The aftermath of a 7-4 defeat to the Anaheim Ducks led the Seattle Kraken to assemble as one at Climate Pledge Arena on Friday morning.
Not for practice, originally scheduled at 11:00 a.m., but instead for a heart-to-heart talk.
With a morning team meeting at hand before a small assortment of players including Jared McCann, Colin Blackwell, and Chris Driedger suited up for an optional skate, the expansion Kraken have a mission ahead to stop a three-game losing skid which last night included another four goal outburst and two “tucks” from McCann (in his first game back from COVID-19 protocol), but allowed a season high seven goals and have granted 23 goals past goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger in the last five games.
“We talked about where we're at right now,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “We went through some of the things from last night and some of the specifics from early in the game; just talked a little bit more on a broader scale as well a little bit more big picture.”
Through the process, including Jordan Eberle saying Thursday night “we woke up” after the first period (Anaheim outshot the Kraken, 11-4) and “we’ve got to have a little bit of talk in the room and understand the group that we have," theirleadership, presence, and direction have a bold intersect.
“I feel like our leadership group has been a pretty accurate, spot on throughout the year,” said Hakstol. “From day one, and we've had ups and downs. That doesn't mean everything has gone the way that we hoped that it would go. But our leadership group is a straight up, honest group. (They ) speak to things as they are. There's not a whole lot of fluff.”
“So I believe that has resonated.”
Offensively, the Kraken have begun to echo noise: 27 goals in the last eight games, and entering last night, tied for fifth most in the league since that stretch began Oct. 26. Jordan Eberle is himself again. Jaden Schwartz (three goals in the last five games) is coming around. Jared McCann (12 points in 12 games, spilling into last season) is healthy.
Defensively, things are noisy in their own end. While the old adage for a goaltender is “the puck stops here,” there are multiple layers that define defensive success. If you ask the Kraken, goaltending is a piece that kept them in Thursday night’s game, not hindered them.
While Grubauer tied his season high in goals allowed (5) last night, he was previously at a 1.82 goals-against-average and .924 save percentage on home ice.
“Just speaking directly to it, (Grubauer) got us through the first period,” said Hakstol. “He gave us chance to go into the second period and regroup our game and try to get back into it. In terms of his game last night I’m sure he’d tell you, he’s disappointed with us fourth one. To that point, he was a big part of giving us a chance to even dig ourselves out of the hole.”
What’s ahead for the Kraken after the mental reset is the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, a rematch with an abrasive, physical and punishing unit that the Kraken took apart 4-1 back on Oct. 28, but are now tied for first in the Central Division at 9-4 (18 points) and were missing leading scorer Mats Zuccarello (along with Rem Pitlick) in the first meeting in Seattle due to COVID-19 protocol.
“We’ve played well against different styles, it's more about us playing well and playing the way that we need to be successful,” said Hakstol. “There's no easy route for us to be able to look good and play well for the 60 minutes and we have a good understanding of that. So when we're off a little bit like we were last night, it can look tough at times.”
The Wild, coming off a 3-2 loss in Vegas last night, will be testing the depths of their stamina tank on the back end of three games in four days, will be followed by a Wednesday, Nov. 17 home date with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Then, the test gets tougher: the Avalanche (Nov. 19), the Capitals (Nov. 21), the Hurricanes (Nov. 24), on the road against the Lightning (Nov. 26), and then a visit with the Panthers (Nov. 27).
Those five opponents: a combined record of 38-13-10 this season and two Stanley Cups in two years (Tampa).
“Guys that are intelligent, competitive, can move the puck and get in the play are going to be prevalent on everybody’s roster,” said Hakstol. “It’s a matter of how you work against that. When you don’t get above, when you don’t bump, when you don’t take time and space away, when you give free ice, these guys are going to hurt you.”
Straight talk, for conquering the challenge ahead.