I am not ready to hit the panic button, but it is hard not to feel a bit nervous about the play of the Kraken since the All-Star break. The Kraken have just seven points out of a possible 20 available over the 10 games since the break. Their playoff cushion has dwindled down to just four points over the fifth-place Calgary Flames.
There was a stretch in these 10 games where it felt like the Kraken had righted the ship with a shootout loss to Winnipeg and impressive wins against Philadelphia and Detroit. Then along came a game against the San Jose Sharks where the Kraken lost 4-0 with Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl both out of the lineup. What was most disturbing about that loss was the lifeless energy the Kraken brought to the game, as a lack of urgency is rare to see out of this team. Had they won that Sharks game, the fan base would probably be at ease with the next two losses to two of the best teams in the league, Boston and Toronto.
The Boston Bruins game on Thursday night could have been the best game ever played in Climate Pledge Arena. The fans were amped, and the boys were buzzing. In the end, the Kraken lost a heartbreaker 6-5, allowing Boston’s sixth goal with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Matty Beniers scored just 40 seconds into the game that really set the tone for the night. It was a back-and-forth affair that the Kraken led 5-4 with four minutes remaining in the game. Every player from the ‘perfection line’ scored for the Bruins, and Brad Marchand showed us some of his old tricks. Despite the loss, I felt good about the Kraken leaving CPA that night.
Sunday’s matinee was a different story.
I had high hopes but relatively low expectations for the Kraken versus Toronto on Sunday afternoon. Several people mentioned to me over the weekend that they really needed a win versus the Maple Leafs, and to some extent, that was true, but I felt putting a ‘must win’ label on a game against one of the best teams in the league was a bit unfair. The Leafs came as advertised. At one time the Leafs were outshooting the Kraken 20-6. The Kraken eventually logged 27 shots on net, but most of the offerings were from outside the high-danger area, and the Kraken fell 5-1.
I do not think the Kraken played particularly bad, but the Leafs just looked so good. As impressive as Toronto looked offensively, I could not help but notice how they tied up Kraken players defensively around the net. I am sure there is a way to measure this, but it looked like defensively, the Leafs limited rebound opportunities and high-danger shot attempts. This was most noticeable in the third period where the Kraken managed just one high-danger chance.
In case there was any question, Philipp Grubauer should remain the starting goalie. Despite the nine goals allowed against Boston and Toronto, there was only one of the goals that he probably should have saved. It was a tall order for Grubi to get back-to-back starts against Boston and Toronto, but that is what the team will need out of a starting goalie in the playoffs. He did give them an opportunity to win the Boston game, and even if the Kraken had Andrei Vasilevskiy in net against the Leafs, they still wouldn’t have won that game.
One of the bright spots for the Kraken as of late is the penalty kill. The team has not allowed a power-play goal in six games and has played consistently above league average since Jan. 1.
The penalty kill did plague the Kraken earlier in the season, so it is nice to see this turn around a bit.
Other Kraken musings:
- I’m probably stating the obvious, but it feels like the Kraken really miss Andre Burakovsky. At the time of his injury, he was leading the Kraken in points and was a big part of the power play.
- While speaking to Root Sports in a taped pre-game interview, Ron Francis mentioned that they hope to get Andre Burakovsky back in a few weeks.
- As of right now, the Kraken have the easiest schedule remaining out of any team in the league. Here is a look at the Western Conference playoff contenders.
- Apart from the Dallas Stars, the Kraken have beaten all Western Conference playoff teams at least once this season. In the case of the Stars, the Kraken have yet to play them this season.
- I don’t know if I should be happy or sad that all the Eastern Conference teams seem to be loading up in advance of the NHL Trade Deadline. That means first-round draft picks are being transferred to the Western Conference.
- I’m really eager to see how Chris Driedger’s time in Coachella Valley goes. He could start as early as Monday for the Firebirds, but I would not expect him in net until Friday or Saturday. In case you missed it, Driedger was put on waivers last week, cleared, and was then assigned to Coachella Valley to continue his rehabilitation after tearing his ACL last spring.
- It does not fit in the Kraken news category, but the Seattle Thunderbirds have won 10 straight games, and the Everett Silvertips clinched a playoff berth over the weekend. If you get the chance, check those teams out. It is a fun environment to watch elite-level hockey at a reasonable price.
- Finally, the news of AT&T getting out of the Regional Sports Network business will not impact ROOT Sports anytime soon. But the broader RSN landscape is changing as customers move from traditional MVPDs to vMVPD, where RSNs are traditionally not available.
Kraken themes for the week ahead
The Kraken have four games over the next seven days, and although it won’t be the easiest of road trips, there are winnable games on the horizon against opponents like St. Louis, Detroit, and Columbus before Seattle ends the trip against a surging Colorado Avalanche team. I don’t like to speak in absolutes, but the Kraken need at least four of the eight points on this trip. Get a win in either St. Louis or Detroit and just avoid a letdown in Columbus. If they can get two wins in the first three games, any points in Colorado is gravy. Meanwhile, Calgary plays Boston, Toronto, and Minnesota this week. By next Monday, we could have a good idea how this playoff chase will really look.
As much as I still believe Grubauer is the starting goalie, that doesn’t mean coach Dave Hakstol agrees, so it will be really interesting to see how he deploys his netminders over this next week. With back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday, it is guaranteed that both Grubauer and Martin Jones will get work. Regardless of who Hakstol leans on, the Kraken need one of the two to play well through this stretch.
Despite the challenges of the last ten games, I do not think the Kraken do much this trade deadline. They might move a player or get another depth piece for the playoff push, but I anticipate them being relatively quiet. I’ve seen too many teams make big trades at the deadline, only for the acquired player to underwhelm in the playoffs.
As fans, we are susceptible to survivor bias, meaning we only remember the trade deadline acquisitions of the eventual champion, not all the other transactions of teams that might not have even made it out of the first round. If the Kraken do add players at the deadline, I would suspect they might offer up a second-round draft pick or two. Based on some of the deals this week, which have involved first-round picks, it’s hard to predict what kind of value Seattle might be able to get back for that.
Player Performance / Stick Taps
TJ Oshie (WSH) – Mt. Vernon, Wash., native TJ Oshie played his 500th game as a Capital and got his first Gordie Howe hat trick.
Tye Kartye (CVF/SEA) – Kartye has goals in each of his last three games and is having a great season in his first pro year, playing for the Coachella Valley Firebirds. He might not get the call up this season, but I think this undrafted forward has a good shot at playing for the Kraken in the next year or so.
Matty Beniers (SEA) – Have you heard of this guy before? After a 10-game pointless streak, Matty has put up six points over his last five games for the Kraken.
Goal of the week
Selecting the goal of the week was easy.
Every time I see a goalie take a shot at the net, I giggle, and I love that he took the shot while the Bruins were only up by one versus a lower-risk two-goal lead.
Chart of the week
In researching Burakovsky’s impact to the lineup, I started to look at players’ ability to draw penalties versus take penalties. It may not be surprising, but Matty has drawn 17 penalties and only taken one.
If you have any questions or comments on Monday Musings, please leave them below, and I will get back to you as soon as I can. In the meantime, buckle-up for plenty of trade deadline talk and some really meaningful games.