A Fair Way To Evaluate The Kraken

A look at how the Kraken stack up. McDavid vs. MacKinnon update. Two Leafs to watch. Things I love. Swing goalies.

Seattle's new team has aroused considerable attention -- and some dismay -- over its maiden season’s opening road trip. As the Kraken return to the Great Northwest Saturday for home games at Climate Pledge Arena, our Washington State reporter, Glenn Dreyfuss, has a few words for Kraken critics.

Take it away, Glenn:

It's a no-win situation being the next Canadiens coach after Bowman, next James Bond after Connery, next waterfall after Niagara. Likewise, the Seattle Kraken, first NHL expansion team since 2017's Vegas Golden Knights, face inevitable if unfair comparisons.

We know Vegas set an unreachably high first-year bar - three wins from a Stanley Cup. The Kraken completed their season-opening five game road trip with one victory (4-3 at Nashville), three total points, and a disturbing trend of surrendering early goals.

Sure, they lost their last three to middling Metropolitan Division foes Columbus, Philadelphia and New Jersey, and sure, they scored just four times in those three games. But playing the first five on a cross-country road trip, team bonding aside, is taxing, and leaves scant time for precious practice sessions. 

Further, prized former Lightning forward Yanni Gourde returned from injury - weeks ahead of schedule - to play and play well against the Devils in his first game. So calm the knee-jerks and let's see how rest, practice, and a full-throated Seattle crowd will benefit the Kraken in their home opener Saturday night vs. Vancouver. 

What about ugly 6-1 defeats, like the Kraken suffered in Philly, and as an expansion squad will no doubt suffer again? The Maven has taught us to gain elucidation from song lyrics - so here's a sentiment to help Kraken followers retain perspective: "Mama said there'd be days like this." 


HEADLINE: MCDAVID VS. MACKINNON UPDATE

THE JIVE: When the ratings for "Best NHL Player" come in on a regular basis, either Connor McDavid or Nathan MacKinnon have a mortgage on first place. But not anymore.

Edmonton's excellent start has been propelled -- what else? -- by McDavid's all-round magnificence. Colorado's shaky start has received zero assistance from MacKinnon.

Barring injury, McDavid's play suggests that -- hard to believe -- he can get even better than phenomenal although playoffs will be a whole different story; but that's too far away to be worthy of discussion.

When MacKinnon is on his game -- as Ryan Kennedy in The Hockey News notes -- "He's  a straight line killer whose speed is matched by his powerful frame and physicality."

That's what the Avalanche need more of to get back to a place where many experts believe they're favored to win The Stanley Cup. In the meantime, you don't have to be an Oilers supporter to appreciate what monstrous wonders King Connor is pulling off. And will be doing in the months to come.

McDavid vs. MacKinnon: Connor by a country mile.


HEADLINE: THE RECOVERY OF TWO ACES

THE JIVE: When the undefeated Sharks (2-0-0) visit Toronto tonight, their good start will be closely watched, but not nearly as much as two chief protagonists on the Maple Leafs side -- Auston Matthews and John Tavares.

Each sharpshooter is recovered from injury -- they hope -- and are expected to jump-start their ever-hopeful Hogtown heroes. Even though he failed to score against the Rangers on Monday night, Matthews looked like Gangbusters foiled only by New York's masterful Igor Shesterkin in goal.

Over the past four games, Tavares has totaled a pair of assists and not much else to even whisper about. Only his actions will supply the answer in the long run but for now, The club's captain has not been a factor in helping Toronto to a fast start. Perhaps tonight will be different. We shall see.


HEADLINE: THESE ARE THE THINGS I LOVE

THE JIVE: Six Good Things Happening To Good people:

1. HAPPY CATS: Center Anton Lundell from Espoo, Finland has caught on with a responsible two-way game with sublime offensive skills. He's a Calder Trophy candidate along with goalie Spencer Knight, the pride of Stamford, Connecticut.

2. JUMPIN' JORDY: The Blues needed better goaltending from Jordan Binnington and he's obliging. A 42-save outing vs. Vegas was impressive as is St.Louis' three-straight road wins. Nice to see Vladdy Tarasenko score like he really wants to stay in The Mound City.

3. DISNEY LAUGHING: Ad sales for the hot-shot ESPN games are vital for the network's health and the NHL. So far, so good.

4. THAT DARLING JONATHAN DAHLEN: Ulf Dahlen was one of my favorite NHL guys both as player and person. His son, is fast becoming a favorite in San Jose. A couple of goals already suggest he'll top last season's 25.

5. GREISS IS NICE: Our old buddy from Islanders days is proving Thomas' promises to continue his fine homestretch goaltending that wound up with 7-0-3, .953 and 1.46.

6. BATTING A THOUSAND: After three games the Oilers, Panthers, Wild and Sabres were three-for-three in the Win Department.


HEADLINE: SUGGESTED STUDIES

THE JIVE: Keep your eyes on Robin Lehner in Vegas and Jeremy Swayman in Beantown. In a month, lemme know if they have the goods.

Just wondering, that's all.