Seattle Kraken, Justin Schultz

Kraken Commentary: Puck Possession Comrades

Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol seemed less impressed with his team’s five-on-five play than I was, especially in the first period of the 3-2 overtime win over the visiting New York Rangers.

I was throwing out fun little “Russian Five” comparisons, so impressed with the puck possession and effective re-groups prior to the Kraken hooking penalties that came along and screwed things up.

Not to suggest these Kraken have the chemistry of Igor Larionov, Sergei Fedorov, Slava Kozlov, Vlad Konstantinov and Slava Fetisov because that would be next to impossible, but a compliment is a compliment.

Never Seen Before

If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, there’s a book and there’s a documentary about the Russian-5 and the manner in which those 1990’s Detroit Red Wings teams were built. That franchise is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its 1997 Stanley Cup championship that was built on the backs of those Russians.

No one had ever seen anything like them before.

Talk about puck possession, in their very first game together as a five man unit, put together by head coach Scotty Bowman on October 27th, 1995, the Red Wings held the Calgary Flames to a grand total of eight shots on goal and won the game 3-0.

That’s right, eight, a Flames franchise historic low. Kozlov had a goal, as did “the professor” Larionov.

“No one else touched the puck,” then Red Wings assistant general manager Ken Holland said at the time. “It was one big game of keep-away”.

To Be Fair

OK, so we were both right. Having re-watched the first period it turns out the part I remember being impressed with was actually after the first penalty kill and first TV time-out. The Kraken dominated possession from about the seven-minute mark to the twelve-and-a-half-minute mark of the period.

Alex Wennberg spearheaded a lovely re-group with his fellow Swede Adam Larsson at the start of the long sequence, that also featured a sustained forecheck shift about midway through the period, and then a Red Army style re-group led by Daniel Sprong about a minute later. It was intricate and impressive. The Rangers finally got a decent scoring chance a little before the second TV time-out.

Having watched it live from upstairs at Climate Pledge Arena and apparently having short-term memory loss, what I screwed up and Coach Hakstol correctly remembered from the bench was an Andre Burakovsky turnover in his own end in the first minute and then a neutral zone turnover by the Kraken a minute later. No wonder my postgame question about being impressed with possession in the first period fell short. It took longer than I thought to develop.

It didn’t hurt that Jared McCann scored the opening goal of the game at the 2:45 mark.

Moral of the Story

Bottom line, this is a Kraken team that shows patience and composure for long stretches against very good hockey teams. All of the three-on-three patience stressed during practice this past week is reflected in regulation five-on-five play. Chemistry is building.

Despite being dramatically outshot in the first period because of the two shorthanded situations, the Kraken ended up with 32 SOG for the game compared to 30 for the Rangers. That didn’t include a half-dozen golden chances that were fired wide.

You can’t win without the puck and the Seattle Kraken are figuring out ways to keep it.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.