Driedger's storybook night helps the Kraken stay hot, in win at Calgary

Florida Panthers v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 12: Chris Driedger #60 of the Seattle Kraken warms up before the game against the Florida Panthers at Climate Pledge Arena on December 12, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Alex Wennberg broke a tie game with his first career goal against the Calgary Flames in the third period, supported by Chris Driedger’s return to the crease in a 2-1 win for the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.  

The night belonged to Driedger, who earned first star efforts in his first game back in the NHL since May 1, 2022 – right before blowing out his ACL in a World Championships game with Team Canada, and missing most of last season either in recovery or the American Hockey League. He lost the backup job to begin the season to Joey Daccord (with the now-injured Philipp Grubauer starting in the primary role), and returned to grab the victory on the same ice surface where he furnished his WHL career with the Calgar Hitmen.  

“Really happy for him,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “He's worked hard to have that opportunity. He was a difference maker.” 

The Kraken earned just their second win in ten tries, lifetime against the Flames, and are now 5-0-2 in the last seven games while sticking to within three points of the final wild card spot.  

Kailer Yamamoto scored in the first period for the Kraken, while Nazem Kadri earned Calgary’s only goal on a first period power play.  


1. Chris Driedger’s night was storybook stuff: Not to turn this usual entry into a goalie pat-on-the-back column, but the good hits just keep on coming these days for Kraken goaltending. Joey Daccord’s been red hot ever since the start of December. It’s about time he got the night off with a game against a surging Philadelphia team, and the Winter Classic right around the corner, while Philipp Grubauer is still on the mend.  

What Driedger did wasn’t easy.  

“I’m tired,” said Driedger after the win. 

Yet, it’s detectable for how motivating this night could be, recovering from a period he said included “some oof the most adversity” he ever faced. He previously hadn’t played in an NHL game in 19 months. That’s a long time to be forgotten, and in some teams cases, discarded for another option. But Driedger went to Coachella Valley to rebuild himself after ACL surgery, and has returned looking as good as ever. Think back on the save he made to rob Elias Lindholm on the Flames’ second period two man advantage: it was a clear sign that the night belonged to Driedger. It’s one game, but clearly one that signaled Driedger can handle the high-stress environment of the NHL.  

“Gutsy is a pretty fair statement,” said Driedger of the win, who deflected credit.  

“(Calgary) came hard at the end, but I thought our guys did a heck of a job keeping them to the outside.”  

2. The Kraken showed up on time: The league’s collective bargaining agreement states that December 26 is a firm off day, in respect of the holiday season. That means the Kraken had no choice but to fly in December 27 to Calgary on a crunched schedule (teams normally travel 1-2 days out from the start of a road trip), and get a win under condensed circumstances that fit the film “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” Yet, the hallmark of a pro, ingrained into a player’s head since the days as a teenager, is consistency, no matter the circumstances. The Kraken played the first period with control, and needed only 2:24 after puck drop to turn a big save from Driedger into a breakaway goal by Kailer Yamamoto, converting a snappy stretch pass from Vince Dunn.  

“It’s always good to play with a lead,” said Hakstol. “We’ve been chasing a lot of games. That’s not a successful formula.”  

3. Staying hot: The Kraken went into the early portion of December into a “sink or swim” moment. Significant injuries took a hit to significant players in the lineup, and the Kraken were parched for a win, for eight straight games. The tide began to turn after the Florida win, and has manifested a seven-game run with elite goaltending, depth offense, and timely special teams.  

They needed this to stay in the playoff conversation. Arizona miraculously came back to beat Colorado in overtime on Wednesday night, Minnesota is hot, and Edmonton (who still employs Connor McDavid, last we checked) is looming four points back, with five games in hand. The Kraken will need habits from this run, displaying signs of life, to stay in the thick of the playoff conversation. Yet, just one game below .500, they are in the hunt, and demonstrating even without Andre Burakovsky, Jaden Schwartz, and even a key face-off pivot in Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, they have the tools to manufacture wins for the long term.  

“There’s got to be urgency,” said Wennberg. “We’ve got to fight for each other. That’s what we do. Obviously tonight, it’s not a pretty win. We were working hard, we just try to find a way to win games. That’s what matters.”  

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