There has not been a single Seattle Kraken game since last week’s Monday Musings, but that has not stopped me from obsessing about this team. I have been digging into game logs, goalie data, shooting percentages, and more. Like all good data analysis, not all explorations bear fruit, but I did find some interesting observations in my data journeys this last week.
The early season narrative by some in the national media was that the Kraken were on a shooting percentage bender during the month of November, and ultimately their shooting percentage would slide back to Earth and the team would assume their expected place near the bottom of the Pacific Division. Obviously, that has not happened. The Kraken still maintain the highest shooting percentage in the league at 12.0 percent.
I am sure there are still some doubters, but eventually people might need to be open to the idea that this team could be one of the better shooting teams in the league. Some team needs to lead the league in shooting percentage, and it might as well be the Kraken.
Strength of schedule remaining
Another piece of data I looked into was the strength of schedule of the remaining games for Seattle. A concern I wondered about is if the first-place record in the first half was based on the fact the Kraken have generally played weaker teams in the league. Conversely, what does the rest of the season look like from a strength-of-schedule standpoint?
To my surprise, the Kraken have one of the weakest schedules remaining, which should give the team an easier road to the postseason compared with some of its challengers.
This bodes well for the boys of the Puget Sound, but it is worth pointing out the Kings and Flames also have a relatively weak schedule remaining this season.
We have been getting a ton of questions about what the Kraken should do at the NHL trade deadline. Darren Brown and I were asked about it on KJR last week.
In my humble opinion, I wonder about adding some toughness for the playoffs. No, I am not talking about adding a goon or a fighter, those days are done. I would like to see the team add a bit of a bully that won’t let the Kraken get pushed around in the playoffs. Anybody that has watched the Stanley Cup Playoffs before knows that there is a scrum after every whistle and the checking seems heavier and more frequent. I just wonder what Seattle Kraken player will get opposing teams to think twice before running Matty Beniers. I think of players like Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow for Tampa in their two Stanley Cup wins. Both can score, and they brought a bit of a snarl to the Lightning.
I am not questioning the Kraken’s toughness. There have been several games where it would appear the opposition is trying to bully the team around only to see the Kraken respond in kind. Ryan Donato and Will Borgen have both impressed me with the ability to step up the physicality when needed, and we all know Yanni Gourde does not back down from anyone. So, it is entirely possible that this “skill set” is not needed, but it is something I would like to see.
Other Kraken musings:
- The Kraken penalty kill has been on fire lately, having not allowed a power-play goal in seven games. That is 17 power plays killed in a row.
- Oliver Bjorkstrand looks like his normal self these days. After posting a 4.0 shooting percentage in his first 30 games with the Kraken, he is shooting 11.8 percent in his 19 games since Dec. 18. He has not finished an NHL season with a shooting percentage under 10 percent since 2017-18, his first full NHL season. He is sitting at 7.1 total for the year right now.
- The Kraken announced trading a fourth-round draft pick to the San Jose Sharks for defenseman Jaycob Megna. This was a depth add for an area that was becoming increasingly worrisome. Cale Fleury has stepped in nicely since Justin Schultz went out with an injury, but even with Schultz nearing a return, the blue line was still thin. Gustav Olofsson has been out injured in Coachella Valley, which left just three other defensemen under NHL contracts. Two of those defensemen are Ryker Evans and Peetro Seppala. Evans is having a great season, but he might not be ready for NHL action. Darren had a good write up about the trade and what Megna might bring to the table.
- Chris Driedger has been back on the ice for a while now, but Monday marked another milestone by getting onto the ice and taking live reps from his teammates. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time he has been taking in a regular practice with the rest of the team.
- It is not Kraken specific news, but it was announced last week that Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights had back surgery and would be out indefinitely. Even in limited time, Stone was second in goal scoring for the Golden Knights this season. Vegas could be in real trouble here with a 2-6-2 record over its last 10 games. It is conceivable that the Golden Knights miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.
- By now we have all gotten over that the Kraken were not represented at the NHL All-Star Game, but you still have an opportunity to check out some Kraken prospects representing the Coachella Valley Firebirds at the AHL All-Star Game. Ryker Evans and Max McCormick will play in the game on Monday, airing at 4 P.M. Pacific on the NHL Network.
- Shane Wright returned to the lineup for the Windsor Spitfires Thursday and posted a one-goal and two-assist night in the Spitfires 7-4 victory against the Soo Greyhounds. The return was short lived. He was back out of the lineup for the Spitfires two games this weekend due to a lower-body injury.
- Kraken prospect and third-round selection from the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, Ty Nelson, posted his first career hat trick in the OHL on Sunday. The defenseman has been lighting it up this season with 60 points over 49 games.
Beyond the Kraken
- The Arizona Coyotes announced that 2021 first-round selection, Dylan Guenther would be assigned to an already stacked Seattle Thunderbirds roster. I thought the 2016-17 Thunderbirds were a lot of fun to watch, but this is going to be insane. There are still plenty of home games before the playoffs start in late March.
- The Thunderbirds welcome the Red Deer Rebels to town on Friday. This game should be a good showcase on how the Thunderbirds matchup against one of the top teams from the Eastern Conference.
- A bit off the radar, but the University of Washington ACHA club hockey team finished its regular season with a record of 22-2-0. It has been an incredible season for the Huskies as they head to Cheney, Wash., for the Pac-8 Tournament. Good luck to the boys.
Kraken themes for the week ahead
This feels like another tough road test for the Kraken with four games over six days, including a run through the New York City metro area. Game action kicks off Tuesday against the revamped New York Islanders, which now feature Bo Horvat. After the boys go through the New York teams, they play the Flyers in Philadelphia, a team they have never beaten, and then finish the five-game swing in Winnipeg next Tuesday. Hitting the road right after the bye week/All-Star break can be a bit of a challenge, so capturing five out of the possible 10 points would be a success.
Outside of the team success, I think it will be interesting to keep on eye on Bjorkstrand to see if he maintains the same level of play we saw heading into the break. We also will be looking for the returns to the lineup for Beniers, Schwartz, and/or Schultz. Based on early reports out of New York this morning, things are looking good for at least a couple of the injured players to return.
Player Performance / Stick Taps
Jacob Melanson (PDS/SEA) – Melanson continues his torrid pace since being traded to the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the QMJHL. He has six points in his last four games.
Ty Nelson (NBB/SEA) – As mentioned above, Nelson had his first career OHL hat-trick on Sunday.
Tye Kartye (CVF) – Kartye was an undrafted free-agent signing over the summer and is quietly having a good season in his first year as a professional. Kartye has four goals and three assists over his last six games.
Goal of the week
Add David Goyette to the list of Kraken prospects having excellent seasons for their respective teams. The late second-round draft pick has 30 goals and 31 assists over his 42 games with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL.
Chart of the week
Going into the season, one of the big question marks around the Seattle Kraken was goaltending. The tandem of Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones has been decent for the season as a whole, but since Dec. 15, they have been performing above the league median.
If you have any questions or comments on the Monday Musings, please leave them below, and I will get back to you as soon as I can. In the meantime, enjoy the week. The Kraken are back!