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.
Good, but it still stings
Taking three out of four points against the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks felt good, but missing out on that fourth point was a bummer. The Kraken were so close to getting that Vancouver monkey off their backs for that fourth point, but alas, it was not to be.
The Kraken played well enough to win, but I have a hard time saying they should have won. Despite leading 70 percent of the game and never trailing, they didn’t put the Canucks away and seemed to have a lack of defensive structure that night. The Kraken moved to 0-5-1 against the Canucks all time with two more games still to come against them this season.
Scoring depth continues to be a strength for the Kraken
Goal scoring by committee continues to be a strength of the team. It is a huge asset to not overly rely on just a few players for a team’s goal scoring. Over the last four games, the Kraken’s leading goal scorer is Daniel Sprong with four goals, while Jared McCann and Ryan Donato are right behind him with three goals apiece. Here is a look at the percentage of goal scoring for Pacific Division teams by the top three goal scorers of each team.
Edmonton is a bit of an outlier here. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are going to have a huge share of any team’s goal total, so I am not prepared to say that scoring is a problem for the Oilers, but there is a risk there. If either of those two gets hurt, or if an opponent has a shutdown line that can minimize the damage from Draisaitl or McDavid, then Edmonton will struggle.
Other Kraken musings:
- Daniel Sprong scored his 10th goal of the season against the Canucks and is just four goals shy of a single-season career high of 14. It’s incredible for someone that signed a PTO before training camp, then a one-year, two-way contract at the league minimum salary. He is having an incredible season, especially considering he is averaging 10:37 of ice time per game.
- Jared McCann is on pace for 44 goals this season.
- The loss against the Canucks on Thursday was the first Kraken game to go to a shootout this season. There are four remaining teams that have yet to play a shootout game: Devils, Senators, Maple Leafs, and Jets.
- The Canucks are one of six teams and the only Western Conference team the Kraken have never beaten. The other teams the Kraken have not defeated are the Blue Jackets, Bruins, Flyers, Leafs, and Lightning.
- People outside Seattle like to refer to Sprong / Morgan Geekie / Brandon Tanev as a fourth line, but with how they produce, one could argue Seattle doesn’t actually have a true fourth line. Just look at this entire sequence below.
- I was a little surprised to not see Philipp Grubauer start one of the games last week. His last two starts (against Carolina and Winnipeg) have been two of his stronger performances of the year. He saved 36 out of 39 shots against Carolina and gave the team a shot to win that game. Against Winnipeg, the only goals allowed were on the penalty kill, one of which was a five-on-three for the Jets.
- The Kraken do not have a player with a hat trick this season. This seems like a long time to go without one when you consider Jordan Eberle’s hat trick came in November last season. Naturally, I looked up some data on it and only 16 teams have at least one player with a hat trick this season. The more you know.
- It would be a lot of fun to see one of the Killer B’s (Beniers, Oliver Bjorkstrand, or Andre Burakovsky) score a hat trick against Calgary or Edmonton. Just putting that out in the universe in hopes it will manifest itself.
- The Coachella Valley Firebirds had their first ever teddy bear toss game on Friday. The boys took their time to get those bears flying, but they finally broke through when Luke Henman scored with under seven minutes left in the game. The Firebirds would hold on to beat the Henderson Silver Knights 1-0.
Kraken themes for the week ahead
Alberta teams visit Seattle
It feels like another big week for the Kraken as both Alberta teams make their first trips to Climate Pledge Arena this season, with the Calgary Flames here Wednesday and the Edmonton Oilers in on Friday. These games feel bigger than they should for a pair of games in December, but those are the two opponents immediately behind the Kraken in the standings. It might be a safe bet that these two teams are the most likely candidates to be competing with Seattle for a playoff spot come April.
The Kraken played the Flames back on Nov. 1 in Calgary, where they came back from a two-goal deficit in the third period and won. At the time, that seemed like a big upset, but since then, the Kraken have played at a .682 point percentage compared to the Flames .518. The Flames will be looking for vengeance and hoping to gain ground on the Kraken.
McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers will also look to gain ground on the Kraken in their first matchup this season when they visit on Friday. I cannot figure out the Oilers this season, as I expect them to make a run sooner or later, but it just has not happened… yet. The goaltending has been underwhelming but on par with the Kraken, so it feels like the lack of depth scoring makes it challenging for this team to win hockey games. That being said, I would never count out a team that has McDavid and think it is just be a matter of time before he wills this team onto a hot streak.
Bjorkstrand’s time to heat up?
I’ve mentioned Oliver Bjorkstrand has been a bit unlucky this season with a shooting percentage of just 4.7 percent after Thursday’s goal in Vancouver. The eye test says he has been getting a lot of quality chances and several goal posts hit over the last few games. According to the analytics from NaturalStatTrick.com, he had a Corsi for percentage of over 60 percent in each of the last three games. The eyes and the numbers tell the same story here; Bjorkstrand is due to get hot.
The Kraken have not scored a power-play goal in the last four games with 11 opportunities in that stretch. Ironically, the power play has looked good during that period but could never quite break the seal. Calgary and Edmonton are two of the most penalized teams in the league so Seattle should get some opportunities this week, something to keep an eye on.
On the penalty kill side, the Kraken have the second worst penalty kill in the league and have allowed a power-play goal against in four out of the last five games. The PK has shown improvement recently, but it would be nice to see it pitch a shutout for a game or two. The big thing Seattle wants to avoid is giving the league-leading Edmonton Oilers’ power play many opportunities Friday. There is nothing scarier than seeing McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and whoever else they throw out there on a power play against your team in the third period.
World Junior Championship
World Juniors kicked off Monday, and Kraken fans have a couple reasons to watch. Shane Wright is centering the top line for Canada with 2023 elite prospect Connor Bedard, a duo that should be fun for all hockey fans. Finland has two Kraken second-round draft picks from the 2022 NHL Entry Draft in goalie Niklas Kokko and forward Jani Nyman, both of whom are having quality years for their respective teams.
All games will be broadcast on NHL Network. Here is the schedule for all the games featuring Kraken prospects in the group round.
- Elias Pettersson (VAN) – if you watched the Kraken game against Vancouver, you already know what he did. Pettersson had two goals and three assists plus the winning shootout goal against Seattle. He also had two assists in the Canucks’ victory against Edmonton on Friday.
- Morgan Geekie (SEA) – Geekie had three assists in three games last week, while only averaging 10 minutes per game and spending roughly two of those minutes per game on the penalty kill.
- Alexandar Georgiev (COL) – the Colorado Avalanche goaltender had three starts and three wins last week with a .965 save percentage. All three of his games went to overtime including a 0-0 game that he eventually won in a shootout.
Goal of the week
This Eberle goal is a little old now, but it was all kinds of nasty and warrants another call out.
Chart of the week
The Kraken have been remarkably healthy this season (knock on wood), with Gustav Olofsson as the only player to appear in a game after not making the opening-night roster.
Thanks again for all your engagment and questions on these posts. If you have anything you want me to look into, feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section.
Fourteen games in the next twenty-five days… first three weeks of January are a grind.
Looking forward to January. Could be a make or break for playoff hopes. Also, any injury updates on Driedger and Donskoi? I haven’t seen a word about either of them for a long time. I can’t get used to how tight lipped the NHL is about injuries.
Great work John. By my eye, the Kraken could be more effective in the offensive zone with a big, strong body to battle at the net front, screen goalies, and tap in rebounds – particularly on the PP. Is there a way to analyze teams for this? Perhaps we could separate teams who have this vs. those that don’t to see if it is a quality of top performing teams? Or maybe there is no strong correlation and I can stop thinking about it?