Seattle Kraken, Dave Hakstol

How Pivotal Is Seattle Kraken Vs. Maple Leafs?

It won’t mean the “end of the world” for the Kraken if they don’t pick up a win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Climate Pledge Arena on Sunday, but it might start make the faithful a lot more uncomfortable. The Seattle Kraken lads have already slipped into a wild card position, having lost their hold on one of the top three spots in the Pacific Division.

That said, win two games, and the Kraken are basically back in the thick of potentially winning the division title. That’s the nature of the nerve-racking west.

Seattle sits four points ahead of the Calgary Flames for the 2nd and final Western Conference wild card spot with two games in hand. The Kraken also have two games in hand on the third place Edmonton Oilers who sit just two points ahead. The Seattle Kraken are four points out of second place with two games in hand on LA and six points out of first place with a single game in hand on the Vegas Golden Knights. Seattle plays that game today.

“When you get to this point in the year, you want to be in the middle of this race,” Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said Saturday after practice. “To be confident in that race, to be comfortable with the ups and downs of it are pretty special things. We feel that’s where our group is at, that’s really important, we feel you have to be comfortable with the battle that’s ahead.”

Seattle Kraken Setback

The club’s intestinal fortitude will be put to the test after a disappointing 6-5 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. The Seattle Kraken took a 5-4 lead with 4:10 remaining in the third period and couldn’t close it out.

It was devastating on one hand given the tightness of the race and the lost two points, but impressive at the same time. Having already beaten the NHL’s best team back on January 12th in Boston 3-0, the Kraken took the B’s to the limit in a playoff style game that had both squads playing with peak intensity. For the mistakes that may have cost them, there was plenty to take away from the Kraken effort.

The key now is duplicating it against the Maple Leafs, another team the Seattle Kraken beat on the road 5-1 back on January 5th.

The Leafs will be playing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, a repeat series from last year won by the Bolts in seven games. Toronto presently has a two-point lead on Tampa for home ice in the series.

There’s no way one of the wild card clubs will catch either one of them in the Atlantic Division.

“The competitiveness continues to rise, the intensity of these games continues to rise, so every part of your game has to come with that,” Hakstol said. “There’s no need to over-complicate things, it’s a matter of the importance of executing from the small details to the competitiveness of your game.”

Expect to see Philipp Grubauer starting in net for the Seattle Kraken, with Ilya Samsonov starting for Toronto. Puck drop is a little after 4 pm pacific.

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.