Monday Musings is a collection of random thoughts and observations about the last week of activity from the hockey world with an emphasis on the Kraken and other happenings around the Puget Sound hockey community.
The Kraken went 2-1-0 for the week and sit comfortably in second place in the Pacific Division. The boys continue to bank those points in pursuit of the playoffs. Their current record of 15-6-3 is putting them about on pace for a 113-point season. There is and should be a sense of optimism around this team right now, but this week has raised a couple yellow flags.
The Kraken’s thrilling 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals on Thursday was an epic. The boys showed some resilience in coming back from a two-goal deficit that included a tying goal by Yanni Gourde with less than three minutes left in regulation. The icing on the cake was a game-winning goal by Matty Beniers just seven seconds into overtime.
After a pedestrian first period by the Kraken, they pretty much dominated the rest of the game with Philipp Grubauer coming up big when they needed him. We have seen some great games at Climate Pledge Arena, but I will put this one toward the top.
The great thing about this team this year is you go into every game anticipating a win. At the very least, you expect them to be competitive and play a close game deep into the third. When that doesn’t happen, it feels like a letdown. The Kraken looked competitive in Saturday night’s game against the Florida Panthers, but a 5-1 loss at home can make you feel like you just got your teeth kicked in. Even the best teams in the league take it on the chin from time to time so let’s not overreact here. It is just a loss, and it is also ok to be upset about it.
Sometimes the toughest thing for me about a Kraken loss is the wait for the next game. I want to see them redeem themselves as soon as possible. Tuesday night cannot come soon enough.
You are allowed to win ugly. Tuesday night’s 9-8 overtime win against the Kings might have been a lot of fun for fans, but it is about as ugly of a win as you can get. The goaltending was sketchy at best, but there was poor defensive play all over the ice that night. If you have not watched the condensed replay of the game, do yourself a solid and give it a viewing.
Regardless of your feeling about that game, the Kraken walked away with two points in the standings, and as Darren Brown said on the Sound Of Hockey Podcast, “It is better to win ugly than lose pretty.”
At the Kraken game on Saturday night, I was sitting next to someone I did not know. He seemed like a new fan with plenty of passion. During the coach’s challenge of the first goal, he was adamant that it would get overturned. He asked me what I thought, and I told him flat out that I had no idea and it I would not be surprised either way. The goal would get confirmed, which led to a bench penalty against the Kraken, and the Panthers scored again on the subsequent power play.
If the outcome of the goaltender interference challenge is so variable, why challenge? Darren did an excellent job at covering the mindset of Hakstol in the challenge in his first takeaway from the game.
From an analytical perspective, I look at it as a math problem. Let us assume there is literally a 50/50 chance of getting the goal reversed. That will mean there is also a 50/50 chance you are assessed a penalty and will go on a penalty kill. If your penalty kill is killing penalties at a rate of .750 or so, you will more than likely kill that penalty off and there really is no harm. That is massively oversimplifying the analytical view, but in my perspective, that exercise should be part of the consideration.
Penalty kill woes
The Kraken penalty kill has been stinking as of late. Here is a look at how the team has performed by game so far, with the size and number on the circle representing the number of times the team was shorthanded in that game.
Part of the recent drop could be related to Morgan Geekie being out of the lineup, and another part could just be the ebb and flow during the season. Another aspect of penalty kills could be they are putting themselves shorthanded with more penalties this year.
That is true, but across the league, they are not the biggest offenders.
Regardless, the penalty kill has been bad. Geekie should be coming back, and I expect the team to make some adjustments sooner rather than later. In the meantime, let us continue to monitor for some improvement.
Other Kraken musings:
- After the Kraken lost their first three overtime games of the season, Thursday night’s thrilling win against the Capitals marked their fourth overtime win in a row. They have yet to play in a game that went to a shoutout.
- Florida’s win on Saturday night was their first point ever against the Kraken.
- For those of you that attended or viewed my presentation at SEAHAC over the weekend: all three of the Kraken goals against the Capitals on Thursday night were ‘High-Danger’ goals, and the Kings had over 72 percent of the shot attempts in the third period.
