Kraken aim to refine chemistry heading into inaugural NHL season opener

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VANCOUVER — The Seattle Kraken will shift their focus toward their inaugural NHL regular-season game after wrapping up their first preseason on a high note.

Goalie Philipp Grubauer said the Kraken look to have established chemistry, cohesion and an identity following a 4-0 win at the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, when Grubauer made 38 saves and defenseman Vince Dunn scored twice. Seattle completed its first preseason 4-2-0.

“I think we played enough preseason games where everybody knows what the other guy is doing,” Grubauer said. “That was not the case in the first couple of games because obviously, you have different guys in the lineup. The last two games we figured it out for sure.”

That’s a big step for a team that practiced together for the first time 12 days earlier and has been building on the fly, installing new systems and working toward a final roster for their regular-season opener at the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVAS).

“We don’t have a Nathan MacKinnon or a Mikko Rantanen,” said Grubauer, who signed a six-year, $35.4 million contract (average annual value $5.9 million) with the Kraken on July 28 after three seasons with MacKinnon, Rantanen and the Colorado Avalanche. “We’ve got to play as a five-man unit here and that’s where our success comes from, the back end, and if we all support each other and play heavy on the puck, it’s going to be the outcome we see [against the Canucks].”

Video: Seattle Kraken 2021-22 Season Preview

Despite being outshot 38-25 by Vancouver, Grubauer praised his teammates for providing a controlled environment and not giving up a lot of dangerous chances at even strength. A finalist for the Vezina Trophy voted as the NHL’s top goalie last season with Colorado, Seattle’s No. 1 goalie repaid his teammates with several tough saves when the Kraken was killing off four penalties. 

He made nine saves during one power play in the second period, including three point-blank chances by Canucks captain Bo Horvat. Despite that flurry, Grubauer called the environment in front of him “predictable,” said it has been a focus in training camp, and will be key to Seattle’s success.

“Everybody’s coming together, which makes it easy for not just me. It makes it easier for D partners, for forwards,” Grubauer said. “Everybody is growing into the system and everybody is eliminating mistakes. We go over film, watch our mistakes and prevent them from happening again.”

Dunn, considered more of an offensive defenseman, finished the preseason with three goals in four games, but agreed how the Kraken play in — and coming out of — their own end is key to the identity they are trying to build. 

“I think it just starts with hard work, that’s one thing we can all control when we go out there, and being predictable and playing for each other,” said Dunn, selected from the St. Louis Blues in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft on July 21. “We’re doing a good job, especially in the locker room. There’s a lot of talk, a lot of questions being asked and answered, so the more we’re playing, the more our team is coming together on the ice, especially system-wise.”

With the preseason behind them, the Kraken have six days to continue that process and finalize their roster before starting the regular season with five road games leading up to their home opener against the Canucks on Oct. 23. 

“It’s a little bit different schedule without any games now,” coach Dave Hakstol said, “so we have an opportunity to dig in, work on things in practice and get ready for our first season opener.”

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