Historically, it has been hard to get a good read on a team until about the 10-game mark of the NHL season. Well, the 10th game of the 2023-24 Seattle Kraken campaign will be played Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team the Kraken have never beaten before.
I have been preaching patience through the first several weeks of the season, and I have liked what I have seen over the last week of games. But the team has only locked up three out of a possible six points on this trip and six out of a possible 18 on the season. That is a lower point total than they had at this spot during the inaugural season (seven points).
Of course, the optimist in me could still say, Well, they are only two points off where they were last season (eight points), so stop freaking out.
We are all guilty of human biases in our day-to-day lives, and analyzing hockey teams is no different. I often need to ask myself if I am being critical enough about the team this season, and do I have a fair and accurate read of the current Kraken expectations? To answer that question, I am going to do my best to be more objective in this week’s Monday Musings to analyze the team’s performance to date and project if this group can make the playoffs again.
Shooting and scoring
One area the team has obviously struggled with over the season is scoring. Seattle is ranked 28th in the league with 2.22 goals per game, and they had 3.33 goals per game at this point last season. The easy thing to point out is their low shooting percentage of 7.2 percent which is also 28th in the league. This has been turning around a bit, with Seattle clocking in at 11.3 percent over the last five games, and if you isolate the high-danger shooting percentage, that is also showing signs of a turnaround.
I looked at some of the volume metrics such as shot attempts and high-danger shots over the last five games, and the Kraken are at or above league average in most categories.
So, what is the issue? In my opinion, the Kraken are still feeling the impact of the first four games of the season. The team was ice cold at shooting the puck, and it made analysts and fans alike latch onto what was being said coming into the season that we should expect a regression out of this Kraken team. It still may be true that the Kraken are regressing, but if those first four games hadn’t played out so poorly for Seattle, we would be having a different conversation right now, even with the mixed results on this road trip. Despite their record, I feel confident that the Kraken are at least an average hockey team.
The goalie situation
Both Philipp Grubauer and Joey Daccord have been playing fine between the pipes this season. I was a little surprised to see Joey get the call three games in a row, but I liked coach Dave Hakstol’s explanation after the Florida game. “Both our guys are playing well, so [Joey’s] had a little bit of momentum here, and that’s why I went back with him tonight. And he gave us every opportunity to win the game.”
Over the last two seasons, Daccord has done everything he could in the AHL and just needed some regular reps in the NHL to see if he can truly be an everyday NHL goalie. Although it is early, you can see his confidence growing every game. I think he is on his way.
Grubauer has been mostly good in his outings, but he has gotten almost no goal support. More on that in a bit.
Other hockey thoughts from around the Northwest
- It is easy to look at some of the goals scored against the Kraken over the last few games and just blame it on bad luck, but good teams do not put themselves in a position to be beaten by a bad bounce or two. It is part of playing the games, and you can’t expect to get all the breaks. Seattle had some good bounce against Florida too, so it’s hard to hang the entire loss on a ricochet off a stanchion.
- The Kraken have scored first in six of their first nine games of the season. They have only won one of those games.
- He has not scored a goal yet, but Will Borgen has played great this season.
- Matty Beniers has looked good at times this season, but I would really like to see him find the back of the net. He is also dead last in the league in +/- with a -12. +/- is a stat that isn’t widely used anymore, but still, you never want to see one of your top players ranking last in anything. Let’s get Matty going.
- Both Ryan Winterton and Jacob Melanson scored their first career professional goals on Saturday in an 8-2 victory for the Coachella Valley Firebirds.
- Chris Driedger started the first four games this season for the Firebirds and has a save percentage of .948 and a goals-against average of 1.52 per game. If he was disappointed to be sent down to the AHL after training camp, he isn’t showing it with his play.
- The Seattle Thunderbirds are retiring Patrick Marleau’s jersey on Friday. It reminds me how often the late great Andy Eide and I used to argue about who was the greatest Seattle Thunderbird of all time. I was on Team Marleau, Andy always went to bat for Glen Goodall. Andy was always right, since he saw them both play for the T-Birds. I just chose Marleau since I was once a Sharks fan.
- Speaking of the Thunderbirds, I had Gracyn Sawchyn on my radar for one of the best player performances of the week. Sawchyn had two goals and three assists in the T-Birds’ 5-2 win against the Red Deer Rebels on Tuesday. Sawychn missed two games over the weekend due to a lower-body injury.
Jagger Firkus (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL) – This is not a mistake. Firkus was on top of our list last week and continues his blistering pace in the WHL this season. After six points in three games two weeks ago, Firkus had nine points over four games in the last week, including a hat-trick on Sunday. Firkus now has 29 points in 14 games for Moose Jaw this season. The Warriors will come through the US division in late February and March.
Jaden Schwartz (SEA) – Schwartz had two goals and two assists over the last three games this past week for the Kraken. The points are great, but he has also been impressing me in the face-off circle during the power play. He only took five face-offs on the power play over the last week, but he won four of them. That goes a long way to help the Kraken improve their possession time on the manpower advantage.
Joey Daccord (SEA) – He went 1-1-1 for the Kraken over the last week and set a franchise record and a career high on Thursday when he made 45 saves.
Chart of the week
A Sound Of Hockey Patreon member asked us on a Mailbag podcast episode last week if we had any thoughts on the lack of goal support for Grubauer over the last few seasons. We believe it is too early to confirm if this is actually a trend this season, but it is stunning to see the difference in support, even if it is just nine games.
Goal of the week
This was easy. The Devin Shore sequence and goal from the Carolina game was incredible.
Honorable mention for goal of the week
I’m using a deeper cut for this honorable mention goal of the week, but Seattle Kraken seventh-round selection from the 2023 NHL Draft, Zaccharya Wisdom, scored his third goal of the season for Colorado College with this nifty backhander.
The week ahead
It would be an exaggeration to call this week a critical week for the Kraken, but I think this week will go a long way in determining how good this team could be. They have the game on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, then have two home games against the Nashville Predators – a team that beat them in the second game of the season – and then finish this week with a game against the Calgary Flames.
Any points against Tampa Bay will be a pleasant surprise. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been out all season, but backup goaltender Jonas Johansson has back-to-back shutouts over his last two games, so getting a point is looking challenging. Although Nashville is better than a lot of people expected this season, they are beatable, and the Kraken have been playing better since the Kraken lost 3-0 in Nashville in the last meeting between those teams.
The big game might be Saturday against the Calgary Flames. Before the season started, I circled the Flames game as a game of note. I thought Calgary would be a team contending with the Kraken for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division this season. Neither the Kraken nor the Flames have looked like playoff teams so far, but Saturday could be devastating for either team to lose in regulation.
This is not a do-or-die scenario for the Kraken this week, but the hole they’re digging is getting deeper and deeper, so showing some resemblance of a playoff team would go a long way right now. Ideally, this means the Kraken get four out of a possible six points this week.