Connecting the (face-off) dot: Kraken regroup in Sunday practice

Vegas Golden Knights v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 30: William Karlsson #71 of the Vegas Golden Knights and Alex Wennberg #21 of the Seattle Kraken take the opening face off at Climate Pledge Arena on March 30, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

Just a half of an hour.

That was all the Seattle Kraken needed to get to pressing matters after the final stretch to conclude practice on Sunday: 


“We cleared the deck this morning and had a good thirty-minute workday,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said. 

The transition game received plenty of attention during formal working hours. But when off the clock, the Kraken center position put in overtime. 

With one day to lay low in between a 5-2 home opening loss to the Vegas Golden Knights and a quick tune-up before facing the Eastern Conference juggernaut Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, the ice then became a classroom for Alex Wennberg, Yanni Gourde, Matty Beniers and Shane Wright – all four centers who are either in the prime of team plans, or a key foundational piece for the long-term future. 

The Kraken struggled mightily at the dot against Vegas on Saturday, winning only 35 percent of their face-offs. Only two players finished higher than 50 percent: Jared McCann, winning two of three, and Brandon Tanev – a natural winger who won the only face-off he was assigned. 

The season is only three games young, but there is only one team struggling more at the face-off circle than the Kraken, who’ve won 39 percent of their draws: (surprisingly enough) the Tampa Bay Lightning, clocking in at 34 percent. 

The Hurricanes on Monday will be a stiff test – though just playing two games, they have won 57 percent of their face-offs, fifth best in the league. They were the fourth best team in the league last season when they won the Metropolitan Division title.

“It’s a challenging league in the face-off dot,” Hakstol said. “We have a couple of younger guys who are learning, will continue to improve and are competitive in the face-off dot.” 

Hakstol served a reminder of how the spotlight is on the center position, but then with linemates to help if draws aren’t won cleanly – in coaches speak, a “50-50 battle.” But the draw is where the chain of events begin, and even more so with a few seconds before the puck is actually dropped. 

Quite simply, the rule of thumb – if you’re on time, you’re late. And Hakstol said it’s an ingredient of what separates the greenhorns from those seasoned with NHL experience. 

“Number one, I think a lot of your positioning - two, three, four seconds before the puck is dropped - is often a pretty good predictor of who wins the draw,” Hakstol said. 

“There’s a process to it. We’ve got smart, competitive guys in that spot and it’s an area I’m confident we’re going to improve over time.” 

Brandon Tanev and Jaden Schwartz did not skate on Sunday and were given the day off each for a “maintenance day,” according to Hakstol. Karson Kuhlman skated in Schwartz’s spot on the left wing, with linemates Alex Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand, who stayed together in Saturday’s loss. 

Shane Wright, scratched the previous two games, skated with Jared McCann and Yanni Gourde. 

The Coachella Valley Firebirds and head coach Dan Bylsma opened their inaugural AHL season with a scorching start offensively on Sunday afternoon, beating the Calgary Wranglers 6-5 at Scotiabank Saddledome. 

They are coming as advertised with a potent lineup bearing youth and seasoned experience. Kole Lind scored the historic first goal, assisted by Ryker Evans, and bagged a four-point game. Andrew Poturalski, last year’s AHL scoring champ, logged a goal and assist. He was named alternate captain with Gustav Olofsson an hour before puck drop, while Max McCormick earned the captaincy of the squad. 

The Firebirds and Wranglers will meet in a Monday night rematch at 6pm PT. 




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