Preview: Kraken vs. Leafs

The Need to Knows

The Time: 4:00pm PT / 7:00 pm ET

The Place: Climate Pledge Arena in (snowy?!) Seattle, WA

Where to Watch: ROOT Northwest, ESPN+ for all other markets

Place to Listen: KJR 93.3fm

An Opposing Viewpoint: Pension Plan Puppets

Know Your Enemy

On a yearly basis, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the team everyone is talking about. One can never predict how they’ll do it, but we know they’ll find a way to play seven or fewer playoff games and then pack up for the summer at the end of Round One. Owners of the longest Stanley Cup drought in the league (1967), the Leafs are certainly due for some better luck, but this might not be their year either, based on the competition they’ll need to defeat within their division.

Forwards: Auston Matthews, while not scoring goals at the blistering pace we’ve come to expect, is still having a very good year. His advanced statistics are impressive and he projects to be well above a point-per-game over the course of the regular season. He doesn’t need to score 60 this season either, with Mitch Marner and the often criticized William Nylander performing at career high levels. The Leafs also recently added Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari, adding depth to a roster that was already amongst the league’s best.

Defense: Waaay back in 2012, then Leafs general manager Brian Burke stated that he rated his #5 overall selection, defenseman Morgan Rielly, as the best player in the draft.

At the time it sounded a bit generous, but Mr. Burke gets full credit with the benefit of hindsight. Rielly leads the Maple Leaf defense ten years on, consistently producing offense while playing a responsible game in his own end. The Leafs are without Jake Muzzin, Rasmus Sandin, and Victor Mete, so former Kraken captain Mark Giordano may get a lot of ice time against his old club.

Goaltending: Matt Murray hurt himself early in the season, forcing the Leafs to look to Ilya Samsonov to stop the puck. The 26-year-old Russian has done just that, posting a record of 21-7-2 and a .916 save percentage. Given the Leafs’ injury woes, and honestly a pretty long track record of subpar goaltending in recent years, Samsonov’s consistency is a nice surprise.

Game Preview


There is a single path to victory against the Maple Leaf offense. Score more than them. You may be thinking “But that’s how you beat any team” and while you’re correct, it’s extra true against Toronto. A two goal performance isn’t going to do it. Luckily for the Kraken, they are amongst the league’s best in 5-on-5 goals for. The depth needs to produce, as do the top 6. The Kraken kept pace with the Bruins for most of the game the other day, falling just short in the 6-5 loss. Five goals for should be the target here as well.

Toronto has scored 202 goals in 2022-23, and as circumstance would have it, Seattle has the exact same number. That should mean a fairly back and forth, evenly matched game, but few would argue that the Kraken powerplay (20.2% success rate) equals that of Sunday’s opponent (24.4%). More to the point, the Kraken PK is close to the bottom of the league, so any trips to the penalty box are like to last less than two minutes. Keep it clean out there boys.

The season series split against the Bruins should satisfy us all, along with the knowledge that the one goal loss was only a bounce or two away from ending with the W. For this game, it’s an important measuring stick in the days leading up to the trade deadline. Toronto has already made some additions, and GM Ron Francis has to be considering a trade or two. If the team can pull out a win against a strong eastern contender like Toronto, maybe it’s an indication that the Kraken should spend some future picks to improve the present roster and really take a run at the postseason.