Kraken Practice Notes: November 3rd

Following a day off after their second pair of back-to-back games this season, the Kraken took the ice for practice at the Kraken Community Iceplex today. Coming off a pair of losses, the team worked on a little bit of everything in an energetic practice.

Below are some of my observations from today’s Kraken practice and subsequent media availability:

“I stop the puck when they tell me to.”

Kraken goalie Chris Driedger returned to practice today after being activated from injured reserve yesterday. Driedger spoke to the media after practice and clarified some details about the injury he’d been dealing with. He said he “kind of tweaked the knee a little bit” on a goal that went in during the Kraken’s game against Philadelphia on October 18th. Since Driedger only gave up one goal during that game, this would seem to be the play he’s referring to:

While Driedger didn’t think it was going to be a big deal immediately afterward, he said he woke up the next day and “it was no bueno.” Asked how long until he gets his next start, Driedger provided one of the best quotes of the young season: “I haven’t been told. I’m sure they’re talking about it but I’m not privy to those conversations. I stop the puck when they tell me to.” Given his underdog backstory and sense of humor, I could definitely see Driedger emerge as another fan favorite once he gets into a few games.

Brief Powerplay Practice

The powerplay has recently become one of the most prominent points of outside scrutiny for the Kraken. Seattle has only scored on a meager 9.4% of opportunities with the extra man, which ranks 30th among the 32 NHL teams. While I called the Kraken’s powerplay a “big problem” on our last ECH Postgame Live (8:44 mark), coach Dave Hakstol didn’t take as negative a tone after today’s practice when discussing the current state of Seattle’s powerplay.

Giving his assessment of the powerplay performance last game in Edmonton, Hakstol said, “I look at it and I see six grade A opportunities…We’d like to have a little bit of puck luck somewhere along the way.” While Hakstol did admit the team could be “a little hungrier around the blue paint,” his overall picture of the team’s performance with the extra man was positive- “Our zone time and our opportunities have been good coming off of pretty clean entries.” The question of whether the Kraken’s continuing powerplay woes are matter of bad luck or poor gameplan is still up for debate. But as Hakstol said today, “At the end of the day, it’s about finding the back of the net.”

To that end, the Kraken did work on the powerplay in practice today, albeit briefly. Here are the two powerplay units:

After watching the ~5 minute powerplay practice, here are my three takeaways:

  • Geekie playing the left side of the second powerplay unit really changes the dynamic. A lot of plays ran through him, whether it was one-timers or a quick backdoor pass to Jaden Schwartz playing net-front.
  • There seemed to be a focus on moving the puck quickly. During the last few games, the Kraken had issues with holding onto the puck for a while, giving the defense time to adjust. There was noticeably less of that today.
  • There still wasn’t enough player movement for my taste. Despite the faster puck movement, the powerplay still looked stagnant and predictable. I know that the Kraken’s 1-3-1 powerplay setup is based on quick puck movement, not player movement, to open up opportunities. But I’ve seen other teams that employ a 1-3-1 incorporate some player movement into it. Given the Kraken’s recent struggles, it would have been nice to see some kind of wrinkle that made the powerplay less predictable.

Defense Insights

In Seattle’s last game, Dave Hakstol made an interesting lineup decision on defense. He brought Carson Soucy back into the lineup, scratching Haydn Fleury. While Fleury had been playing well the prior few games, we theorized that Soucy may have gotten the nod for matchup reasons. Soucy has an abundance of defensive ability, physicality, and a 6’5 frame, all of which the Kraken would need when facing Oilers superstar forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The switch was successful, with Soucy having a strong game and even scoring a goal.

Today, Hakstol was asked what goes into the decision to play one defenseman over another. He responded that “the roles that they play during the game specifically” do play a part in the selection, adding that in-game performance was the other factor. With the Kraken rotating seven defensemen, look for some of the decisions to be dictated by matchup on a game-to-game basis.

Will Borgen Update

Those of you who have been following Emerald City Hockey since the season started will know about our desire to see defenseman Will Borgen in the lineup for a game. The 24-year-old expansion draft pick from the Sabres has yet to suit up for the Kraken in a regular season game, even amidst all the rotation at the defense position. Dave Hakstol provided a little bit of insight today into why that’s been the case. Hakstol said that the 7 defensemen who’ve played this season have been in a rhythm and noted that each of them won their respective spots in training camp. He added that Borgen needs to be ready to go when the opportunity comes. So it looks like a Will Borgen revenge game tomorrow night is unlikely. That said, given the reality of injuries and COVID-19 absences in the NHL this season, you never know when opportunity will knock.

Other Tidbits

  • Marcus Johansson and Colin Blackwell were on the ice early today before practice. no further injury update has been given, but they both continue to rehab and work their way back.
  • Assistant Coach Paul McFarland and forward Jared McCann were not on the ice today and remain in the NHL’s COVID-19 Protocol.

One comment

  1. Fantastic article RJ. In thinking about Borgen making the team out of camp, and being a healthy scratch every game to this point, I’m sure the burning desire to improve, stay shatp, snd being ready for his moment to come is there. Keep grinding Will!!

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