Kraken feel solid with duo of Grubauer, Driedger in goal

kraken
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

SEATTLE — For months, Chris Driedger seemed to be a lock to become the first goaltender for the Seattle Kraken. It made far too much sense considering his talent and success, and with no clear path to being a No. 1 goaltender in Florida.

Then Philipp Grubauer became available in free agency and he turned into the first big signing by the Kraken, shuffling Driedger to the second spot in Seattle’s tandem.

That’s OK by Driedger. In the bigger picture of what the expansion franchise is trying to accomplish, having two top goalies is going to be crucial to Seattle’s success.

“My mindset is if we’re both playing well the team is going to play well, it’s going to benefit everyone in the long run,” Driedger said. “I’m excited to work with him and learn from him. He’s got a little bit more experience than I do and I think it’s gonna be exciting.”

When Seattle takes the ice for its first game next Tuesday night against Vegas, Grubauer will almost certainly be in net. Seattle’s biggest financial investment in the offseason was signing the Vezina Trophy finalist to a six-year, $35.4 million deal.

The move may have been a surprise since Seattle had already taken Driedger during the expansion draft. But a glut of good goalies is a good problem to have and it’s why Seattle’s duo is considered among the top pairings in the league.

It became obvious early on Seattle wanted to be solid defensively, even at the expense of some scoring punch up front, following the blueprint laid out by Vegas four years ago.

The Golden Knights received plenty of contributions from players who were in lesser roles with their previous teams. But their success revolved around the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury, who went 29-13-4 during their first season and had another four shutouts in the playoffs.

He was the stabilizer Vegas could rely on at the back. Seattle hopes the combo of Grubauer and Driedger can follow suit.

“We’re going to be a hardworking team,” Grubauer said. “We’re not going to score 10 goals like Colorado did but we’re going to be a hardworking group for sure.”

Grubauer had a career-best 1.95 goals against and seven shutouts while playing 70% of the regular-season games for Colorado during the truncated last season. He missed a couple of weeks during the regular season due to COVID-19 protocols. In the playoffs, he wasn’t able to match his regular-season form and finished with a 2.61 goals against average. He allowed 16 goals in the final four games of a second-round series loss to Vegas.

Driedger played 23 games for Florida and had a 2.07 goals against last season but found himself in an awkward three-man rotation with 19-year-old Spencer Knight and veteran Sergei Bobrovsky at the end of the season and into the playoffs.

“I think we’re going to have a great relationship,” Driedger said. “And I like to always collaborate with my goalie partners and make sure that we’re both going at the best possible level that we can.”

The team still has to shake out the rotation. When coach Dave Hakstol was in Philadelphia, he generally went with a two-third, one-third split among his top two goalies during his first two full seasons.

That would leave Grubauer playing about 50 games and Driedger around 30 should both stay healthy through the season. If one does get injured, the Kraken feel confident in No. 3 goalie Joey Daccord, who was selected from Ottawa in the expansion draft and may have been Seattle’s No. 2 until Grubauer became available.

“The camp that Joey has had has been very good for our group to have confidence in him as a guy that’s going to contribute to our team along the way,” Hakstol said.

Scroll Down For:

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
    2 Comments

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    austonmatthews
    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.