Are the Seattle Kraken doomed to struggle on offense? Don’t panic yet

Oct 19, 2021, 8:54 AM
Seattle Kraken Joonas Donskoi...
Flyers goalies Carter Hart makes a first period save on Joonas Donskoi of the Kraken on Monday. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It started badly for the Seattle Kraken on Monday night and never improved.

Flyers spoil Dave Hakstol’s return in 6-1 win over Seattle Kraken

Seattle allowed three goals in the first period and two in the second to fall behind 5-0 on the way to a 6-1 drubbing by the Philadelphia Flyers. Flyers goalie Carter Hart made a doorstep save on Jordan Eberle in the first period, and after that he barely broke a sweat in making 24 saves for the win.

The ugly loss was one thing, but the stagnant Kraken offense for a second straight game was another. What happened to the promising offensive start for the Kraken?

They scored three times in their first game and four in their lone win so far on Thursday, but since then they have managed just one in each of the last two games. In non-power play situations over the four games, they’ve forced 69 scoring chances and allowed 89, which is not a good percentage.

Scoring was a concern coming into the season, and there was a question about whether or not the team could score enough. Early on it looked like those fears were assuaged but now those preseason worries are showing up a bit.

Is it time to panic? Are Kraken fans we doomed to watch them struggle to score consistently from here on out?

The answer is no.

Some context is in order

There are legit reasons why the Kraken have struggled to score during the last couple of games.

Seattle has not had a normal start to the season. Opening the season with a five-game road trip over seven days, one that crosses three different time zones and requires them to play in three straight opponent home openers, is no easy task.

The day before the Kraken left to start the season they had four players on the COVID protocol, which required a scramble to ice a full roster. Those players all came back at the last minute to be able to play in Vegas, but the added stress was not a helper.

With the packed schedule to start, the team has had no full practices since the season opened. That’s not ideal for an expansion team that has only been on the ice together for just over a month. As a result, some fatigue and lack of cohesion poked its head up Monday in Philadelphia.

There are reasons for optimism, however.

Reasons not to panic

The Kraken have yet to see some of its best offensive talent on the ice.

Chief among those guys is center Yanni Gourde. The former Tampa Bay Lightning star is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. Gourde has the potential to be a 20-goal scorer, and wherever head coach Dave Hakstol plays him, he’ll make the line better.

Mike Lefko: How close is Gourde, potential face of the Kraken, to debut?

The team is also playing without Colin Blackwell, who has a lower-body injury, and Calle Jarnkrok, who is in COVID protocol, two more offensive players who will add depth and secondary scoring to the lineup.

As far as the players going now, there are lines and individuals who are skating well even if it isn’t showing up on the score sheet.

Jordan Eberle and Joonas Donskoi have yet to score but both have historically been good shooters in the NHL. So far they haven’t been able to generate many chances, but they will come, and when they do the goals will follow.

Hakstol mixed up his lines a bit Monday, moving Alex Wennberg up to the top line in place of Jared McCann. That top line – with McCann, Eberle, and Jaden Schwartz – had been playing well during the preseason and the first couple of games of the regular season.

It’s just one game but that new line was Seattle’s best Monday. It generated more shot attempts than it allowed, led the Kraken by forcing seven scoring chances, and was a positive possession line. That bears watching moving forward, and Wennberg was assumed to be the top-line center until Gourde’s return all along.

Maybe Hakstol has found some chemistry there.

Surprisingly, the Kraken’s best line through four games has been made up of Morgan Geekie, Ryan Donato, and Brandon Tanev. This trio was put together in Nashville and may be Seattle’s most consistent line so far. While they’re on the ice at 5-on-5, they’ve had 61 percent of unblocked shot attempts, 60 percent of the scoring chances, and each guy has scored at least once.

Hockey is funny sometimes as offense ebbs and flows. The Kraken have struggled to score in the last two games, but there are signs that it will turn.

Scoring is hard, and in order to score you have to have the puck so you can get shot attempts. The more shot attempts you have, the more goals you’re going to eventually score. Luckily for the Kraken, they have guys who possess the puck and are getting those shot attempts.

It’s only a matter of time before they start going in.

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Are the Seattle Kraken doomed to struggle on offense? Don’t panic yet