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A Grip on Sports: The outcome might have the Kraken kicking themselves, but the night seemed successful anyway

The Vegas Golden Knights celebrate a goal by center Chandler Stephenson, obscured, against the Seattle Kraken during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Las Vegas.  (Chase Stevens)
The Vegas Golden Knights celebrate a goal by center Chandler Stephenson, obscured, against the Seattle Kraken during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Las Vegas. (Chase Stevens)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Who knew Justin Tucker had NHL potential? Anyone who can nail a field goal from 66 yards probably could kick in a hockey puck as well as Chandler Stephenson. Or redirect one. Whatever. New Kraken fans learned a lot during the franchise’s first game Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

•••••••

• Yes, one of the things they learned was it is OK to wonder just what a kick, in hockey, is. Sort of like what’s a catch in the NFL or targeting in college football. They are wonders all right.

No matter. Just because Vegas scored the winning goal in a 4-3 game on what looked suspiciously like a kick, complete with a backward and forward motion of the foot, that’s just fine. After all, it was an NHL game. For a Seattle-based team.

That it came against the last expansion franchise the league had put together, on the Golden Knights’ home ice, was also well and good. After all, Climate Pledge Arena is still work in progress and the Seattle group that brought hockey to the Pacific Northwest wants it to be perfect for the home opener.

There is little doubt ESPN’s ratings in the Puget Sound will be through the roof. If social media was any indication, the Kraken’s debut was all the rage west of the Cascades, and had pretty solid interest on this side as well. Heck, like the Seahawks and the Mariners, the Kraken should be big in Oregon too.

A 3-0 deficit? So what. As Rick Rizz might say, these guys never quit. Midway through the third period it was tied. The Kraken, despite a two-man advantage not too long after, never could score the tying goal and game one was also loss one.

And yet everyone who loves hockey – or is willing to learn how to love it –  in this part of the country won. There is a new franchise in the region. The winter months just got a little warmer.

• Every see three dogs argue over a bone? Usually, the two biggest get all huffy with each other, growl and snarl and circle. The littlest one stays on the outskirts, biding its time. When the two big dogs are so preoccupied with each other they have eyes for nothing else, the little dog darts in, takes the bone and disappears up the stairs before the other two know what happened.

We wonder if the same thing will occur in the National League playoffs. The Giants and Dodgers have been growling and snarling at each other for four games. A fifth looms. Each has won 109 times since the season began. Thursday night’s decider should be epic. And then what?

Will the Braves, the N.L. East winners who had the worst record among the league’s playoff qualifiers, dart in and take home the crown?

It could happen. In fact, we’re suspecting it will. Atlanta will have its pitching lined up. It will have the no-on-believes-in-us chip. And it will have Freddie Freeman, who lifted the Braves past Milwaukee yesterday.

The Giants/Dodgers winner? They will have the best record in baseball. And the satisfaction of having topped their rival. Such things often reult in a letdown. But even more important than that, each will have a key component missing. For the Giants, that would be ace Logan Webb, who will throw Thursday, for the first couple games. For the Dodgers, that would be home field because, as the wild card, they can’t have it.

The Braves aren’t pushovers. And they won’t be one in the NLCS. No matter who they face.

•••

WSU: If you’ve been watching the Cougar defense improve as the season has worn on, you know they’ve utilized a lot of players up front. Colton Clark has this story on one of the most unlikely new stadouts, Jesus Echevarria. … The Pac-12 held its women’s basketball media day (the men hold theirs today) in San Francisco. The Cougars were picked to finish sixth, which is about twice as good as they were tabbed last season (last). Jim Allen has this coverage. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, Jon Wilner has his power rankings in the S-R this morning as well as his bowl projections and some thoughts on Arizona State in the Mercury News. … Oregon State is regrouping after its loss. … We can remember when these two players were powering the California rushing attack. … Oregon is probably happy neither is playing this week. Whether Joe Moorhead is part of the game remains to be seen. … Jaxson Dart should be ready to go soon for USC. … An Arizona State player came out of retirement to help the Sun Devils’ pass rush. … Cam Rising and Utah meet ASU in a key game this week. … Arizona must stop the running game if it hopes to top Colorado. … In basketball news, just who is going to win the men’s title? UCLA may be a unanimous choice this morning. … The Bruins’ Tyger Campbell would like to sell you something.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, UC Davis took a tumble in the polls after its loss to previously winless Idaho State. … Northern Colorado is still facing some unknowns. … When Weber State and Montana State meet, a lot of questions should be answered. … Sacramento State will have two quarterbacks and no All-American running backs when it faces Montana.

Preps: It was busy night in prep sports. Dave Nichols has this long roundup of Tuesday’s action. … Record-setting or bad sportsmanship? Or both?

Seahawks: It’s not a good thing to lose your starting quarterback. Especially when that starter is one of the league’s best and has been a fixture for as long as Russell Wilson has. Seattle has been lucky in that regard. … Pete Carroll has to take the lead role in fixing the defense. … It won’t have Tre Flowers anymore. But the offense might have Blake Bortles at some point. … Pittsburgh presents some challenges for the Hawks.

Mariners: The Astros vs. the Red Sox. Great. But that’s the American League championship series.

Kraken: We mentioned their 4-3 loss above, but the Kraken may have won over some new fans last night in the way they rallied against the Knights. Those fans should be happy with the future.

•••       

• No matter what happened last night, hockey has taken its spot in the region’s professional ranks. Between the Blazers in Portland and the three Seattle franchises, all four major sports have a presence in the Northwest. It is about darn time. Until later …

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