Last week, I mentioned that if the Kraken were to get four out of a possible six points from the three games between then and now, it would resemble a playoff team. They got four out of six points by beating Tampa Bay and Nashville and losing to Calgary. So why do I feel so icky and bummed about the Kraken right now? Recency bias.

Recency bias gives “greater importance to the most recent event” that often misleads us into overweighting the most recent events when determining the long-term outlook for future events. This happens in positive and negative scenarios. Right now, we have a bad taste in our mouths from the team’s performance against the Flames on Saturday.

Let’s acknowledge the good over the last week. The Kraken got a big win against a very good Tampa Bay Lightning team last Monday that marked the first win in franchise history against that club. They then beat Nashville on Thursday night at home. That was a bit of a redemption game after losing to the Predators back on Oct. 12, which – up until Saturday night – was the worst they played all season.

What’s up with Matty?

The short answer is that I don’t know. I hate the expression, since I feel it is something that hockey media makes up to create a narrative, but he could be “gripping the stick too tightly” right now. The last couple games, it feels like he is not playing with the same confidence we saw last year. There are times where seems to be passing instead of creating a shooting lane for himself, and other times where he is finding space to create a shooting option but misfires the shot.

I’ve seen him out on the power play, but I am not noticing him as a scoring threat or even a key part of the power play right now. He is third on the Kraken in total power-play time this season with 31:27 of ice time, but he only has three shots on goal. Conversely, Andre Burakovsky, who has been out since Oct. 21, has less than half that time as Matty with the same number of power-play shots. This could be by design in how the power play is structured, but Beniers has been largely unnoticeable.

It could also be that opposing teams know him a little better this season and know how to make his life difficult, or it could be some self-inflicted pressure he is putting on himself. No matter what it is, I know he will get through it and will be fine. Slumps happen, and they probably happen more often to young players in this league than we even know. I keep wishing for some kind of fluky, ugly goal to help him break out of this funk.

Other Kraken musings:

  • Jaden Schwartz has been playing excellent this season, but I think Oliver Bjorkstrand has been the best player over the last five games or so. Both Schwartz and Bjorkstrand have 10 points on the season and have shown up at critical times in games.
  • Bjorkstrand scored his fourth goal of the season on Saturday night. He did not score his fourth goal last season until Dec. 22.
  • Beniers has yet to score this season; last season he had five goals by Nov. 5.
  • I don’t know who needs to hear this, but the Kraken rank eighth in the league in power play percentage at 25.7 percent, despite how ice cold (1 for 11) the power play was to start the season. The Kraken have at least one power-play goal in each of their last three games.  
  • The Coachella Valley Firebirds are 5-2-0 on the season after winning four straight games. It has been a total team effort; they have 15 different goal scorers this season.
  • Shane Wright and Max McCormick lead the Firebirds with four goals apiece.
  • In just their second season, the Firebirds have the largest season ticket base in the AHL. It’s a remarkable achievement and testament to the leadership at Oak View Group. OVG has raised the bar in how to launch a franchise, both at the NHL level and now the AHL level. I often wonder if that is why we are starting to hear more expansion talk around the NHL.
  • Niklas Kokko, one of the Kraken’s second-round selections from 2022 NHL Entry Draft, is currently leading the Finnish Liiga in save percentage. He earned his first career shutout last week. Kokko is expected to be the primary goalie for Finland in the World Junior Championship at the end of December.
  • It was pretty cool to see “marathoner” Zdeno Chara run his second marathon of the year. On Sunday, he completed the New York Marathon in 3:19:19, which is an improvement on his Boston Marathon time of 3:38:23 in April. Congrats Big Z.
  • After injuring his shoulder in the World Championships last summer, free agent defenseman Ethan Bear is getting close to being fully rehabilitated and is destined for an NHL contract. He probably isn’t a fit for the Kraken, but I am excited to see this former Seattle Thunderbird back in the NHL.

Player performance

Jani Nyman (Ilves/SEA) – Playing for Ilves in the Finnish Liiga, Nyman had two goals in Ilves’ 6-4 victory over Sport on Saturday night. Nyman is currently donning the Red Bull helmet as the top U20 goal scorer in the league. He now has eight goals and five assists in 19 games for Ilves.

Ryan Winterton (CVF/SEA) – The third-round selection of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft for the Kraken has three goals and five points in his last four games. This is Winterton’s first season of professional hockey after playing in the OHL the last few seasons.

Justin Schultz (SEA) – Has four assists over the last three games including two power-play assists. He has been a significant contributor to the success of the Kraken power play as of late.

Chart of the week

The Kraken have uncharacteristically scored first in most of their games this season, which is usually closely aligned with winning. But the Kraken have won just 25 percent of the games in which they’ve scored first. The league average is 65 percent, so I expect that percentage to improve now that the team is scoring more. In the meantime, it has been an odd statistic through the first 12 games of the season.

Goal of the week

I had a hard time deciding between these two, so I’m picking two goals of the week:

Kraken themes for the week ahead

The Kraken hit the road for a quick two-game set starting with the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, and then on to Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. The Coyotes are not the pushover we have seen the last few years, and Colorado really took it to the Kraken in a 4-1 win in Seattle’s home opener.

Seattle then returns home next Saturday with a game against a reeling Edmonton Oilers club. Getting four out of a possible six points will again be great, but three would be fine. It is another cliché, but I am looking for a full 60-minute effort in these games. I don’t think we’ve seen one yet, and a full 60 was the theme when the team went streaking last season.

One area where the Kraken must improve is the penalty kill. They have a 73 percent kill rate over the season after not allowing a power-play goal through the first four games. Over the last two weeks, they have a league-worst PK success rate at just 52.9 percent. That is brutally low, and they’ve got no chance at qualifying for the playoffs if they do not turn that around soon. This brief road trip would be a great place to rekindle that early-season magic.  

As always, let me know your thoughts, questions, or areas you want me to investigate.

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