NASHVILLE — Following the opening game in Vegas, Kraken coach Dave Hakstol wanted to put a focus on, as he called it, not having his team “feed the transition” of opponents.
Early on in Thursday’s game with Nashville, a tight 4-3 victory, that approach was evident.
Hakstol said Wednesday he believed some of the Golden Knights’ transition game, fueled from blocked shots, was a credit to how strong of a defensive team they are. Some of that was also Kraken turnovers and poor decision-making.
On Thursday, the Kraken still generated a lot of shots, and some of them still from the outside or from the point, which can sometimes lead to a rush the other way. This time, more got through, and when they didn’t, the Kraken did well to prevent many looks on goalie Philipp Grubauer.
“We fed (the Vegas) transition a little too easily the other night,” Hakstol said ahead of Thursday’s contest. “We have to take better care of the puck. … That gives us more of an opportunity to play in the offensive zone.”
He said after the game, “We took a better step in the right direction. Much like Vegas, in Nashville they can go in transition and are a big challenge with both of those teams. … Guys in the backend joining the rush, I thought in that one area we were much better.”
In Nashville, the Kraken outshot the Predators 12-4 in the first period and owned more than 65% of the shots in that frame.
They also did a stronger job killing plays at the defensive blue line, something Hakstol and company have been working to instill in their systems since the start of training camp.
“It puts us in better positions. We have to track a play and get on top of it defensively,” said Hakstol. “Those are a couple of areas that we want to tighten up.”
Sometimes the best way to stop opposing transition is dominating the possession game. Seattle controlled the pace and possession in Nashville — for the first two periods, at least, before a near-shotless third — and it looked as close to the team it intends to be as any time going back to when training camp opened.
“When you look at that team, they have a lot of high-end, skilled players,” said Kraken forward Jared McCann. “They have guys who can make you pay if you turn the puck over like (Filip) Forsberg, (Ryan) Johansson, all those guys.”
Donskoi speaks on protocol
Forward Joonas Donskoi is one of five players who have been in COVID-19 protocol this season, with he, Jared McCann, Jamie Oleksiak, and Marcus Johansson getting to Vegas in time to play in the opener against the Golden Knights.
On Thursday in Nashville, he offered some insight into the process of their return.
“We had three guys test false positive, and no symptoms,” he said. “I had COVID last year, and I’m vaccinated, so I thought maybe I don’t actually have this.”
Donskoi said once they got the negative tests, they were able to fly to Vegas in time for the pregame warm-ups.
“I’m so happy we were able to play and be a part of the first game in franchise history,” he said.
Jarnkrok misses Nashville
Calle Jarnkrok is the other player who landed on COVID-19 protocol, where he has been since Friday and currently remains. He was the Kraken expansion pick from the Predators, and missed his only opportunity to return to his old team’s city.
“Obviously it’s disappointing,” said Kraken defender Adam Larsson. “He can’t play his first here but I … think it’s more disappointing to not go on the road with the team and kind of get to know each other more.”
Jarnkrok had played his entire career in Nashville, posting 211 points in 508 games over eight seasons.
- Defenseman Dennis Cholowski was claimed on waivers by the Washington Capitals on Thursday. Cholowski made the initial Kraken roster while it awaited word on its players in COVID-19 protocol, but once they returned, the team waived him. Cholowski was the Kraken’s expansion pick from the Detroit Red Wings in July.
- There are going to be firsts for a long time, given it is the first season for the Kraken. Tuesday in Nashville, it began with the Kraken’s first-ever lead, coming from a power-play goal from Brandon Tanev. The Kraken also had its first fight, as Vince Dunn fought Yakov Trenin in the first frame.