It won’t count in the standings.
Soon, we’re not even sure if you’ll be able to go to Google and look up this year’s pre-season standings.
But what Sunday, September 26 represented was another significant step in the history of NHL hockey in Seattle.
Think about it – after over three years of build up, guessing the team name, colors, future players, head coach, this all finally came to a tangible environment we’ll never forget:
Spokane Arena, sold out, and five Kraken goals to bring the house down in an inaugural victory.
If this dress rehearsal for the NHL season is an indication of what could come, we’re in for a magic carpet ride.
The pre-season opener, a 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, delivered elements worth noting as we follow along the path leading up to October 12:
1) Pace: the mission of this year’s Kraken, touched on more yesterday with head coach Dave Hakstol, is effective play with – and without the puck. Quickness causes chaos, and delivered chaos disrupts an opposing team’s response. Energy is one way to define it. It keeps you in the offensive zone longer, with elevated momentum to generate quality scoring chances (we’ll define that metric soon to gain further understanding!). Last night’s pre-season “dry run” lacked the usual robust stat sheet we all have access to (blocks, takeaways, hits, etc.) to help get deeper into the numbers, but it was evident the Kraken had plenty of chances to take an early lead, and then dig their way out of a 2-0 hole starting with Riley Sheahan’s landmark goal at the front of the net. They succeeded.
2) Shots: Because of last night’s rare set-up with stats the required in-game tally via the score clock inside Spokane Arena indicated at one point, a whopping 27-8 advantage in favor of the Kraken. They found ways to create stress and blast away at goaltender Arturs Silovs, busy throughout the first half before giving way to backup Spencer Martin. That doesn’t include Jared McCann hitting the post in a threat to make it 1-0 early in the game, as shots that hit the post don’t count on the official tally.
3) Planned split in net: it’s common to see two goaltenders share split duties in net for the pre-season, much like a bullpen day in baseball. It’s rare once we get to the regular season and beyond. Targeted “goalie 1a and goalie 1b” tandem Phillip Grubauer and Chris Driedger – victimized two out of three times by bounces arguably out of their control – only had to stop 12 shots.
4) Geek Squad Unite: Acknowledging the Vegas Golden Knights shattered so many records and expectations in their expansion season and nearly won the Stanley Cup – it’s important to understand how hard it is to win in the National Hockey League (even more for an expansion season) when so many pieces have to fall into place. But in similar vein, let’s watch for who’s the “next Jonathan Marchessault or William Karlsson” – journeymen players with not much a resume before joining the Golden Knights, then exploded after given elevated roles and ice time. Morgan Geekie made a strong statement for a similar story: 38 games in the NHL over the last two seasons, with plenty of seasoning down on the farm with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. Playing on a line combination with fellow forwards Ryan Donato and Joonas Donskoi, he earned the game winner off a face-off that yes, suggested fortune with how it went in, but later on a power play uncorked a snap shot from the right circle to effectively put a dagger into the Canucks late in the third period.
5) Power play: if the other team takes penalties, you make them pay. The Kraken did that three times last night, strong results with training camp underway only four days ago. The first one: Jared McCann to tie the game, with a snapshot to the upper corner that stung the upper corner of the net. The second one: Jordan Eberle to Ryan Donato, with a pass that should be hung in the Louvre. The third one: the Geekie rocket that was shared earlier. Common wisdom in hockey says if you can make teams pay after they take penalties, you create more stress on them.
Stick taps to my friend and colleague, radio play-by-play voice Everett Fitzhugh (see bottom). Calling his Kraken pre-season debut after stops up the hockey ladder in Bowling Green (NCAA), Youngstown (USHL) and Cincinnati (ECHL), he knocked it out of the park. You’ll really enjoy his charisma, energy, and delivery all season long.
The Kraken will also take Monday off with no practice, prioritizing rest before four games in five days, including back-to-back nights of travel through Edmonton and Calgary.
FINAL SCORE: SEATTLE KRAKEN 5 - VANCOUVER CANUCKS 3
SHOTS ON GOAL: Kraken 38 - Canucks 15
1st Period –
1-0 VAN: Vancouver, Rathbone (1) (unassisted), 10:28
2-0 VAN: Vancouver, Boeser (1) (Rathbone, Petan), 11:50 (PP)
2nd Period –
2-1 VAN: Seattle, Sheahan (1) (Bastian, Tanev), 2:32
2-2, tied: Seattle, McCann (1) (Cholowski, Donskoi), 8:36 (PP)
3-2, SEA: Seattle, Donato (1) (Eberle, McCann), 11:01 (PP)
3-3, tied: Vancouver, Hoglander (1) (Burroughs, Petan), 12:30
3rd period –
4-3, SEA: Seattle, Geekie (1) (unassisted), 0:50
5-3, SEA: Seattle, Geekie (2) (Cholowski, Fleury), 14:37