The Musings post is usually published on Mondays, but with a big Kraken win on Sunday, we thought it might be good to let the victory content breathe a bit.
When I wrote the Musings last week, I was a little nervous. The boys had just lost three games in a row, and the playoff cushion was starting to shrink. My message was, “Don’t panic,” but if I am going to be honest, my hand was on the panic button.
As an act of defiance, the boys would go a perfect four-for-four on their road trip that ended with a thrilling come-from-behind overtime win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames got just one point out of a possible six during the same time span. Now, it is Nashville who finds itself just on the outside of the playoff cut with several games in hand on Winnipeg and Edmonton. The Oilers and Jets currently sit in the Western Conference wild card spots.
What a difference a week makes.
Getting back to the Kraken games, all four were either tied or just a one-goal game entering the last minute of regulation play. Even in victory, the first two games of the road trip against St. Louis and Detroit felt a little shaky. Several defensive breakdowns kept those games closer than they should have been, but to the team’s credit, Seattle buckled down and figured out ways to win. It wasn’t until the third game of the week, against Columbus, did the Kraken look like the team we have come to expect this season.
Most regular readers of this column will know that I am a Philipp Grubauer supporter. I punched the numbers on my abacus and feel that all signs point to Grubi being the better goalie right now. Heading into last week, Grubi was coming off back-to-back losses to Boston and Toronto where he allowed 10 goals over those two games. They weren’t great performances by any statistical measure, but being how well the Bruins and Leafs played those nights, I am not sure Dominik Hasek at the peak of his powers would have made a difference in those games for the Kraken. It made me think that Grubi had been getting the more challenging starts this season, so I looked it up.
The data bears it out. On average, Grubi plays the better teams in the NHL and has faced just five teams under a .500 points percentage. That said, Seattle needs Grubauer to steal some games against the best teams in the league. I do not feel Sunday’s win against the Avalanche would constitute stealing one, but it was a big win against a quality opponent.
It would have been nice to see the Kraken add a middle-six forward as a stop gap for Andre Burakovsky being out of the lineup and as insurance for any additional injuries down the road. The trade deadline is a time when teams overpay for players, though, and Ron Francis is more disciplined than a lot of us would be in the same position. The team still has draft picks and will have salary cap flexibility rolling into next season, so you wonder if the Kraken might be willing to pull some bigger levers this offseason.
Other Kraken musings:
- Francis said Andre Burakovsky was back on the ice for the first time since his injury on Feb. 7. The team has missed him in the lineup. At the time of his injury, he was leading the Kraken in points, and although it has been better lately, his absence is most notable on the power play.
- As an indicator of how teams tend to overpay during the trade deadline, the Kraken obtained Oliver Bjorkstrand for just a third- and fourth-round draft pick last summer. First-round picks were being passed around the league like candy last week for players inferior to Bjorkstrand.
- Bjorkstrand’s shooting percentage is 12.5 percent since Jan. 1, compared to 5.4 percent prior to New Year’s Day. This is the Bjorkstrand we expected.
- Jaden Schwartz had five points over the last three games, and his forecheck to get the puck for Brandon Tanev’s tying goal Sunday could have been the biggest play of the week.
- Speaking of big plays, how about Grubauer’s save in Detroit? You never know how a goal there could have impacted the outcome of the game.
- Chris Driedger is now 2-1-0 in three starts for the Coachella Valley Firebirds with a .907 save percentage. I believe we will see him get some starts for the Kraken before the end of the season.
- If the Kraken finish the season with just 50 percent of the points available, they will finish the season with 97 points. The current forecasted playoff cut is right around 93 points.
- Really enjoyed Alison Lukan’s article on the Kraken website on the different possession styles of Bjorkstrand, Wennberg, and Gourde who are all in the league top-10 in takeaways minus giveaways.
Kraken themes for the week ahead
The theme of the week should be getting points where you can, because this week kicks off the toughest 10-game stretch the Kraken will play the rest of the season. Anaheim, Ottawa, and Dallas have been relatively hot teams as of late and will each have their own motivations to beat the Kraken. Getting three out of six points will be fine, but if they can get more, excellent. If the Kraken can get the consistent goaltending from Grubauer (or Jones) and special teams stays hot, at least three points should be expected. The back-to-back games against Dallas should be a benchmark game to see how ready both teams are for the playoffs.
What normally would be thought of as an easy game Tuesday against Anaheim, the Ducks have won four out of their last five games with their only loss in that stretch being an overtime loss to the Washington Capitals. If there is anything the Feb. 20 San Jose game has shown us, you cannot take a night off against a lesser opponent and expect to win.
Thursday does not get any easier with the Ottawa Senators coming to town. Prior to the loss last night, the Senators won five games in a row and will be fighting for their lives to get into the playoffs.
Stick Taps / Player Performance
Philipp Grubauer (SEA) – three wins over four days with a .921 save percentage.
Kyle Jackson (NBB/SEA) – The unsigned seventh-round pick from the 2022 NHL Entry Draft has a five-game point streak for the North Bay Battalion in the OHL.
Jared McCann (SEA) – He had four goals and three assists over his last five games, including his 30th goal of the season, becoming the first Seattle Kraken to hit the 30-goal mark in a season.
Goal of the week
Come for the goalie goal, stay for the celly.
Chart of the week
There has been a lot of talk about how well the Kraken special teams is playing right now. Here is a look at the outcomes of games depending on who wins the special teams in the game.
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.