After capturing their first home win of the season thanks to a 5-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, the Seattle Kraken (3-3-2) welcome the Vancouver Canucks (0-5-2) looking for their first-ever regular-season win against their divisional foes. As for Vancouver, they enter Thursday night’s game looking for their first win of the season. Here are some trends to watch as these Cascadia rivals face-off for the first time this season.
Kraken Must Come Out Strong
While the Canucks have been a disaster in the third period this season, the same cannot be said about the first 20 minutes. So far this season, Vancouver is second in goals scored during the first period, with 10 in their first seven games. The Kraken, on the other hand, are second in goals given up during the first period, with 10 in eight games. They cannot come out flat in the first period; otherwise, they could find themselves behind early and fighting an uphill battle all game.
The good news for the Kraken is that they have had some success shutting down Vancouver in the first period at Climate Pledge Arena. Last season, they allowed just two goals total when they played the Canucks at home. On the flip side, they only scored one goal, which will need to change if Seattle wants to walk away with victories vs. Vancouver this season. The Canucks are a fragile team at the moment, so having a good start is imperative. Watch for players like Jared McCann (3) or Jaden Schwartz (2) to light the lamp in the first as they have produced five of the Kraken’s seven first-period goals this season.
Will Shane Wright Play?
The big question surrounding the Kraken right now is what is the plan for Shane Wright? Through the team’s first eight games, he has played over seven minutes once and been scratched three times. The team’s deployment of the 2022 fourth-overall pick has been puzzling, with many asking if it is better to send him back to junior rather than keeping him on the roster.
Coming off a dominant win against the Sabres, the odds that Wright hits the ice seem small. He was scratched for two games in a row earlier in the season, but that was because Seattle won the first game against the Los Angeles Kings and kept the same lineup in their next game against the Vegas Golden Knights. If history repeats itself, it could mean another night in the press box for No. 51 as he continues to fight for ice time less than 10 games into his rookie season.
Kraken Need To Be Better On Faceoffs
Through their first eight games, the Kraken have been awful in the faceoff dot. In fact, they rank last in the league with a 39.2 percent win percentage. The only area of the ice they have been decent in when it comes to faceoffs is the neutral zone, but even then, they only have a 45.7 percent win percentage. Seattle’s centers need to step up, especially considering they are about to face-off against one of the league’s best in Bo Horvat, who has a 56.4 percent win percentage this year and went 30 for 52 last season at Climate Pledge Arena.
Two players that need to step up are Matty Beniers and Alex Wennberg. The Kraken’s two top centers, who have taken the majority of the draws this season, are a combined 82 for 224 or 36.6 percent in the faceoff dot. Beniers is the only one of the duo who is above 50 percent in any situation having won his one and only shorthanded faceoff this season. While Seattle has been getting away with poor faceoff percentages so far this season, this is an area of concern that needs to be addressed, as it could burn them sooner rather than later.
Kraken Must Play Smart To Win
The Kraken have had a strong start to the season but need to play smart if they want to beat the Canucks. As mentioned, this is a desperate team coming to Climate Pledge Arena that will be looking to snap their seven-game losing streak. If Seattle can limit Vancouver’s chances, get solid goaltending and capitalize on the opportunities presented, there is no reason to think they cannot pull off their first-ever regular season victory over the Canucks on Thursday night.
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Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.