EDMONTON, Alberta – Players and coaches, once they calm down a bit, usually admit having their lunch – and dinner and breakfast – handed to them in preseason games offers ample, no-fuss learning opportunities.
And it was with this spirit in mind Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol, following a 6-0 wipeout Tuesday night at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers, spoke about the “pieces’’ of his team’s game needing improvement. Not the pieces of his Kraken littering the ice after Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and company put on a passing clinic that electrified the home crowd, but smaller breakdowns in their system that need cleaning up before games start counting for real.
“There are some areas of our game that were poor,’’ Hakstol said after the franchise’s first loss of any kind, in front of a revved-up crowd at Rogers Place. “There are some areas of detail that have to be in every shift of our game. We take those pieces and make sure we get them in place and we’re a little bit better in those areas.’’
Poor line changes were an obvious one, with the Oilers getting too many odd-man rushes and men left open for easy scoring chances. But that wasn’t necessarily what Hakstol was most concerned about.
“There were areas tonight where our competitiveness dipped,’’ he added. “Guys are fighting for jobs and that’s an area that we’re looking at. And we came up short in some of those areas.’’
Unlike a franchise-opening 5-3 victory Sunday night over a Vancouver Canucks team of mostly minor-league aspirants, this one featured the bulk of an Oilers lineup expected to dominate offensively and compete for the Pacific Division title. And unlike Sunday’s affair, when scoring three power-play goals, the Kraken allowed two this time and the frequent trips to the penalty box allowed the Oilers to start throwing the puck around at will.
The Edmonton crowd hadn’t attended a game live here since the first COVID-19 shutdowns in March 2020 and it didn’t take long for the fans to get going. Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse went on an end-to-end rush and surprisingly wristed a puck between goalie Chris Driedger’s legs just 5:50 into the game and the Kraken never quite recovered from there.
After Carsen Twarynski and Will Borgen took penalties in short order to give the Oilers a two-man advantage, Jesse Puljujarvi needed only nine seconds of 5-on-3 time to tap home a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pass for a 2-0 lead. Then, with the period winding down, Puljuvari and McDavid began a nifty three-way passing play that ended with Zach Hyman one-timing it home on Driedger from close range for a 3-0 lead at intermission.
The Kraken settled down a bit in the second period, but couldn’t score. Then, the Oilers got the rout going late as Brendan Perlini scored his first of two, followed by McDavid adding a power-play marker on a Draisaitl pass during a goalmouth scramble.
Perlini completed the scoring early in the third, one-timing a Kyle Turris pass beyond new goalie Joey Daccord, who’d come on to replace Driedger at intermission.
The Kraken went 0-for-4 on the power-play while the Oilers were 2-for-5.
Hakstol mixed a bunch of new faces into the lineup and will have even more turnover Wednesday night in Calgary. Centerman Morgan Geekie was one of the holdovers from Sunday’s game, in which he scored twice in the third period to decide that affair.
“Obviously, they’ve got a good lineup over there,’’ Geekie said. “We knew that coming in but we were just trying to work on the details and things like that.’’
Geekie thought the Kraken “got better as the game progressed’’ despite the score. “I think it’s just getting to know each other. Obviously, it’s still a new team and new beginning and everything.’’
The Kraken is looking to see whether Geekie can stick with the team as a center on the third or fourth line. Most of his time with Carolina was spent in the American Hockey League, but he appeared in 36 of the Hurricanes’ games last season.
Geekie got just more than 19 minutes of ice-time in this one, four of those on the power play.
“I’ve just got to stick to my game,’’ Geekie said. “I know if I can become a 200-foot player – and I think I can definitely add that phase to my game – then I think I can get better because of it.’’
Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn played just more than 20 minutes in his preseason debut and took a healthy turn quarterbacking the power-play.
Dunn felt the Kraken needed to stay out of the penalty box more, but “our 5-on-5 game was pretty decent at times. We’re still adapting to a new system for some of us.’’
And they’ll continue to adapt, learn and seek some cohesion consistently missing through much of this contest once the freewheeling Oilers got their passing game going unchecked. Hakstol has three games the next four nights and a list of things he’ll want improved.
“I thought there were pieces of our game that were missing, that were sporadic,’’ Hakstol said. “And they were sporadic at times against good players. They’re going to make plays. It wasn’t even the volume – some of the Grade A chances were just too easy. So, we’ve got to do better there.’’