer (Avalanche) signed up via free agency.
A lack of chemistry was evident in New Jersey. On the first goal, no one covered the point as Adam Larsson pinched leading to a 2-on-1 and Dawson Mercer’s first NHL goal. On the second, Jordan Eberle failed to pick up his defenseman, Damon Severson, crashing down from the point. Could some of the miscues and lost assignments have been due to fatigue following a 6-1 thrashing by the Flyers Monday night and the Devils contest being the last game of the road trip? Sure. But overall things haven’t been great.
Here is how the Kraken stack up through five games:
- Outscored 19-11 including 8-2 in the opening frame
- Outscored 16-7 at 5v5, per Natural Stat Trick
- Averaged just 26.0 shot attempts per game, last in the NHL
“I don’t think we’re as far off as we think. I think just little reads within the game we’re giving up. Sometimes we’re giving up chances that we can’t be giving up and we know that as players. But you can see the guys are working their butts off,” said captain Mark Giordano, sitting in a locker room at the Prudential Center.
Yes, the Kraken do get chances and high-danger chances from the doorstep. Eberle was on the side of the net and had a sure thing that just didn’t bounce in. However, the team is struggling to generate shots as evidenced by the harrowing league-worst shots per game.
“We’re guilty a little bit of having guys care too much where you start squeezing it and overthinking it because you don’t want to be the guy to make the mistake,” noted Giordano, who came to Seattle after 17 years with the Flames organization and is now the first guy wearing the “C” in Kraken history.
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One positive that should change things for Hakstol’s squad is the return of Yanni Gourde. The back-to-back Stanley Cup champion with the Lightning was finally inserted into the lineup against the Devils after offseason shoulder surgery. His return already paid dividends as he got the secondary assist on Jared McCann’s third-period power-play goal that made it a one-goal game.
“It’s a new team, it’s a new everything but I’m ready for the challenge. We’re going to build from that game, and we’ll see where it leads us,” said Gourde postgame. “We have a good group of guys and we have confidence in our group.
“It’s still very early in the season and we’re going to build chemistry and, and we’re going to find our identity and once we do that, we’re going to be a tough team.
After sprinting out of the Garden State, the Kraken were off Wednesday and had some practice time before Saturday’s home opener. While Giordano said “there’s no excuses obviously,” he, like a number of players and Hakstol, mentioned the lack of practice time to start off the season has hurt this squad.
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Now that Climate Pledge Arena is set to open and the team will get comfy in their new digs, they can start putting the pieces into place. One thing to keep in mind is to not overreact to the first five games. After all, not every team, let alone an expansion club, gets off to a hot start. Unless you’re the NHL’s 31st franchise: Vegas started their inaugural season 8-1 and ended it with Stanley Cup Final.
Most spend time in the doldrums to start: for example, the Blue Jackets went 1-8-1 in 2000-01 and the Panthers record to start was 2-4-3 in 1993-94. And, yep, things change pretty quickly in this league.
Now, it’s just time for Seattle to get Kraken.