Philip Tomasinomade his NHL debut tonight, joining fellow under-25s Eeli Tolvanen, Cody Glass, Luke Kunin, Dante Fabbro, and Tanner Jeannot—players being asked to fill an assortment of roles, from defense to grit to scoring—on the ice. The Preds got drastically younger over the offseason, with new players coming in and fan favorites like Pekka Rinne, Ryan Ellis, and Viktor Arvidsson heading out.
After some back and forth play over the first few minutes of the game, Tolvanen scored off the faceoff to put the Preds on the board first, with the assists going to his linemates Kunin and Mikael Granlund. Both teams continued feeling their way through the first period, with neither goalie having too much of a workload, though Juuse Saros did face some traffic in front.
With about five minutes remaining, Yakov Trenin took exception to a Vince Dunn hit on Colton Sissons, and Trenin and Dunn fought, with Trenin getting an extra two minutes for roughing and the Kraken getting a power play out of it. They were able to score on that power play, with Saros screened by Fabbro and one of the Kraken forwards. Immediately afterward, Alexandre Carrier was called for tripping Alex Barre-Boulet.
Less than a minute into the Kraken’s second power play, Ben Harpur went headfirst into the boards after getting tangled up with Ryan Donato; it didn’t look like a trip on Donato’s part, but once the initial contact occurred Donato pushed Harpur down, probably worsening the impact. Harpur did return to the bench on his own, though he was down for long enough to cause some comment. No penalty was called on the play.
Saros had been having a few issues with rebounds earlier this period, though he and his teammates managed it at 5-on-5. With the Preds shorthanded, a rebound flew across the ice and the Kraken were able to collect the puck and get it past Saros for their first lead as a franchise. Right after that, Matt Duchene drew a penalty but Filip Forsberg was called simultaneously for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Nick Cousins came close to tying the game up again in the ensuing interval of 4-on-4 play to close the first, but no luck. When play resumed in the second, the Preds made a more assertive start, nearly doubling the number of saves Philipp Grubauer had had to make over the first couple minutes of the period. Jeannot had a great chance he didn’t manage to convert on, and then Cousins drew a cross-checking penalty as Adam Larsson cross-checked him face-first into the glass.
Forsberg managed to draw a second penalty while on the power play, giving the Preds almost forty seconds of 5-on-3 play, and Roman Josi scored on the two-skater advantage with a one-timer to tie the game. The Preds continued to press hard on the ensuing 5-on-4, but although they had some good chances they were unable to convert again.
Halfway through the second period, a defensive breakdown allowed Alex Wennberg to score past Saros. A couple of turnovers and some completely blown coverage gave Wennberg about a year and a half to get set up. It was a rough shift from Tomasino, though the much more experienced players Harpur and Ryan Johansen had bad moments in there to contribute to the goal against as well.
As the period ground on, the Kraken established themselves more firmly in the Preds’ zone. A breakaway by Jeannot gave the fans a moment of hope, but a Kraken defender caught up to him and Grubauer made the stop. Moments later, Saros gave up another huge rebound saving a Morgan Geekie shot, but this time was able to cover the rebound and prevent the Kraken from going up by two.
With half a minute left in the second, Philippe Myers boarded Jordan Eberle, who stayed down for an alarming moment, and once again the refs didn’t call a penalty on that. I’d prefer even-handed calling of all head impact that could have been a penalty, instead of no head impact that could have been a penalty, but here we are.
The period ended without further stoppages in play, and the Preds came out to start the third about the same as they’d left the second: by and large, disorganized and unimpressive. The Kraken buckled down defensively, making the Preds’ job harder, although their turtling did at least cut down on their own offense.
Entering the second half of the third period, the Preds did start to ramp up the pressure, but the Kraken were able to keep the workload on Grubauer relatively light. Even when the Preds did manage to pressure the Kraken into a series of repeated icings that inspired some hope in the home crowd, the Kraken managed to endure without giving up a goal.
Duchene almost managed to tie the game again off a pass from Josi with six minutes to go, but the puck went just wide. After that, the Herd Line of Sissons, Trenin, and Jeannot had a shift that got the crowd back into the game, but weren’t able to convert. With under four minutes to go, Duchene had another shot that missed by inches, and then Tomasino and Tolvanen got several great chances against an exhausted Seattle team, but were kept off the board by Grubauer.
With Saros pulled, Ekholm broke up a play and then Josi made a spectacular diving block, but the Kraken were able to score—on their first shot on goal of the period—after collecting the puck, giving them a two-goal lead with just over a minute remaining. However, on the next shift, Mikael Granlund scored on a second-chance shot to restore the Preds’ deficit to one.
However, in spite of that spark of hope, there just wasn’t enough time and the game ended as a one-goal loss.
As a takeaway, I don’t think anyone should have been expecting the Preds to come out tonight and play a fantastic game. The “competitive rebuild” was always going to involve a rough patch as the kids got their feet under them. That said, this wasn’t a fun way to spend an evening, especially with some of the more experienced players making the same mistakes. Communication and responsibility feel like they should be easier to learn than raw talent, which made it a weird and negative experience as a viewer.
Overall, in spite of the youth movement, in a lot of ways this looked like the same team we saw last season: bad penalty kill, lackluster offense, dubious defense. In a way, it would have been more reassuring if the problems had changed. It’s one game and I’m not ready to write the season off, but this team definitely has work to do. Hopefully we start seeing that work soon.