Tonight, the Kraken will look to snap a three-game losing streak and get their first win of a six-game long November homestand. Standing in their way is a strong opponent in the Minnesota Wild. For the first time, the Kraken will face a team they’ve beaten before in the regular season, having defeated Minnesota 4-1 on October 28th. Perhaps that will give Seattle some much-needed confidence in the midst of a recent run where confidence has been in short supply.
Opponent Spotlight – Minnesota Wild
After being one of last year’s surprise playoff teams, the Wild have built off of that success this season, currently sitting second in the Central Division at 9-4-0. The more advanced numbers back up Minnesota’s impressive record. The Wild excel in puck possession and generating scoring chances at 5-on-5. According to Moneypuck.com, Minnesota leads the NHL in expected goals percentage and is third in unblocked shot attempt (Fenwick) percentage. While dominant at 5-on-5, Minnesota’s special teams is unremarkable, with their powerplay ranked 18th in the NHL and their penalty kill ranked 23rd.
Any discussion of the Wild on an individual level has to include Kirill Kaprizov. The electrifying Russian winger is the Wild’s leading scorer with 11 points in 13 games and much of Minnesota’s offensive gameplan is built around him. On defense, a formidable trio of blueliners in captain Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, and Jonas Brodin provide skill and stability to the Minnesota blueline
- Start strong – Starting strong may sound like a painfully obvious, almost cliché key to the game, but it’s something the Kraken have made an effort to work on. Strong starts at home have been a point of emphasis for the Kraken coaching staff since the team’s first homestand in October. One of the reasons for that particular focus is the difficulty teams face when trailing early, which coach Hakstol alluded to after practice yesterday: “You play from behind in this league, it’s awful hard. You have to be perfect if you’re playing from behind”
- Shut down Kaprizov with Gourde line – Having beaten the Wild a couple weeks ago, the Kraken have a blueprint for certain matchups that could help them win tonight. In the teams’ last meeting, the Kraken’s line of Yanni Gourde, Brandon Tanev, and Calle Jarnkrok was often matched up against the Kaprizov line and forced Minnesota’s star player to spend much of the game trapped in his own end of the ice. After the game, Dave Hakstol called that line’s play “one of the big keys” of the game. Neutralizing Kaprizov again will go a long way toward solving the Kraken’s most pressing issue of allowing too many goals.
- Get back to basics on defense – The Kraken’s defensive woes over the past few games have been well-documented. Since their last game against the Wild, the Kraken have allowed 4+ goals in four out of five games. While one can certainly chalk some of that up to subpar goaltending, defensive miscues have played a big role as well. The most notable mistakes are often of the variety one would normally see from a youth hockey team or rec league team, instances of simply forgetting about the man you’re supposed to cover. Given all the new systems the Kraken defensemen have had to learn since joining the team, it’s fair to wonder if the amount of complex thinking has clouded their grasp of the basics. Tonight, I’d like to see the Kraken defensemen focus on the basic elements of marking your man and taking him out of the play.
Did You Know…
For today’s memory, I want to talk about Marian Gaborik, a Minnesota Wild legend who announced his retirement from the NHL last week. Gaborik was one of the best scorers in the salary cap era and a truly elite forward when at his peak. 11 years after he last played for Minnesota, Gaborik is still the Wild’s all-time leader in goals and ranks second in points. When it came to straight-line speed, only a handful of players in the league’s history could be considered on Gaborik’s level. That speed earned him a ton of breakaways, and he knew how to finish them. Check out some highlights from his career:
Finally, I can’t mention Gaborik without including this wild (no pun intended) clip of him being flipped in the air by Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek:
ECH Postgame Live
Join us after the game for ECH Postgame Live! After every Kraken game this season, RJ and Dylan will do a live postgame show on the Emerald City Hockey YouTube Channel. ECH Postgame live will include a postgame wrap-up, analysis, and a live Q&A with viewers. Join the community of Kraken fans who tune in after the game to talk Kraken hockey!
Programming Note: Tonight’s ECH Postgame Live will be about 30 minutes after the game, as RJ and Dylan will both be attending the postgame media availabilities.