The Need to Knows
Time: 4:00 pm PT / 7:00 pm ET
The Place: Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario
Where to Watch: Where to Watch: ROOT-NW (ESPN+ for out-of-market fans, Sportsnet+ in Canada)
Where to Listen: KJR 93.3 FM
An Opposing Viewpoint: Pension Plan Puppets
Know Your Enemy
While most would consider the Kraken’s season a success if they made the postseason, the Leafs’ season doesn’t really start until the playoffs. Toronto is an excellent team with all the media coverage of the New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys but without any of the championships (at least none in over half a century). Toronto has failed to advance past the first round in each of the last six seasons, something I’m sure Leafs fans are excited to be reminded about by the media.
If the Leafs don’t win a playoff series, their season is a failure. If the Kraken get to the playoffs, their season is a success. These are teams in different spots right now.
The team itself is led by last year’s Hart Trophy (league MVP) winner Auston Matthews. If Connor McDavid is the best player in the world (and he is), Matthews is arguably the second-best. The Leafs top line of Matthews, Michael Bunting, and William Nylander is a menace to society and opposing goaltenders, although Nylander has an illness and may not play.
Perhaps the team’s defensive MVP has been the steady, quiet leadership and solid play of former Kraken captain Mark Giordano, who has found a home in Toronto he really likes.
If you want more bittersweet nostalgia, former Kraken Calle Järnkrok also plays for Toronto.
Goalie Ilya Samsonov has really struggled recently, giving up 17 goals in his last 4 games.
Their goal song (which we hope not to hear too much of) is “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall and Oates. An odd choice for a goal song, but it totally works.
In the words of Giordano:
“They look like they’re playing with a lot of confidence. Not to make excuses, but last year was a tough start for us there. We never really got going, had a lot of COVID-19 issues that are (detrimental) when trying to get 25 new guys together. To be honest, that’s more important off the ice to bond. We weren’t able to do that when COVID-19 ran through our room pretty early in the year.”
That’s right, Mark. The Kraken this year have had their ups and downs, but they are unquestionably showing far better than they did last year.
After the 7-2 embarrassment against Edmonton on Friday, coach Dave Hakstol spoke about how they’d lost discipline and gone away from the defensive play that won them so many games in November, that winning high-scoring games (especially the 9-8 Kings nonsense win) created unrealistic expectations of how to win hockey games.
The two games after that including the rematch against Edmonton have shown a marked improvement in their defensive coverage, making it easy for the goaltenders.
Good job keeping Martin Jones' sight lines clear 6 on 5. Makes it a manageable shot even with all the traffic. pic.twitter.com/vnYj0Cm5aD— Emerald City Hockey (@EmeraldCityHky) January 4, 2023
The Leafs, like the Oilers, are led by an alien and have two very strong lines. This, like Edmonton, is a tough test for the Kraken, but if Seattle plays their game, they’ve shown they can hang with the McDavids, Matthews, MacKinnons, Makars, and Manyone else of the NHL.