SEATTLE – There are definitely similarities, Gerard Gallant said Sunday, between the NHL’s 32nd team, the Seattle Kraken, and the 31st, the Vegas Golden Knights, who Gallant coached in 2017-18.
"You know what, I watched their last two games closely, the Montreal game and the Minnesota game,’’ Gallant said after the Rangers’ first morning skate in Seattle, before Sunday’s first-ever game against the expansion Seattle Kraken. "They work hard. They compete. They’ve got four lines coming at you. It's not just the top two lines that are supposed to be skilled. I think that they put that team together as, the first line and the fourth line, There's not a big difference in them. And that's what we had in Vegas.’’
That expansion Vegas team famously made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. It remains to be seen how it ends for Seattle, but the Kraken are off to a decent start in their inaugural season. They began the day one point out of a wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference, with a 3-4-1 record through their first eight games.
As the Rangers started off their second four-game road trip of the season, Gallant took a moment to recall his experience with Vegas in that team’s inaugural season. And he acknowledged the expansion rules that Vegas and Seattle entered the league with were more favorable than previous expansion teams, which allowed for both teams to be more competitive in their first seasons.
"I was on the Columbus expansion team (in 2000-01, as a first-time NHL assistant coach), where we got a lot of players that weren't at the same level of these guys,’’ Gallant said. "I mean, you look across here, there's a lot of good hockey players over there. In Vegas, we got a lot of good hockey players. So, obviously, the rules changed it a lot and they make those teams competitive. And of course, the Vegas team, obviously, was really good, and this team's off to a real good start.’’
The Rangers spent the morning skate looking around at the Seattle arena, Climate Pledge Arena. It has a couple unique features, like a glass wall on one side of the building, where the people inside can see out, and people walking outside can get a peek inside at the seats and a little bit of the ice surface. There also are two video replay boards, as opposed to one, as there is in every other arena in the NHL.
"It's not every day you get to play in a new rink, so it's always exciting,’’ defenseman Jacob Trouba said. "The first thing I noticed were the windows. It's definitely something different. It actually reminded me back in Under-18s, we played in Germany, and there was one of the sides of the rink was open to outside. (This) kind of reminded me of that a little bit. Yeah, it’s definitely a cool rink.’’
"It's a beautiful building,’’ Gallant said. "I think everybody looked at it and said, 'This is beautiful.'
"Obviously, you test the boards out a little bit, shoot pucks around the boards to see if it's fast, and all that,’’ he said. "But no, it's a nice building.’’
Gallant stayed with the same lines that he used in Friday’s 4-0 win at the Garden over Columbus, meaning Barclay Goodrow remained on the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, and Alexis Lafreniere remained on the third line with Filip Chytil and Sammy Blais.
Blais said it’s been easy for him to develop chemistry with Lafreniere.
"Off the ice, we're good friends. We're always together,’’ he said. "So, when we get on the ice, it's pretty easy. We see, we see each other pretty well on the ice, and we both love playing with each other.’’