Kraken first in Pacific Division, drop Friday game vs Calgary

Seattle Kraken on a roll, but not without hiccups

Callaghan Bluechel, staff writer

Seattle Kraken right wing Eeli Tolvanen (20) fist pumps in celebration after scoring in the third period against the Calgary Flames in an NHL game at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle on Jan 27, 2023. The Flames defeated the Kraken 5-2. (Rio Giancarlo)

While the Seattle Kraken finished at the bottom of the pacific division of the National Hockey League at the end of their inaugural 2021-22 season, this year they go into the all-star break at the top. Powered by standout seasons from Matty Beniers, Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde and others, the Kraken have put together a potent offensive unit that has scored the fourth-most goals of any team in the entire NHL.

Nathaniel Gale, a freshman political science major at SPU and Kraken fan, says that there is strong enthusiasm surrounding the team.

“It’s cool to see how much support they get, not just around here but in Seattle in general,” he said. “With them being bottom of the [division] last year and first this year, it’s really exciting, and it really gives me hope for the future.”

However, any good season is not without its rough spots or tough losses. On Jan. 27, the team played its penultimate game of the first half against the Calgary Flames. They lost the battle 5-2.

“It’s tough,” Eeli Tolvanen said. “We weren’t there today, we played really sloppily in the first and second [periods], and we weren’t creating much …. They were there when the puck started when the puck dropped, and we weren’t.”

The game started out with an early Kraken goal by center John Hayden, his first of the season. However, he made sure to put the team first.

Despite the early goal, the Flames roared back with aggressive vigor while the Kraken lost their edge, and the Flames ended the first period with a 3-1 lead. The Kraken had difficulty controlling the puck, often squandering opportunities by giving away possession with inaccurate passes and poor positioning.

“We didn’t have any pace to our game. Our puck play was sloppy. Anything we put into the zone on the forecheck we had very little speed on,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said.

The Flames were more physical than the Kraken in the first period, with 10 hits to the Kraken’s three, and a scuffle broke out in the eighth minute between the two teams. However, Tolvanen downplayed this.
“I felt like it was a typical game of hockey; I didn’t feel like it was that much more physical than the other games,” Tolvanen said.

After the exciting first period, little happened in the second period despite several power play opportunities for the Kraken. As the third period opened up, the team gained new energy, scoring a goal but having another one taken away on replay review. Tolvanen said that the team’s shift in approach was to keep it simple.

“You know, everybody shooting the puck … you shoot the puck, and you start creating more [opportunities]. I think that’s what we were missing in the first couple periods.”

However, it was not enough to overcome their deficit, and the Flames fought back with another goal to make it 4-2 before scoring an empty-net goal in the final minutes of the game to seal their victory.

Other than Hayden’s first goal of the season, the silver lining of the game was that the Kraken did not give up any goals on the penalty kill. The Kraken entered the game having one of the worst penalty kill percentages in hockey, and the team has been looking to shore up that part of the game, seeing some recent improvement.

“We’ve been at a good clip all month,” said Hakstol about the penalty kill. “I’m not getting into the positives of one small area of our game. We weren’t good tonight. That’s it. Own it, as much as that stinks and as much as that stings, own it, move on, and we got an awful important two points tomorrow,” he said.

Much of the popularity of the team rides on its success.

“Any sports team that’s doing really good always gets the city to back them until they fall.” sophomore accounting major Brandon Astudillo said.

But right now, the Kraken are looking up, despite the occasional loss and bad game.

“Right now, there’s nothing else going on,” said Gale. “The Seahawks aren’t playing. The Mariners aren’t playing. The Sounders aren’t playing. So it’s really cool to have a team to root for during these dry months of the year.”