Nobody should get too excited by preseason results. Whether it’s the Kraken or any other NHL team, it’s really the only time of year when individual trumps team. That’s because even though clubs are trying to master their systems and play the right way, a lot of what comes out of game night is individual player evaluations.
Neither roster on Thursday night at Climate Pledge Arena will be the roster Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks fans see on their respective opening nights.
That said, it was an impressive win for Seattle because in general we saw the same factors lead to success in the 3-1 victory over Vancouver that we saw from the Kraken during their successful 2022-’23 season. They were tenacious, they were relentless on the forecheck and in tying up the neutral zone, and for the most part they transitioned well from defense to offense.
This team has a clear identity, one that Vancouver head coach Rick Tocchet recognizes.
“They’re fast, they hold pucks and they hit that weak side a lot,” Tocchet told us postgame. “It’s an effective game and they have a lot of guys that play that way. A guy like (Brandon) Tanev, he’s a small guy, but he comes up with loose pucks and he hits. I don’t know if there’s an excuse if a guy is small or anything, you gotta play quick and you’ve gotta come out and win battles.
“They all play the same way, if you look at their line-up, they’ve got 28, 29 solid NHL players,” Tocchet added. “I don’t even think there’s a weakness on that team. It’s a good team and it’s a good lesson for us, how we’ve gotta play.”
Seattle prospects had a good night, namely D-man Ryker Evans and winger Jacob Melanson.
Evans was composed and moved pucks efficiently, no surprise for anyone who watched him on a consistent basis with the Coachella Valley Firebirds in the American Hockey League last season. This 21-year-old is NHL bound, it’s just a matter of when.
“Ryker’s night with the puck on their half of the ice was outstanding,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said postgame. “He’s playing the right side as a lefty, when you’re trying to get out of tight spots on the breakout up ice, there’s some real good learning moments there for him. Loved his competitiveness, he probably played the most of any of our defenseman tonight.”
Aside from scoring the Kraken’s first goal of the game by cashing in on a rebound, 20-year-old right wing Melanson mixed things up with a couple of the Canucks veteran defenseman in front, drawing the ire of stocky Matt Irwin in particular. Irwin took exception to Melanson crashing the net.
“They knew he was on the ice, right, went out and got to the net, stirred things up a little bit, played hard, played physical,” Hakstol said. “That was a good start for him. Tailed off a little bit during the second and third period and that’s what you learn as a young guy.”
Both teams experienced stages of sloppiness, but the Canucks simply couldn’t find the next gear on a consistent basis when it came down to moving the puck 200 feet and establishing an offensive zone presence. Preseason or not, with the game on the line, Vancouver failed.
Tied 1-1 after two periods, the Canucks generated one shot on goal the entire 3rd period until they pulled their goalie and fired six more on net. By then they trailed 3-1 thanks to two goals from Kraken winger Eeli Tolvanen. He fired one home on the power play and another at even strength.
Ultimately, it was consistent style of play that proved the difference.
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