Eide: How Seattle Kraken are aiming to finish more of their chances
The Seattle Kraken need to score more goals. They don’t need to become a high-flying club that trades scoring chances at will, they just need to score a few more goals. They need to finish.
Seattle (1-4-1) opened the NHL season with seven goals over its first two games, but in the four games since the Kraken have managed only six. During Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the Kraken held a 2-1 lead in the third period but couldn’t find that third insurance goal.
As a result, the Canucks were able to score three unanswered to pick up the victory.
“The chances are there but you get paid to score,” Kraken forward Jordan Eberle said after Monday’s practice at Climate Pledge Arena.
Eberle knows as well as any Kraken what it’s like to get chances and have nothing to show for it. Historically, he’s been a consistent scorer, and he’s a career 13% shooter. So far this season, he has two assists and no goals.
At some point, he’ll find that finish that’s been with him his entire career.
And he’s not alone.
Other scorers like Jaden Schwartz and Joonas Donskoi have yet to find the back of the net. Players that were expected to provide secondary scoring like Mason Appleton have been blanked. The longer the struggle, the more frustration can seep in.
Appleton had two great chances against Vancouver Saturday and actually got a puck past Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko, only to have it stop an inch short of the goal line.
In frustration, he slammed his stick against the boards.
That was a heat of the moment reaction, but the worry is that the Kraken might start gripping the sticks too tight. Scoring droughts can get into players’ heads and make them look for the perfect shot rather than just shoot it.
It’s something that Seattle needs to be aware of.
“I don’t think we’re at that point yet,” center Yanni Gourde said Monday. “Obviously, the puck sometimes doesn’t go in, but I feel like when you’re getting chances, you’re doing right things… just keep it simple and I’m not too concerned about that. If we didn’t have scoring chances, it’d be a different story. We did have a few in the last few games and we have to keep doing that.”
The Seattle Kraken are creating chances
Gourde is right, Seattle has been getting good looks.
Saturday’s loss is a perfect example of how the Kraken could be scoring more. Despite losing by two, Seattle had more unblocked shot attempts, more scoring chances, and a higher expected-goal percentage.
On the season, they’ve created about the same amount of scoring chances that they’ve allowed. The Kraken have forced 50 high-danger chances but only scored on five of them. It’s all about the finish.
Putting the puck in the net was a focus at practice Monday, and they started by doing the simple things like getting traffic in front of the net to take away the goalie’s eyes, taking the shot instead of passing off, and crashing the net looking for an ugly goal and maybe have a shot go off a body part.
At some point, the luck should turn.
“You can always generate more, and you can get to the inside and create second chances,” Schwartz said. “Get to the harder areas more and getting good looks, just got to find a way to score some timely goals and then getting that confidence and then just building from there.”
Sticking with the identity
Seattle was never going to be a high-flying, light-up-the-scoreboard team. That’s not the roster the Kraken have.
Rather, they want to be a 200-foot team that plays strong in their end and the neutral zone, keeps the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods of time, and finds timely scoring. That didn’t always show up on their season-opening five-game road trip.
We saw it Saturday, however.
While it wasn’t perfect, the Kraken did play more to their identity against the Canucks. They took care of the neutral zone, making it difficult for Vancouver to find space. They kept the chances against down, created more of their own, and tracked the puck all over the ice.
“Those are all good signs so it’s not just the scoring chances,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Those are positives, and everybody wants to finish a little bit more and that’ll come. If we continue to generate offensive opportunities, the finish will come. But as a staff and a team, our biggest focus is continuing to work towards that complete identity.
“We took a step in the right direction the other night, but at the same time, let’s be honest, it’s about winning games and gaining points, as well.”
Seattle has three home games remaining this week, starting with a winnable game against the struggling Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
Look for the Kraken to play to their identity as they did Saturday, and maybe the finish will come.
“We’ve got some very good veteran players here and the point that I want to make is we don’t have to score a whole lot more,” Hakstol said. “We just have to continue developing a complete 200-foot game, (and) be real comfortable in close, tight hockey games because we’re going to be on a lot of them this year.”
More Seattle Kraken coverage from 710Sports.com
• Video tour of Climate Pledge Arena during first Kraken home game
• Seattle Kraken now aim to make CPA ‘tough building to play in’
• Morosi: Why Kraken haven’t started strong like previous NHL expansion team
• Eide: Now healthy, Yanni Gourde will give Kraken a shot of lightning