In a pre-season game that suggested the Seattle Kraken maybe played against a result that had doubt, but never lost control, Eeli Tolvanen broke a tie game in the third period with back-to-back goals and the Kraken knocked off the Vancouver Canucks, 3-1 before a sellout crowd on Thursday at Climate Pledge Arena.
The Kraken improved to 2-0-1 in the pre-season, getting a first period goal from Jacob Melanson while starter Philipp Grubauer and backup Joey Daccord, who earned the win, combined for 16 saves. Connor Garland scored the lone Canucks goal of the night in the second period while Thatcher Demko took the loss on 25 stops in his pre-season debut.
Andre Burkaovsky, returning for his first game of the pre-season, was scoreless in 16:57 of ice time.
Three immediate takeaways from the Kraken win on Thursday:
1. THE KRAKEN SPENT A TON OF THIS GAME IN THE OFFENSIVE ZONE.
It was crisp, tidy, effective, and efficient. Look at a heat map of their offensive zone pressure: it has the smear of an abstract art project. The Kraken got out to a bold start with rhythm in the offensive zone and swarmed Thatcher Demko from the start, hemming the Canucks in their zone with Yanni Gourde’s line leading the way on the first shift, and the team outshooting the Canucks at a 5-1 pace. Eventually, their patience paid off with a Jacob Melanson goal that capitalized on a play that left Demko scrambling (credit Shane Wright with helping set up the play with a shot from the left circle).
Vancouver came back, but never seriously threatened to take the lead, and control. The Kraken kept the Canucks at arm’s length for much of the night. They led in shot attempts, 62-44, and owned a five-on-five shot quality mark at 77 percent for the game.
2. GIVE EELI TOLVANEN ALL THE LOOKS.
Remember his line last season in the playoffs? They picked up right where they left off with a superb shift to open the game, while Tolvanen had eight shot attempts in the game. It’s early, but games like these, where Tolvanen earns open looks, demonstrates a lethal shot that could threaten the 20-goal plateau this season.
Tolvanen said he hopes to continue playing with the same linemates, Gourde and Oliver Bjorkstrand when the regular season gets underway.
“I felt really good,” said Tolvanen. “I felt personally – the first game was nice to get out of the way. But I felt better today. It’s fun to play with those two. I think the chemistry is there from last year. We’ve been talking a lot during the camp.”
3. RYKER EVANS TOOK ANOTHER BIG STEP.
The deck will be stacked against Ryker Evans to make the opening night lineup. Ahead of him on the depth chart are seven defensemen with significant NHL experience, along with five who return from last year. Logically, defensemen take longer to develop than forwards, easing Evans’ timeline with the signing of Brian Dumoulin in free agency. But every day in camp, Evans has demonstrated advanced ability. With as mistake-free of an effort as it gets for a pre-season game, Evans, stationed to the right side as a left handed shot, didn’t look like a fish out of water. By playing with pace, he racked up 22:21 of ice time, outpaced only by 17 seconds from Jamie Oleksiak, while logging a pair of hits and a blocked shot.
It was evident though for Evans, who skated with NHL regulars in practice on Wednesday, that he is now turning heads, and continues to build a case for the NHL roster.
“Ryker’s game tonight with the puck, on their side of the ice, was outstanding,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “He’s playing the right side as a lefty; when you’re trying to get out of tight spots on the breakout, and get up ice, there are some really good teachable moments there for him. But I loved his competitiveness.”
The Kraken will return to pre-season play on Monday, Oct. 2 at home against the Edmonton Oilers, starting at 7pm PT (950 KJR).
KRAKEN LINEUP VS VANCOUVER, 9/29: