After snapping a nine-game losing streak in dramatic fashion on Monday, the Kraken look to build off that momentum heading into the first half of a home back-to-back. They’ll face the San Jose Sharks, who they beat 3-1 in San Jose in the teams’ first-ever meeting.
Opponent Spotlight – San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have all the makings of a team on the wrong side of the playoff bubble. They have some high-end talent but not enough depth on forward or defense to supplement that skill. Throw in some league average goaltending and you have a team that’s not as bad as the Sharks of the last two years, but not good enough to make the playoffs either. In our Pacific Division preview, I predicted the Sharks would finish 9th in the Western Conference and they have yet to deviate from that course, currently ranking 9th in the West in points percentage. In an inverse of the Sharks teams of the 2010s, this San Jose squad is light on talent but makes up for it with effort and discipline.
Don’t underestimate the Sharks’ star players though. When they get hot, they get really hot. There’s no better example of that than the Sharks’ last game against the Los Angeles Kings, where San Jose winger Timo Meier scored a franchise record five goals through the first two periods. Center Tomas Hertl, another potential game-breaker, has 20 goals this season, tied with Meier for eighth in the NHL. Keep an eye on Hertl, who will be an unrestricted free agent this July. Decide for yourself if you think the Kraken should make a run at him should he hit the open market.
- Shutdown line – Most of the Sharks’ offense comes from their first line of Meier, Hertl, and Alexander Barabanov. As the home team, the Kraken will have last change and control the line matchups. That means coach Hakstol can choose which line he wants to use to shut down that dangerous trio. My guess is the Gourde – Wennberg – Jarnkrok line will draw the assignment.
- Hard backcheck – When the Kraken beat the Sharks last month, their hard backchecking stood out the most. Whenever the Sharks tried to build speed through the neutral zone, there were multiple Kraken forwards chasing them down from behind. As a result of that effort, the Kraken only allowed one goal in the game, a feat they haven’t accomplished since.
- Prevent long breakout passes – Last game, the Blackhawks made several long stretch passes out of their own zone to forwards trying to get behind the Seattle D. It finally paid off when Dominik Kubalik scored on a breakaway in the second period. The Sharks have a couple defensemen, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, who are capable of making highly accurate stretch passes if a Sharks forward can sneak behind the Kraken D. Seattle defenders need to make sure to keep their heads on a swivel.
Did You Know…
With the Kraken set to play back-to-backs against the Sharks and St. Louis Blues, I decided to share my most pleasnant Sharks-Blues memory. The Sharks and Blues faced each other in the 2016 Western Conference Finals and I was lucky enough to go to Game 3 of the series in San Jose. The Sharks won 3-0 to take a 2-1 series lead, with current Kraken Joonas Donskoi scoring the second San Jose goal. Here are a photo I took at the game:
If you want to see highlights from the game, here’s the video (Donskoi goal at 1:13 mark). The NHL doesn’t allow this video to be embedded so I have to link to it.
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!