Kraken fans found out Saturday night that it’s never too late to get a proper introduction.
At least, that’s what the team hopes the reaction will be to its latest, just under 4-and-a-half-minutes long, laser light and digital graphics pregame opening unveiled before the Kraken played the Los Angeles Kings. The stylized introduction has been a work-in-progress ever since the team’s COVID-19-impacted Oct. 23 home opener at Climate Pledge Arena.
The presentation opened with a nautical themed segment meant to symbolize a ship on stormy waters with warning sirens going off and the menacing growl of what was obviously a sea creature beneath the waters.
“Do not fear the strong winds or angry seas,” a gravel-voiced public-address announcement advised. “Nor the stormy skies or sea above. Fear the creature that dwells within the deep. The ice-shackled Kraken.”
From there, much froth churning ocean ensued digitally upon the ice rink’s surface. Suddenly, the crowd heard the voice of KING 5 TV political reporter Chris Daniels, apparently moonlighting as a fictional weatherman for his own network.
“Across the sound, the waters have been angry,” Daniels advised ominously, citing strange happenings from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge across to Port Townsend. “But the question remains,” Daniels concluded. “What dwells beneath?”
The crowd soon found out. Amid thunderclaps and more swirling waters, a giant squid — or Kraken, if you will — tentacle was lowered from the arena’s rafters in the dark. Finally, the PA announcer’s voice re-emerged telling fans “It’s time. To release. The Kraken!”
The arena’s lights popped back on and there was the tentacle, protruding from the ice momentarily before being hoisted back up. After that, the Kraken players hit the ice.
The Kraken hoped to have an introduction that went beyond the mostly videos and strobe lights featured the past three months. But the late completion of the arena until a few days before the home opener delayed some equipment and planned testing.
When the giant tentacle finally was in place, an engineering glitch failed to properly account for how much lift would be required to hoist the tentacle back into place. That delayed its implementation by several additional weeks as it sat drydocked in the rafters unable to be moved.
Then, the Kraken had a string of home games postponed due to COVID-19 issues, meaning they went two additional weeks between contests at Climate Pledge. The version shown ahead of the Kings game is not the final one: A team source confirmed Saturday some new wrinkles are planned by early February.
Driedger starts again
Kraken goalie Chris Driedger drew his second straight start in goal Saturday, marking only the second time he’s had consecutive assignments this season. Driedger looked sharp in a 2-1 loss to St. Louis on Thursday.
“Obviously, his performance is one part of it,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “There was a little bit of thought process around the team we’re playing as well. It’s a real busy stretch here, so we will need both guys. But I feel like coming off the performance the other night in St. Louis, Chris was solid and this can give him an opportunity tonight to build some momentum for his game and for our team.”
But Hakstol stopped short of saying that recent-game performance will dictate whether Driedger or Philipp Grubauer starts in goal going forward. Grubauer drew consecutive starts this past week in Colorado and Dallas after a strong opening performance in a loss to the Avalanche.
“I’m not going to get fully into that mode,” Hakstol said. “Grubi is our guy. I’ve said that. He’s our No. 1 guy. But Chris (Driedger) has carried a load in this league before. He’s a very competitive guy and if he can gain some momentum and feel good about his game, and give us good performances, that will be a huge boost to our goaltending tandem.”
The expected Kraken tandem of Grubauer and Driedger hasn’t gone nearly as evenly as expected. Grubauer has started 26 games compared to just eight for Driedger — who also sat out two stretches of games with an injury to the same knee.
The Kraken statistically have some of the league’s worst goals against and goaltending numbers in both standard and advanced statistics. They entered Saturday having allowed a league-worst 132 goals with a last-place team save percentage of .875.
They were also last at allowing nearly 26 more goals than expected given the quality of shots faced — nearly double the next closest team.
Eberle ready to be an All-Star
Kraken winger Jordan Eberle said he’s looking forward to representing the team as its first-ever All-Star selection for next month’s event in Las Vegas. It’s the second time Eberle has been named an All-Star, having done so his second season with Edmonton when he scored 34 goals and added 42 assists.
He entered Saturday with 12 goals and 12 assists.
“I went a long time ago. I was quite young,” he said. “I’m a little bit older. I have a kid. It would be nice to share with her and create some memories.”
Eberle acknowledged there are others around the league deserving of selection that got omitted. Nazem Kadri of the Avalanche has 13 goals and 35 assists and his omission created an uproar among pundits and fans critical of the NHL requiring at least one player from each team to go.
“I understand the format,” Eberle said, adding he’s aware of the controversy yet too preoccupied with his Kraken duties to worry about All-Star rules. “I understand that there are individuals who are having great seasons that aren’t going to go and that with the format you’ve got to take a guy from each team. I don’t make the rules. I’m just a part of the game and for me the opportunity to go and to go with my family is outstanding.”