After such a magical playoff run last season, this is not the start the Seattle Kraken and their fans would have wanted. In their home opener Tuesday, Seattle had a good jump out of the gate, but then eased off the gas as the game went along, and Colorado took over, gliding through to a 4-1 win.
“We lacked execution in a few spots tonight,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “Against a good team, that leaves us on the wrong side of the ledger.”
The Kraken have unfortunately lived on that side of the ledger so far this season, and they remain winless through four games. Here are our Three Takeaways from the latest loss.
Takeaway #1 (Curtis): 5-on-4 play in the second period was the turning point
The game hung on the blades of the Kraken power play unit for four minutes in the middle of the second period, and they couldn’t deliver. It was the turning point in the game, and like last season, that is again quickly becoming a theme.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Kraken generated more than 60 percent of the total shots and 64 percent of total shot quality in the first period en route to a 1-0 lead at the first intermission. Then, the team came out in the second period and kept the pressure on. Despite conceding the game-tying goal to Artturi Lehkonen, Seattle continued to carry the balance of play.
At 8:13 in the second, Seattle’s pressure seemingly paid off when Yanni Gourde drew a tripping penalty from Colorado defenseman Josh Manson. The power play quickly generated a couple close opportunities from Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle but struggled to create any danger for much of the two minutes thereafter.
Just seconds after that power play was over, however, Gourde drew another penalty, this time an interference call on Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon. All of the momentum should have been in Seattle’s favor as a weary group of Colorado penalty killers returned to the ice. But, in a familiar refrain for Seattle’s young season, the power play didn’t look cohesive and struggled to establish itself.
Worse, when a clear by Colorado defenseman Cale Makar hopped over Vince Dunn’s stick at center ice, Avalanche forward Logan O’Connor was left behind the defense to corral the puck and skate in on Philipp Grubauer unchecked. The result was a shorthanded goal and a 2-1 lead for the Avalanche.
Seattle didn’t recover. From that point forward, the Avalanche generated more and better scoring chances than the Kraken. In the third period, Natural Stat Trick had the Avalanche with more than 75 percent of the total shot quality, a dominant number. Overall, Seattle finished 0-for-4 on the power play, but the failed opportunities in the middle of the second period were a big part of the story in this one.
Takeaway #2 (Darren): Are the guys gripping the sticks too tightly?
Somewhat comically, Hakstol was asked this exact question about players gripping their sticks too tightly trying to force the puck into the net, and he said, “Oh, you guys [the media] will talk about that. We won’t.”
So here we are, aggressively taking the bait and talking about that.
Regardless of how much the Kraken discuss their offensive struggles in the dressing room, the struggles are there right now. The team collectively has registered just three total goals in four games, and every goalie they have faced has looked like a world beater against them. That is never a good sign and brings back memories of the team’s inaugural season.
The good news is that the Kraken are getting looks, so in theory, pucks will start to go in the net at some point. But the lack of finish is certainly setting off alarm bells.
Some examples Tuesday, Jaden Schwartz had a chance in the first period where he had all day to pick his spot on Georgiev, and he put it into his pads. Andre Burakovsky had a look on a two-on-one rush with Eeli Tolvanen, took his time to line up his shot, and rifled it off the end boards. Gourde had a wide-open opportunity to end the second period, and Georgiev slid across and robbed him with his left pad.
When things were going well for the Kraken last season, they would have scored on at least a couple of those, and Tuesday’s game might have had a different outcome.
With the number of chances the Kraken are getting (they ended the night Tuesday with 3.04 expected goals for across all situations), it does feel like one positive outcome in a game is all they need for an offensive jumpstart. If they can get one game where a few guys get on the board, monkeys will start coming off backs, and the floodgates will open. But Seattle does need that to happen relatively soon, or they will have dug themselves a massive hole in the standings before races even get underway.
“Everybody wants to score a little more and provide a little bit more,” Hakstol said. “But you can’t wave a magic wand and have that happen.”
Takeaway #3 (John): Shot quality to date
Lack of scoring was the main theme of this game and the season to date. As we have mentioned several times, the eye test says the Kraken are getting chances, but are they good chances? Certainly, we can call out the more memorable opportunities in last night’s game (as Darren did), but are we seeing a good volume of high-quality shot attempts compared to the rest of the league?
Using the always reliable Natural Stat Trick, I pulled the season-to-date data for all games to see how the Kraken stacked up.
This somewhat confirms what the eye test is telling us. The boys are getting chances but have been unable to bury the puck with those chances. Let’s take a look at how that compares to last season.
The shooting percentage last season was one of Seattle’s strengths, and based on the 2022-23 chart, that applied to high-danger shots as well.
Now, I do not expect Seattle to lead the league in high-danger shooting percentage again, but I think they are still a much better shooting team than they are showing and should be able to get close to league average… eventually. In the meantime, it is really frustrating, and if there was a magical formula to just “shoot better,” I am sure the team would have used it already. Sadly, Hakstol confirmed there is no “magic wand.”
If we take a conservative, lower-than-league-average high-danger shooting percentage of 30 percent, and multiply it by the 31 high-danger shots Seattle has taken, the Kraken would have scored 9.3 high-danger goals at this point. Subtract the two high-danger goals they have scored and the team would have seven more goals to show in the season. Those additional seven goals would have helped.
We can cite data all we want, but at the end of the day, the Kraken are not winning and that is a concern. But we are also only four games into the season. Last season the club was 1-2-1 after four games, and there was a lot of doom and gloom chatter from the fans at that point as well. I still believe the 10-game mark is where we can start to draw some conclusions about this team, so I will do my best to be patient.