After a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins where Dave Hakstol said his team “played our asses off”, the Kraken had a lighthearted but focused practice yesterday where they worked on a number of key areas. Breakouts, odd-man rushes, and special teams received a lot of attention. Now, the Kraken travel to San Jose to try to put those habits into a game and do away with the moral victories. Facing one of the three teams they’ve beaten twice should give them some confidence they can get it done.
Opponent Spotlight – San Jose Sharks
If you’ve listened to our podcast or watched past episodes of ECH Postgame Live following Sharks games, you’ve probably heard me talk about the bad position the Sharks are in. In terms of competitive outlook, the Sharks are in the worst position of any NHL franchise. With numerous bad contracts, and a hockey ops group in deep denial about the state of the team, the Sharks almost certainly won’t be competitive for at least five years, and may continue to struggle after that. This season, the Sharks have been an underskilled but scrappy team capable of upsetting better teams with their work ethic. But things have unraveled recently. They’ve lost eight of their last nine games and have fallen firmly out of the playoff race. Adding to their concerns, arguably their best defenseman Mario Ferraro was injured last night and appears to be out long-term. That will put even more strain on a thin blueline held together by Brent Burns playing over 26 minutes a night, the second highest total in the NHL.
Keep an eye on Tomas Hertl. The 28-year-old center is an impact power forward in his prime and may be on the trade market ahead of the March trade deadline. He’s on an expiring contract and the Sharks may have to move him if they can’t re-sign him soon.
- Stay out of the box – The biggest flaw in Seattle’s play last game: penalties. When you have six penalty minutes less than two minutes into the game, discipline has to be an area of improvement going forward. Yes, the Kraken were a perfect 5-for-5 on the PK and added a shorthanded goal, but that’s obviously not sustainable long-term.
- Let your goalie read the game – After last game, Philipp Grubauer gave a good answer about how the team in front of him made the game manageable. “I think we did a better job of keeping guys to the outside, boxing them out, taking options away. Not just a shot, but a backdoor option or one-timer on the other side. Guys let me read the game really well and focus on one or two guys.” Whether it’s Grubauer or Driedger tonight, that’s the blueprint.
- Hard forecheck – As mentioned in the opponent spotlight, the Sharks have a thin defense corps that just got thinner with the loss of Mario Ferraro. That’s a weakness the Kraken can exploit. With an aggressive forecheck, Seattle can force the Sharks’ D into making mistakes and turn that into offense.
Did You Know…
Since I grew up a Sharks fan, the “Did You Know” section for San Jose games is usually going to have more of a personal slant. Today’s is no exception. Last week, I went back to California to visit my parents. We’re one of those families that likes to go through old photos and reminisce about the memories. We have so many photos from a while back that I sometimes don’t remember the moment until I see them. Well, when this gem from a 2006 Sharks game came up, I (a) had to ask my parents how the heck this photo got taken and (b) knew I had to share it with you. So here you go, enjoy this photo of a 10-year-old me (left), my brother, and commissioner Gary B. Bettman:
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!