Welcome to another edition of my Monday Musings and the first of the 2023-24 season. On this series, I throw out random thoughts and half-baked theories from the previous week and give a look at what’s happening in the new week and beyond.
The boys lost to the Golden Knights, Predators, and Blues to start the season. We knew the Kraken’s first 10 games of the 2023-24 season were going to be a challenge, but we did not expect to start the season with a winless road trip. In these first 10 games, the Kraken will end up facing seven 2022-23 playoff teams, so one would have hoped they could bank some wins against non-playoff teams from last season, like St. Louis and Nashville. But here we are with a 0-2-1 record with the Avalanche, Hurricanes, and Rangers coming to town.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but three games is not even close to a significant sample size to evaluate the outcome of the season. I have seen a few pessimistic viewpoints already, but as a reminder, the team went 1-2-2 in the first five games of last season. If the Kraken manage to get two out of the possible six points this week, they will basically be at the same point as last season.
One of the lowest moments of last season was after the Kraken lost to the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 23. There hadn’t been much optimism anyway heading into 2022-23, but nobody expected/wanted a repeat of 2021-22. That game was memorable because the Kraken squandered a third period lead by giving up back-to-back goals within 20 seconds of each other. Even the most level-headed fans were on the doom and gloom train. The Kraken then won six out of the next seven and never looked back. I am not trying to be overly optimistic here but am just giving you context around why I am still patient.
A fair question is how many games is considered significant? To try to answer that question I looked at different game markers from last season to see if there is a spot where teams start to settle into their playoff position. Here is a look at all teams’ records by points percentage at the five-game and ten-game mark.
As you might be able to tell, the five-game mark seems massively out of sync with how teams finished the season, and it wasn’t until the 10-game mark when playoff teams started to rise up the standings.
The penalty kill looks rock solid so far and hasn’t allowed a power-play goal over 11 manpower disadvantage situations in the first three games of the season. There were only two different times last season when the Kraken did not allow a power-play goal over a three-game stretch. They appear to be picking up right where they left off last season.
Although the Kraken ranked 21st in penalty kill percentage in 2022-23, they made huge strides in the second half of the season, posting an 84.3 percent kill rate after Jan. 1. That put them in the top five in the league over that same timeframe.
The only significant change to the penalty kill from the second half of last season is the arrival of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. He is known for his ability to kill penalties, and that has been abundantly clear in his three games with the Kraken so far. The only wrinkle is the injury to Brandon Tanev in Game 1. Tanev led the forward group in PK time on ice last season, so even though the group has done well without him, he is still a key factor, and the sooner he gets back the better.
If the Kraken can maintain a top-five penalty kill this season, that will be huge positive for their goal differential and could more than make up for the scoring losses of Ryan Donato and Daniel Sprong over the offseason.
Other Kraken thoughts
- I’ve seen a lot of people referencing a “regression to the mean,” but if you are going to cite statistical terms, make sure you acknowledge “sample size.” Otherwise, you are guilty of “confirmation bias.”
- If you are expecting a regression, I would like to know who you think will regress. (Jared McCann, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Andre Burakovsky?)
- The Kraken’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Blues on Saturday night was the ninth shootout game in franchise history. They have won three shootout games, but all three of those wins came in the inaugural season when they won three out of four. It was interesting to see Matty Beniers and Oliver Bjorkstrand take shots Saturday, though both were stopped by Jordan Binnington.
- For Kraken fans, the three-on-three overtime versus the Blues was a delight to see. The Kraken seemed to have the puck for all but about 30 seconds of the extra frame. Last season the Kraken lost their first three games that ended in overtime. After one practice working on it, the team would end up winning 9 of the next 10 games it had that ended in overtime. The Kraken are pretty good in overtime… just not the shootout.
- I must assume the fact that no one has been called up from the Coachella Valley Firebirds is a pretty good indicator that Tanev’s injury is not terribly severe and that we should expect him sooner rather than later.
- The Firebirds dropped their season opener on Friday with a 3-2 loss to the Bakersfield Condors. He did not get on the score sheet, but word around the campfire is Shane Wright played especially well.
- I really like what I am seeing out of the Kraken’s fourth line so far. Although they did not log a lot of minutes on Saturday, they put together a couple shifts where they had St. Louis penned up in its zone and seemed to shift momentum.
- As much as I like the fourth line performance to date, there are moments that Tye Kartye has looked out of place. This might be a feeling-out period for him with the NHL speed and/or a fourth-line role, or it might be a sign he is not quite ready for the NHL full-time and will be better served logging more minutes down in the AHL.
- Will Cale Makar get booed every time he touches the puck on Tuesday? If I have a vote, and technically I do, I say yes.
- The Kraken have never won a home opener.
Mariah Fujimagari (KLW) – Made 14 saves on 17 shots to become the first woman to record a victory in a preseason game for the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL. You can read more of her story here.
Philipp Grubauer/Joey Daccord (SEA) – Sample size aside, both goalies have looked good in their respective games. Collectively they have a .942 save percentage and have four goals above expected. Yeah, yeah… sample size. It’s early, I know.
Carson Rehkopf (KIT/SEA) – The friend of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast and Seattle Kraken prospect had five points over two games last week, including a hat trick on Friday night against the Barrie Colts. The kid is making it look easy.
Goal of the week
Cole Caufield is starting off the season right with two goals in two games including this beauty of a goal on Saturday night.
You don’t see that everyday
Crazy sequence here involving former Kraken Mason Appleton.
Chart of the week
When the Kraken scored their first power-play goal of the season against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, it also marked their first lead of the season. Here is a breakdown of the percentage of game time teams have been leading this season.
I guess things could be worse.
Kraken themes for the week ahead
The Kraken could be facing one of their toughest three-game stretches of the season when they face the Avalanche, Hurricanes, and Rangers for their first homestand. A target goal would be four points, and I would be happy with three. During the regular season, they went 3-3-1 against those teams in 2022-23 and of course beat Colorado in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring.
One thing I would love to see this season is for the Kraken to establish a true home-ice advantage. Last season the Kraken were better away from Climate Pledge Arena than inside it.
I don’t even have a theory on why there is such a discrepancy between their home and away records, which makes me hope it is just a fluke and will not be a normal behavior. I would love to see their home games start off right with two wins this week, regardless of the opponent.
Another order of business I would like to see cleaned up is Seattle’s scoring. The .667 average goals scored over the three games is the lowest in franchise history for a three-game stretch. With so many posts hit and a disallowed goal in the last game, it feels like the luck could turn at any moment.
If you have made it this far, I appreciate you… and if you didn’t make it to the bottom, I still appreciate you. If you have any other topics, questions, or feedback you would like me to consider, leave a note in the comments section.