TAMPA BAY — The Kraken entered Friday’s game with the Lightning with the seventh lowest rates of blocked shots per 60 minutes at 12.03.
Wednesday night against the Hurricanes, the Kraken’s second consecutive win, they blocked 26. In the win before, over the Capitals, they got in front of 21.
Both those games were wins, and while Philipp Grubauer turned in season-best performances in both contests, even he attributed his success to the shots he didn’t have to see.
If the Kraken want their identity to be a tough team to play against night in and night out, they’ll need to get used to getting in front of pucks even more often.
Adam Larsson himself blocks 5.52 shots per 60 minutes, with only Haydn Fleury, in 11 fewer games, coming close to that mark.
“I think in those last two wins, we were playing with desperation,” Larsson said. “With that desperation comes sacrificing, too. So I think even one shot through could be the difference in the game, and I think guys have done a tremendous job in these last two games getting into a lane, and that makes a big difference.”
There’s a balance there, too, though; if guys are jumping in front of every single shot, that doesn’t give Grubauer any space to see what’s coming at him.
He’s played well against various onslaughts even more than in games where he sees a couple of rogue breakaways. It leaves room for some strategizing of the right way to give Grubauer room, and also closing those lanes before a shot can get to him.
“It depends where you are on the ice,” Larsson said. “It’s easier to read if you’re in a lane or not, sometimes it’s just getting that read. There can be so many guys in front of Grubi where it’s hard for him to see it, that’s where we have to step up and, if it’s coming right at you, you have to stay in that lane.”
Colin Blackwell hasn’t blocked a shot since returning but is averaging 1:13 of time on the penalty kill per night, so he knows that time will come for him soon as well.
He also thinks about what goes into blocking a lane before a team even sends the puck on the Kraken net, too.
“It’s about having no fear,” he said. “I think when you throw yourself out front there, you get one or the other. If it gets through then it can be tough for a goalie to see so a lot of our guys are putting their body out there. … I think (Mark Giordano) has done that a lot. If you watch the last few games, he had some big blocks. In previous games before that, shots were squeaking through and goalies couldn’t see them.”
One of the best things the Kraken could do to aid Grubauer as he gets into midseason form is to keep clogging shooting lanes and creating those layers of defense in front of him.
There’s a reason Grubauer mentioned it specifically after the Carolina game; he feels the difference, too.
“You have to be smart enough to know where the lanes are,” Larsson said. “You want to block and get into lanes, but you have to make sure Grubi trusts you and you’re in the right lane. … But it comes down to making a sacrifice either way.”
Yanni Gourde’s return
Yanni Gourde got his revenge game, but for the two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Lightning, it felt like more than that.
Before the game, he described coming back to Amalie Arena for the first time since hoisting the Cup there “special” before a pause where he added “weird.” Ahead of morning skate, he was the first Kraken player by the benches to chat with Lightning coaches as they wrapped up their own skate.
“It’s doubly special, you get that feeling like the last time I was on that ice I was lifting a Stanley Cup,” he said. “So it’s really special coming back here, things like all those memories come back. … It’s kind of weird skating, or going into this locker room and warm-ups.”
He and his family got their Stanley Cup championship rings ahead of the contest as well, so all in all, one of the more uniting revenge games for a Kraken expansion pick.
Switch at center
With Calle Jarnkrok out and not traveling for at least the start of the four-game trip, Hakstol moved Colin Blackwell to the middle to begin the game in Tampa.
Blackwell finished the third period against the Hurricanes at center Wednesday once Jarnkrok went out with an undisclosed injury.
Blackwell entered Friday having played only five games since returning from a lower body injury that kept him out the majority of the year. He said in some ways, that’s kept all the adjustments in check for him, since just playing has been a change.
“That’s one of the reasons I think they picked me up, because I was able to play a couple of different positions,” he said. “For me, I guess the blessing in disguise is I haven’t really played a lot of hockey in the last six to eight months, so I’m not really necessarily comfortable with any of the positions, it’s a clean slate for me.”
- Short-lived Kraken forward Alex Barre-Boulet was in the lineup for the Lightning, after he returned to the team that waived him at the start of the season. … Calle Jarnkrok didn’t travel with the Kraken to Florida and his status remains unknown. … Mark Giordano was out of the lineup for the first time this season. Before the game, the team announced he was in COVID-19 protocol.