Bjorkstrand, Tolvanen tee off on Sharks in 7-1 rout

San Jose Sharks v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 22: Oliver Bjorkstrand #22 of the Seattle Kraken scores a goal against Kaapo Kahkonen #36 of the San Jose Sharks during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on November 22, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Can you look at one game as a cure-all? 

Tough to say, but the Seattle Kraken took massive strides in finding the next level of their game on the strength of a four point night by Oliver Bjorkstrand, two goals from Eeli Tolvanen, and a dominant puck possession effort to crush the San Jose Sharks in a 7-1 victory on Thanksgiving eve, Wednesday night before a sellout crowd at Climate Pledge Arena. 

The Kraken, who are 3-0-2 in the last five games and created separation into a wild card spot, scored six unanswered goals including four in the first period. 

“We were ready to go at the drop of the puck,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. 

“It put momentum where it needed to be, right with us.” 

Joey Daccord wasn’t busy. He only had to make 13 saves and at one point didn’t face a shot for nearly 20 minutes, seeing only one shot attempt from the Sharks for the first 16 minutes of the second period. Still, he was stable enough to pick up his third win of the season. 

On the other side, it was disaster. 

“Absolutely freaking embarrassing,” said Sharks head coach David Quinn. 

Kaapo Kahkonen gave up four goals on 17 shots and was pulled after the first period, replaced by Mackenzie Blackwood, who didn’t fare much better (three goals on 13 shots), in front of a team that gave up two breakaways in the first 90 seconds, and mustered six shots in the first 40 minutes. 

Takeaways from the game

1.     A game that cures some ails. The Kraken had played in 10 of their first 20 games down to one goal. Jaden Schwartz let in on the fact, Wednesday morning, that playing in one-goal games help sharpen the approach for close, tight games later in the season. 

Perhaps it’s prudent to throw the proverbial “measuring stick” away for this game, against a San Jose team that came in with the worst record in the league. But the Kraken needed a game like this, a relatively stress-free, low-event, one-sided landslide where they could roll four lines, distribute playing time, get touches for a lineup that relies on depth scoring, and get production in three out of the four lines. Confidence was apparent all night. Bjorkstrand and Tolvanen tied their career-highs in points. 

They took just two minor penalties. They were dominant in puck possession, all evening. 

“Tonight, the biggest thing that stood out was everybody contributing, a little bit of swagger offensively, and most importantly, the start of the hockey game,” said Hakstol. 

2.     Brandon Tanev’s energy set the tone and set the pace. Hakstol wasn’t shy with deploying his energy-laced winger early in the game, where the Kraken set a plan to raise their energy, whether it was the Sharks or the Vegas Golden Knights. 

Tanev (who earned the team's Davy Jones hat after the game) outraced the Sharks defense for a breakaway goal on Kahkonen, a 1-0 lead, and a blueprint to follow. 

“He brings intensity, he brings pace, it may be an odd look on a line chart when he’s on the right side with (Wennberg), but it’s been a good fit because he brings pace.” 

Later in the second period, with the Kraken already in position to run the Sharks out of the building, Tanev took a near high hit from Burroughs. Tanev, visibly incensed, took it as a challenge, and wasted no time dropping the gloves as he moved two-thirds of the way to a Gordie Howe hat trick. He just missed an assist. 

The Kraken had to stop time to demonstrate assertiveness. Hakstol said the gesture had a ton of value despite how lopsided the score was.

“He stepped up in a time when the score’s stretch out – the scrap with Burroughs, that’s the right time,” said Hakstol. 

3.     The good start wrote Wednesday night’s script. Perhaps any sniff of a surprise upset by San Jose, was gone by the middle portion of the first period when the Kraken built a 3-0 lead just 12 minutes in. Tanev’s breakaway, a Bjorkstrand goal from a ricochet off the glass, and Adam Larsson’s first goal of the season – a snipe under the bar from the right circle – proved this was going to be a runaway early. 

The Kraken outshot the Sharks, 17-7 in the first period, and owned a 92 percent advantage in shot quality in the second period. 

“We didn’t give them an opportunity to grab momentum,” said Hakstol.

Bjorkstrand’s line, with Tolvanen on the left wing and Gourde in the middle, combined for nine points. They are virtually inseparable at this point, when the Kraken are meeting primary tenets of their game that made them a playoff team last season. They are back to .500 and have reached the Thanksgiving checkpoint as a playoff team. 

“We’re feeling it, maybe if you look at a goal off the glass – but we like playing together, and I think it just kind of went our way today,” said Bjorkstrand. 

Ultimately, they put their foot the gas pedal early, and were determined to turn this game into a rout against a struggling opponent, right at the drop of the puck. 

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