On Thursday, the Seattle Kraken will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada to open up the regular season against Pacific Division favorite (and the NHL’s previous expansion franchise) Las Vegas. It will be the first regular season game in franchise history.
The Golden Knights are big favorites for Thursday’s game, despite rolling out a new goalie. Robin Lehner will be making his debut for Vegas, Lehner has saved 91.8% of shots at goal in his career, and it’s unclear what that means for the Knights (his save percentage is slightly higher than the guy he’s replacing). It seems unlikely the Kraken will really test Lehner in his first home game at T-Mobile Arena; Seattle’s offense is a question mark heading into the season.
Despite a significant amount of available offensive talent in the expansion draft, Seattle decided to invest heavily in it’s defensive unit. And the general consensus is that they did an excellent job at it; the signing of goalie Philipp Grubauer felt like highway robbery. As it allowed the franchise to snag some more draft picks by flipping the other goalie it had on its roster from the expansion draft. This defensive unit will pose a problem for the Golden Knights on Thursday.
Seattle’s lack of proven contributors on offense could be frustrating, especially in close games. The strategy seems to be to keep games close so that when the offense is able to capitalize on opportunities a win is likely. It’s not a bad strategy, especially with the overall youth of the roster.
It’s fortunate that the Kraken play in the Pacific Division, arguably the weakest in the NHL. Even if the offense struggles to consistently score, the defense should be able to drag them into contention for a playoff berth in the club’s first season.
The short term cap space gives the front office flexibility to plug any holes that become apparent throughout the season; and the long term flexibility is something to drool over. While Las Vegas is the obvious favorite, LA and Edmonton are teams that should be in the race…and also a challenge for the Kraken throughout the season.
For those of you who are long time readers you’ll know that I began arguing that an NHL first option was the best option to get a new arena built in Seattle — and that I was opposed to another rebuild of the Seattle Center arena. We got our NHL team, and their first home game is scheduled for October 23rd; but the Kraken have to get through this season opening road trip first.
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