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Seattle Kraken @ Chicago Blackhawks PREVIEW

We all love a little bit of hockey in the morning, don’t we?

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Joonas Donskoi places a big hit on Sam Lafferty, sending the Blackhawks player into the boards and off his skates. Donskoi is wearing a white away jersey and Lafferty is wearing a red home jersey. Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Need to Knows

The Time: 11:00 am PT (yes, you read that right)

The Place: United Center, Chicago, IL

Where to watch: ROOT Northwest (or ESPN+ for out-of-market folks)

Where to listen: KJR-93.3 and its affiliates

Know Your Enemy

The Chicago Blackhawks are coming into this game with a 2-2-0 record, which is frankly better than I would have anticipated for a team that decided to spend its offseason having a major fire sale. The 2015 third-overall draft pick Dylan Strome signed with the Washington Capitals after not being given a qualifying offer, 2016 second-rounder Alex DeBrincat was traded to the Ottawa Senators, and 2019 third-overall pick Kirby Dach was traded to the Montréal Canadiens. That’s a lot of young talent just gone. (They even had a fire sale of their broadcast team, but the Kraken got to reap the benefits of that one with Eddie Olczyk now being a part of the ROOT Sports team.)

For a further sign of just how bad this team is, within these first four games, their points, goals, and assist leader isn’t any of the usual suspects you’d expect from a Blackhawks team. It’s not Jonathan Toews, it’s not Patrick Kane...it’s Sam Lafferty. If you’re thinking “What kind of a Mark Donk is that?” you’d actually be correct considering that until he was traded to Chicago, he was a fringe Pittsburgh Penguins player. Now, four games is never a great sample size, and surely this will all even back out later, but to let someone like Lafferty get out to an early hot start is not a good look.

The Blackhawks are fully committing to a “crap the bed for Bedard” strategy this season, and part of it is that they weren’t exactly great last season either with a 28-42-12 record for 7th place in the Central Division. It also might be in their best interest to get everyone talking about how bad they are on the ice instead of just off of it (but I’m not going to let it slide no matter how much they’d like it to go away.)

Game Preview

The Kraken just beat the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche (and took their fair share of Russell Wilson shots along the way). Not only did they win, but they did so while having to pull Phillip Grubauer out of the game and bring in Martin Jones to finish it out.

A victory like this should have the Kraken flying as high as yeeted fish, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in my years watching hockey, it’s that anything goes. The Kraken especially tend to take our expectations and flip them upside down. However, if the Kraken want to show that they’re not the same team from last year, they need to win the games that look winnable on paper as well as the ones that don’t.

As for lineups, Jones is most likely the starting goaltender for this game. While Dave Hakstol had no media availability on Saturday, the Kraken recalled Joey Daccord from the Firebirds, which indicates the team feels the need to carry a backup to the backup. Beyond that, lineups have also been in flux throughout the early going of this season, so while it might make sense to roll with the same lines that beat the Avalanche, Hakstol could always want to see a different player get some ice time instead.

One other storyline of note is that this will be the first time former Kraken fan-favorite Colin Blackwell plays against Seattle. He was sent off to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline along with Mark Giordano, but he signed with the Blackhawks as a free agent in the offseason. Will this turn out to be a revenge game for Blackwell? Let’s hope not, or at least, I’ll settle for letting him score a goal as long as the Kraken win.

The other major detail is that this is a matinee game. In Chicago, it’ll be a 1 pm start time, so the players themselves won’t be up as early as everyone on the west coast needs to be to catch the game. However, it can still be an issue for teams in early afternoon games to properly wake themselves up. Get the coffee (or other caffeinated beverage of choice) ready for everyone involved.