We bring you another round of Monday Musings, where we share a random collection of thoughts and observations about the last week from the hockey world with an emphasis on the Kraken and other Puget Sound teams. Enjoy.
What a week for the Kraken?!?! Three regulation road game victories against some quality opponents. Each victory seemed to build on the previous one, and suddenly, the Kraken see themselves in second place in the Pacific Division and riding a franchise record four-game win streak. The Kraken now have 16 points in the standings over 13 games. Last season, they did not capture their 16th point until their 21st game of the season.
The boys will now play a six-game homestand that will take us right through Thanksgiving. They are currently 2-3-1 at Climate Pledge Arena versus 5-1-1 on the road. Let us hope they can get some CPA mojo and turn that home record around.
I’ve said this many times before, but this team is very different than last year’s team. The ability for this group to bounce back after something goes wrong has been remarkable. In Tuesday’s game against Calgary, the Kraken rallied from two goals down in the third after giving up two quick ones to the Flames. In the game against Pittsburgh on Saturday, Jake Guentzel scored an equalizer for the Penguins, but the Kraken bounced back with a Tanev goal with roughly three and a half minutes left. Those kinds of responses were few and far between last season.
One thing that has helped with the resilience is this team is scoring at a much higher rate than last year. The Kraken are averaging 3.46 goals per game compared to 2.63 last year. Goal scoring in the NHL is challenging, but last year it seemed as if the team would need to work so hard for every goal. Right now, it just seems like anyone out there can score. 19 of the 20 skaters that have drawn into the lineup have scored a goal.
The Shane Wright situation
The only skater to not score a goal is Shane Wright. Wright has the fewest minutes played among the 20 players with just under 57 minutes over his seven games. The challenge with getting Wright more minutes is the players that are drawing into the lineup are better NHL players than he is right now, being that he’s still just 18 years old. Morgan Geekie, Ryan Donato, and Daniel Sprong give the Kraken a better chance to win hockey games.
The other “problem” that is preventing Wright from drawing in more consistently is that the Kraken have been relatively healthy. Seattle has not had to dip into the Coachella Valley Firebirds for any skaters to date. Last year’s team had several injuries and COVID absences in the first part of the season. Colin Blackwell, Yanni Gourde, Calle Jarnkrok, and Jared McCann all missed several games in the first part of last season.
McCann being sidelined on Thursday and Saturday gave Wright the opportunity to not just play but play on the third line with Gourde and Tanev.
I have mentioned this several times on the Sound Of Hockey Podcast, but assuming no injuries between now and early December, I imagine the Kraken will loan Wright to Team Canada for the World Junior Championship. This will give him the opportunity to play a couple weeks of logging high minutes of elite-level hockey. At the end of the tournament, he can then return to Seattle for rest of the season.
Other Kraken musings:
- The Kraken’s depth is their strength. The Kraken lead the league in unique goal scorers with 19 players scoring at least one goal, but they are also tied for the league lead for unique players with at least two goals. There are 12 players with at least two goals, tied with the Kings and the Bruins.
- One of the players with two goals or more is Morgan Geekie. After a challenging start to the season, Geekie finds himself firmly grasping the fourth-line center position, and he will head into Tuesday’s game on a four-game point streak, a career high.
- The Kraken will still have a roster decision to make once Joonas Donskoi comes back from injured reserve. From what I have heard, he is not expected back any time soon.
- I was asked several times this week “Who has been the best player on the team this season?” I don’t think there is a best player on the team. I feel McCann, Jaden Schwartz, and Matty Beniers could all have a case at one time this season, but people are contributing all over the place and that’s been the key to the success this year.
- Andre Burakovsky is tied with Schwartz for the team lead in points, but despite the points, he has another level that we will see soon enough. He is an elite goal scorer, and his current shooting percentage is only 8.3 percent, which is a career low.
- After no points in his first six games, Gourde has seven points in his last six games including factoring in all three goals Saturday night against the Penguins.
- The Coachella Valley Firebirds residency in Seattle is officially over, as they fly south to establish their presence in the Valley. It was fun to see them around KCI, and that should create a consistent culture between the two teams. The games I have seen live or on AHL.tv were all entertaining, and I will be looking forward to making a trip down to see them in their barn.
- The Firebirds capped off their residency with a split of two games against the Abbotsford Canucks over the weekend. Saturday night’s Firebirds win featured a hat trick by former Kelowna Rocket, Kole Lind. Lind now leads the team with six goals in eight games.
- Second in goal scoring for the Firebirds is Jesper Froden. Froden was named the AHL Player of the Month in October.
— Coachella Valley Firebirds (@Firebirds) November 1, 2022
Top player performances
- Yanni Gourde – Yanni had five points over the last three games and was a huge reason the Kraken went 3-0 over the last week. One of the most critical points was his short-handed goal that tied the game up against the Flames on Tuesday night.
— Alison (@AlisonL) November 2, 2022
- Erik Karlsson – He had eight points over the Sharks’ last three games including his first career hat trick on Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
- Martin Jones – He had two of the three Kraken wins over this past week including his first shutout with Seattle against the Minnesota Wild. Jones has a .967 save percentage in his last three games and has given Kraken fans a sense of optimism for the goaltending this season.
On the docket
Nashville Predators – Tuesday, Nov. 8, at Climate Pledge Arena
Heading into the season, I thought the Predators were one of the teams the Kraken would need to challenge for a playoff spot. This team is tough to figure out; they are rolling into Seattle with a bit of a hot streak, having beaten the Flames and Canucks, but prior to those games they lost two lopsided contests to the Oilers and Capitals.
Predators current record: 5-6-1
Players to watch:
- Tanner Jeannot – hits everything in site and can put the puck in the net. He is the type of player you hate if he is playing against you but love if he is on your team. Regardless, he is entertaining.
- Filip Forsberg – easily the best chimney sweeper in the league with an outstanding shot. His snipe last year at CPA is etched into my memory.
— nopClips (@nopClips) January 26, 2022
Minnesota Wild – Friday, Nov. 11, at Climate Pledge Arena
After an embarrassing 4-0 loss at home to the Kraken last Thursday, the Wild will be looking to return the favor at CPA. It is hard to get a read on how good the Wild are this year, as they have been rather inconsistent through their first 11 games. Most of the media had them pegged as a playoff team, but with the emergence of Winnipeg, there could be some doubt.
Wild current record: 5-5-1
Players to watch:
- Matt Boldy – I mentioned him last week, but I am going to double down and mention him again. The 21-year-old winger was kept off the score sheet against the Kraken but still created some chances and clearly has a bright future in the NHL.
- Connor Dewar – he played four years with the Everett Silvertips and is now in his first full season with the Wild after splitting last season between the NHL and AHL. He is relegated to the fourth line, but it is always fun seeing former local WHLers playing in the NHL.
Winnipeg Jets – Sunday, Nov. 13, at Climate Pledge Arena
The Jets have gotten off to a sneaky good start to the season and will find themselves in a playoff spot if they can keep this up. If they cool off a bit, the Jets and Kraken could be fighting for a Wild Card position in March.
Jets current record: 7-3-1
Players to watch:
- Connor Hellebuyck – despite being one of the best US goalies in the NHL right now, Hellebuyck still flies under the radar. He already has two shutouts and has a save percentage of .936. The Jets will be playing the night before, so it is possible we see David Rittich between the pipes on Sunday.
- Cole Perfetti – This 21-year-old first-round draft pick from 2020 is entering his first full season in the NHL. He is currently centering the second line with Pierre-Luc Dobois and Blake Wheeler and has seven points over 11 games.