Time to Hunt in the Deep (Again): Kraken vs Panthers PREVIEW

The Need to Knows

The Time: 3 pm PT / 5 pm ET

The Place: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise, FL

Where to Watch: ROOT-NW (ESPN+ for out-of-market fans, Sportsnet+ in Canada)

Where to Listen: KJR 93.3 FM

An Opposing Viewpoint: Litter Box Cats

Know Your Enemy

Okay so last time it was more like when you go to give your cat a bath and it teaches you an important lesson about claws vs. skin. The Kraken’s painful 5-1 loss goes against the general theme of this season of “That’s Kraken hockey baby” and we can expect the team to come out of the gates pretty hot.

The Panthers leading scorer is Matthew “We get it, you can score with your stick between your legs” Tkachuk. After refusing an extension with the Calgary Flames, he’s settled in nicely in his new, warmer, hometown and leads his team in points (13-24-37 as of Friday afternoon). He’s a talented player and one wonders how much higher his career totals might be if he hadn’t been so focused on being a ****head for his first few seasons.

Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov is back in the fold after missing a few games with a non-Covid illness. The addition of another point-per-game player in the Panthers lineup won’t make it easier to pull two points out of the match, but this year’s Kraken have shown us they can roll with anybody in the league.

Expect excellent young goaltender Spencer Knight between the pipes as Bobrovsky got the nod Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings. Knight is middle of the pack in terms of goals against and save percentage, but the team in front of him generates more shots than any other in the league, so Knight’s numbers have been enough to get him eight wins thus far, and the Kraken will need to put at least three by him if they want the victory.

In front of Knight is a fairly deep defensive core anchored by former No. 1 overall pick Aaron Ekblad and the rising Gustav Forsling. Originally a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick, Forsling has blossomed into a legitimate first pairing dman in Florida and seems suited well to the Ekblad pairing. Missing from the roster will be hulking defenseman Radko Gudas who is out with concussion symptoms.

Game Preview

This will be “high event” hockey. Maybe not a 9-8 overtime win, but if you are the betting sort, the Over is probably the route to go. The Kraken are Top 3 in shot suppression, so it will be a “unstoppable force versus immovable object” scenario. If Florida gets an early lead, coach Hakstol will have to unleash the offence, accepting the risks that naturally come along with that.

The concern for Seattle is the suboptimal save percentages of their goaltending tandem. Both men are below 0.900 (Gru 0.868, Jones 0.888) and when you combine that with a high shot rate, it’s likely to equal a lot of goals. In spite of their hot start, the team is coming off another loss, and a fourth straight would be an ugly start to a Christmas season schedule that sees them face off against mostly playoff teams from here until the New Year.

The Kraken have shown us over and again this season that they can skate with, and beat, the best teams in the league. Here’s hoping Saturday night is another example of that.

Sean’s prediction: 6-4 Kraken victory on an empty netter.