- I think the team misses Geekie right now. He is an integral part of the penalty kill and has become a bit of a faceoff specialist as well. Geekie led the team in faceoff percentage during November.
- Shane Wright’s conditioning assignment with the Coachella Valley Firebirds is now over. I believe the Kraken hope to get him in the lineup at least once before deciding on loaning him to Team Canada for the World Junior Championship.
- Tuesday night against Montreal would be a fitting time for Wright to draw in, but it will largely come down to Geekie’s status. The penalty kill needs Geekie. If he is not ready to play Tuesday, Wright should play.
- SEAHAC was a ton of fun and featured a wide spectrum of analysis, speakers, and panelists. Stick taps to Alison Lukan, Marissa Simmons, and all the other contributors that made that such a great event. The entire event was streamed and is now posted here.
- This all-Kraken panel was fun to hear. It featured general manager Ron Francis, strength and conditioning coach Nate Brookreson, amateur scout Chris MacDonald, and video coach Tim Ohashi. Give it a watch.
- After the 2019 SEAHAC conference, I wanted to create a meetup-type community of Seattle-based folks interested in hockey analytics. After attending the 2022 SEAHAC, I am convinced I need to make this happen. Would love to hear what other individuals think about the idea.
- Alex Wennberg appreciation bullet. He flies a bit under the radar, but I have loved his gameplay this season. We do not talk about him nearly enough. That’s all.
Goal of the week
Player Performance/Stick Taps
Matty Beniers (SEA) – Three goals in three games for Matty, including the thrilling overtime winner on Thursday night.
On the docket
Montreal Canadiens – Tuesday, Dec. 5, at Climate Pledge Arena
Montreal is having a better than expected season but still faces an uphill battle to get in the playoffs. The Habs will be playing the Kraken on the second night of back-to-backs, but this will be a battle.
Canadiens Current Record: 12-11-1
Players to watch:
Kirby Dach – After being traded to Montreal, the 21-year-old center is having a solid season and is currently third on the team in points. Dach played a few years for the Saskatoon Blades before going to the Blackhawks.
Cole Caufield – Like Dach, Caufield was selected in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Caufield is known for his small size but big shot. He is currently tied for the team lead in goals with 13.
Washington Capitals – Friday, Dec. 9, at Capital One Arena
The Caps will have the loss to the Kraken fresh in their memory and will be looking for redemption. The team has been hammered with injuries this season, but beating Alex Ovechkin and company is never an easy task.
Capitals Current Record: 10-12-4
Players to watch:
Nic Dowd – I did not call him out last week, but I did notice him in the game against the Kraken on Thursday. Dowd was born in Huntsville, Ala., and played one year of junior hockey for the Wenatchee Wild in central Washington. He plays an important role for the Capitals.
Dylan Strome – Speaking of noticing someone, I literally did not notice Strome on Thursday night against the Kraken. He is second on the team in points and is a pretty good playmaker out there.
Florida Panthers – Sunday, Dec. 11, at FLA Live Arena
These guys again. The Panthers game on Sunday kicks off a bit of a gauntlet of a schedule for the Kraken. Hopefully they can get some redemption of their own to start this stretch on a good foot.
Panthers Current Record: 12-9-4
Players to watch:
Carter Verhaeghe – With two goals against the Kraken last week, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on him in this one. He leads the Panthers with 14 goals on the season.
Matthew Tkachuk – He was a pest on Saturday night, and I imagine he will be a pest on Sunday. He is also a really good player.
Chart of the week
Skeptics of the Seattle Kraken have been pointing to the shooting percentage as not sustainable, thinking the Kraken will return to earth after such a hot start. There is some room to be skeptical on the sustainability of the shooting percentage, but someone must lead the league in shooting, and as one former pro athlete in Seattle once said, “Why not us?”.
As always, thanks for reading, and I love the engagement and discussion we have in the comments section. If there is a topic you want me to dig into, feel free to leave in the comments I will aim to address it next week.