Let’s focus on the positives: the midday light pouring into Climate Pledge Arena is going to look fantastic. With a 2pm local start time, this afternoon’s game is going to show off a new side of the Kraken’s home arena and give the fans a view unlike anything else in the NHL. So while the losing streak now stands at nine games and the Kraken’s best player over the last two games has entered COVID protocol, let’s just sit back and enjoy some matinee hockey.
Opponent Spotlight – Chicago Blackhawks
Not much has changed for the Blackhawks since the Kraken played them exactly two months ago. They’re still near the bottom of the Western Conference standings and, while they have improved since a mid-season coaching change, don’t appear to be playoff threats despite some big-name offseason acquisitions.
Another similarity between the Blackhawks today and the team that came to Seattle two months ago is their winning momentum. Chicago has won four straight games (they last came to Seattle on a three-game win streak), led by future Hall of Fame goalie Marc-André Fleury. Fleury’s stellar play has masked a number of defensive deficiencies for Chicago, as it did in November when the Blackhawks were outshot by the Kraken 33-18 but won the game 4-2. We’ll see if the Blackhawks decide to start Fleury or backup goalie Kevin Lankinen in net tonight. Lankinen has an .884 save percentage to Fleury’s .915, but many teams are now viewing matchups with the Kraken as a chance to give their starter some much-needed rest.
- Heavy on the puck – After Saturday’s game against the Kings, Dave Hakstol identified heaviness on the puck as an area the team needed to improve upon. “This is one of those games that’s going to be in the trenches. We needed to be more consistent throughout our lineup in that heaviness on the puck.” After being outmuscled by the Kings’ players along the boards and in front for the net, the Kraken need to bounce back and reassert their strength in the tougher areas of the ice.
- Tips and screens – One area the Kraken excelled in last game was getting bodies to the net to screen the goalie and deflect point shots. Their long goal came off a high-slot deflection by Calle Jarnkrok where Marcus Johansson was ready in front of the net to whack home the rebound. If the Blackhawks start Fleury, that’s what the Kraken will need to do to score.
- Powerplay – The Kraken’s powerplay is 3 for 11 (27%) since their full week of practice where they spent a lot of time on special teams work. They’ll have the chance to make it a decisive weapon against a Blackhawks team with the seventh-worst penalty kill in the NHL.
Did You Know…
The Blackhawks scored many memorable goals during their three 2010s Stanley Cup runs. But today I want to look back at a memorable non-goal. In double overtime of game 2 of the 2015 Western Conference Final, Andrew Shaw intentionally headbutted the puck into the net in one of the most creative plays in playoff history. However, to quote retired NHL referee Mike Leggo, “you can’t do that.” According to Rule 78.5 (i) “Apparent goals shall be disallowed when the puck has been directed, batted or thrown into the net by an attacking player other than with a stick.” So the goal was disallowed. Shaw and the Blackhawks still went home happy though, as Chicago won on a Marcus Kruger goal later in the overtime.
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!