After an unusually long 10-day holiday break, the Kraken return to their home ice tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. As the NHL was hit by a flood of COVID-19 cases last week, Seattle’s previous four games were postponed due to active spread among both the Kraken and their opponents. Seattle is still hard-hit by the virus, having four players in COVID protocol and only six available defensemen in the entire organization. Despite the challenges, the “next man up” mentality must prevail for a Kraken team in desperate need of wins.
Opponent Spotlight – Philadelphia Flyers
Like the Kraken, many NHL teams are dealing with COVID-19 issues of their own, and the Flyers are no exception. They’ll be without Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) winner Sean Couturier, starting goalie Carter Hart, and depth forwards Scott Laughton and Derrick Brassard tonight. Those are some big absences for a Flyers team that’s struggling to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a 12-12-5 record.
Since the Kraken last played the Flyers in October, Philly fired head coach Alain Vigneault in the middle of a 10-game losing streak where the team looked lost. However, they may have turned a corner, as they have a 4-1-1 record since Vigneault was let go.
- Shoot the puck – With Flyers starting goalie Carter Hart still in COVID protocol, the Kraken will likely face either Martin Jones or Felix Sandstrom in net. While Jones has improved a bit this season, he’s been one of the worst goalies in the NHL over the last three years. Sandstrom, meanwhile, has yet to play an NHL game. Those are the kind of goalies you want to test early and often. That shouldn’t be an issue for Seattle, as the Flyers give up the 2nd-most shots per game of any team in the NHL.
- Play conservative defense – With Vince Dunn and Adam Larsson in COVID protocol, the Kraken are down to their last six defensemen. That makes some suboptimal D pairs and assignments necessary. This is not the time to make risky pinches into the offensive zone or overcommit to the puck carrier. No need to be a hero. Just play smart defensively and focus on your assignment.
- Backcheck – The last time the Kraken played the Flyers, they were beaten over and over in the transition game. Seattle had a reasonable excuse, though. On the second half of back-to-backs, the Kraken’s forwards had tired legs and simply lacked the energy to backcheck at a high level. Now that everyone should have fresh legs after a 10-day break, Seattle’s forwards need to backcheck hard and force the Flyers to make mistakes in transition. Yanni Gourde’s return will be a huge boost toward that end.
Did You Know…
Today’s Flyers memory comes from a 2003 Flyers – Maple Leafs game that included one of the wackiest goals you’ll ever see. Flyers goalie Roman Cechmanek lost his glove behind the net, then allowed a goal as he was focused on putting the glove back on during play. Cechmanek is one of the first goalies I distinctly remember from my time as a young hockey fan. He only played four NHL seasons, but he was on the wrong end of a few awkward-looking goals. Even though his career numbers were very good, it always felt like a potential adventure when he was in net. Maybe we’ll see a crazy goal like this tonight. With Martin Jones as the possible starter for Philly, anything’s possible.
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!