Go ahead - be coy, Haydn Fleury.
The first question posed when he approached the podium inquired about his own branding of a night that produced his first multi-goal game of his NHL career, in a 4-1 Kraken victory over the Minnesota Wild before a sellout crowd at Climate Pledge Arena.
Fleury shrugged, tilting his head to suggest surprise, astonishment, and maybe a little bit of an “aw shucks” approach:
“I got a lucky bounce on the first one and on the second one, I took what they gave me.”
Bounces, by luck or effort, went the right way for the one-time seventh overall pick from Carolina (drafted by Ron Francis in 2014) in his biggest night wearing Kraken blue.
The numbers aren’t as robust as say, the 2015-16 season when he was a blueline star for Brent Sutter’s Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League, but there’s still more time ahead. The Kraken, the third stop for Fleury on his NHL resume and in over a calendar year (he was dealt to Anaheim last season), presents new life with a fresh start. There is no more of an “established” set of defensive pairings he has to compete with, for ice time, say in Carolina. He is part of a new group, on ice together for only over a month, presenting the element of opportunity.
He stood out, and the Kraken have legitimate momentum, with back-to-back wins for the first time in franchise history.
·Save of the game: Philipp Grubauer, a breakaway save on reigning Calder Trophy winner Karill Kaprizov, a second period stop that kept the Kraken up by a goal.
·A turning point? Look to the next shift after Ryan Hartman made it 1-0, just 6:27 into the game and during the only stretch where Minnesota dominated with puck possession. They came back down ice and scored again, this time seeing the goal wiped off the board for a puck that was kicked in by Marcus Foligno at the left post. The Kraken settled their game from that point, and turned an 8-4 shots deficit into a 13-10 edge at the end of 20 minutes with a 1-1 tie.
·In that period, former Puget Sound major junior star Connor Dewar, captain of the Everett Silvertips three seasons ago, nearly put the Wild ahead in his NHL debut: a snapshot that Grubauer stopped from between the circles on Dewar’s first shift, then a screaming wrist shot from the right circle, off the rush, with about five minutes left.
·Fleury’s two-goal game: the first of his NHL career, and the first in his life since an American Hockey League game on Dec. 13, 2016, when his Charlotte Checkers defeated the Manitoba Moose, 4-2 (Fleury had the game winner that night).
·Ryan Donato “revenge game” update: his assist against his former team, last night, now has him with six points in the last six games against the Wild.
·Turbo Time: Brandon Tanev’s late, third period empty net goal has given the Kraken a team-leading six goals. He had seven, period, last season in Pittsburgh. He’s almost halfway to his career high (14).
·38 shots on net: most the Kraken have put up in a game all season long. Facing the Wild, who averaged a league-high tying 36 shots on net, the response to answer the challenge of puck possession was impressive. They out-chanced the Wild, 30-21, and at one point had a lock-and-key claim to chances between the circles and front of the net, 10-8 (before the Wild came back with five of the third period’s seven chances in that area of the ice).
·The Kraken penalty kill: an evolving strength through eight games of the season and now ranked sixth best in the NHL: not much action (and that’s a tribute to staying out of the box), but effective when needed – two for two, wiping away a Nathan Bastian goalie interference penalty in the first, and Fleury’s interference penalty in the third.
·Pre-game: Lenny Wilkens cameo alert! The Seattle basketball legend and 36-year, Hall-of-Fame NBA coach Lenny Wilkens ushered in the game’s first puck drop, and was saluted by the sellout crowd with a Kraken jersey and “Happy Birthday” sing-along, hours after he was honored by the city of Seattle with Lenny Wilkens Way dedicated as the new street name of the south side of Climate Pledge Arena.
THURSDAY NIGHT’S LINEUP:
Schwartz - Gourde - Jarnkrok
Donskoi - Wennberg - Eberle
McCann – Geekie – Tanev
Donato – Sheahan – Bastian
Giordano - Oleksiak
Lauzon - Larsson
Fleury - Dunn
FROM THE PODIUM:
Haydn Fleury on describing his second goal of the game:
“I’ve been shooting a lot of pucks in this game and in the last game I had a lot of shots on net. So I was thinking to myself (on the second goal), maybe the fake would be an option but their d-man went down and tried to block it. So I faked it, walked around him, and thought I had a hole short side, missed it, but got my rebound and wrapped it in. That one felt pretty cool.”
Fleury on the contributions of the team’s defensemen:
“I think it’s a key part of our team. All of the defensemen on our team have the capabilities to contribute. If we we’re going to be successful, we had to do that. We have to be solid in our own end, but we have to have a second dimension to our game, we have to contribute and drive the offense as well.”
Philipp Grubauer on piecing together a consistent effort, two games in a row:
“I think you don’t want win one, lose one, win one, lose one. I think last game, we headed in the right direction. This game, we didn’t come out as strong as in the Montreal game. We’ve just got to find a way to push back in the third period. But overall, it was incredible. Everybody, again. That’s what we needed.”
Grubauer on the defense’s development:
“It’s coming together really quick. When you look at how many games we’ve had, we haven’t played too many games. But everyone’s doing their job and if they are, it makes it easy for the person next to them. It’s not our D, it’s our forwards to. We make it easy on our D, and our D makes it easy on me. It’s a chain reaction.”
Head coach Dave Hakstol, resetting after a slow start:
“We had a little opportunity to reset after the TV timeout (after the disallowed goal), and I thought the response was really good by our team. Number one, you have a realization we didn’t have a really good start and had to get going. The disallowed goal was a turning point right there. But it’s only a turning point if you take advantage of it. And our guys got going at that point and time.”
Hakstol on the defense’s impact:
“For our guys on the back end, (Jay Leach) does a really good job in terms of preaching to make the first pass, then supporting the rush, and being intelligent on how you join the rush. Same thing in the offensive zone. It’s nice seeing those guys getting rewarded. You see Haydn coming back in the lineup a couple of nights ago, play well, and tonight get rewarded with his offensive stats and play well defensively. That’s a really good sign.”