Seattle Kraken a month in: What is and isn’t working

Nov 11, 2021, 12:21 AM
Seattle Kraken Calle Jarnkrok...
Buffalo's Robert Hagg brings his stick across the Kraken's Calle Jarnkrok in a Nov. 4 game in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Seattle Kraken are coming off a few days in the desert that they’d like to soon forget but will be able to enjoy the comforts of home for a while starting Thursday night.

Lefko: New challenge for Seattle Kraken — hold onto a lead

Seattle lost two road games, first in Arizona Saturday and then in Vegas Tuesday. Two winnable games where the Kraken led only to lose.

They’ll take on the Anaheim Ducks at Climate Pledge Arena Thursday to kick off a crucial six-game homestand with a chance to get back into the Pacific Division race.

A month into the expansion team’s first season, Seattle has a 4-8-1 record with nine points, which is last in the division and ninth in the Western Conference. It’s not the start the Kraken hoped for, and while there is plenty of time left on the season’s schedule, Seattle doesn’t want to fall too far behind.

The good news is that home ice has treated Seattle better than the road. They are 3-2 at Climate Pledge and 1-6-1 when away.

“We’re quickly growing to appreciate the atmosphere in our building, which is awesome,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said Wednesday. “I continue to have people from around the country asking if people really have that much fun in that building. It looks awesome. And my answer is ‘Yeah, it’s awesome.’ The atmosphere is good there. It’s a group that we want to play well in front of and we want to play hard for.”

The last two games have been concerning for Seattle but there were positives that the team will try to build on while fixing the problems that raised their collective ugly heads.

Things kick off with the Ducks on Thursday, a team that was thought to be a non-playoff club but is off to a decent start. The Minnesota Wild then return to Seattle on Saturday, and they will be a tough out. After that, the Kraken will host the struggling Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 17, but then things get tougher as the Colorado Avalanche come to town on Nov. 19, followed by the Washington Capitals (Nov. 21) and Carolina Hurricanes (Nov. 24).

The Kraken will need to find their game and clean up the details that are costing them by the end of the homestand.

“This league is so tight, whatever team you play against is really tough game,” center Alex Wennberg said Wednesday. “I don’t know if it’s a bounce or if it’s a little bit of luck or what it is. But right now, we’re just not doing whatever it takes to win. And that’s just what it comes down to at the end of the day.”

What’s not working for the Seattle Kraken

It’s easy to overreact to the last two losses, but they exposed some of the warts in the Kraken’s start to the season.

Seattle blew leads in both games, including Saturday when they headed into the third period with a 3-2 advantage only to allow the Coyotes to tie and eventually win. It was like the home opener loss against the Vancouver Canucks when they went ahead in the third period and the overtime loss in Columbus where again they entered the third period up a goal.

Playing a full 60 minutes and learning to put a team away once they have a lead is something the team needs to do.

Turnovers and puck management are still an issue that proves costly. Against Arizona, turnovers in dangerous areas led to three of the Coyotes’ goals. Seattle has struggled at times with the transition game, and one way to solve that is to manage the puck better.

When chances against happen, the Kraken need to get a timely save from either Philipp Grubauer or Chris Driedger. Seattle’s goalies have struggled with high-danger chances, saving only 74% they’ve faced, second-worst in the NHL. Obviously, those are tougher saves but having a goalie steal a game will go a long way to earn points and build confidence.

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While they broke their power-play drought against Vegas Tuesday, Seattle still failed on two key chances in the second period. How different does that game turn out if the Kraken go up 3-1 in the second? Getting the one goal was great, and hopefully for the Kraken they can continue to produce.

Center Jared McCann was out of COVID protocol and back to practice Wednesday. He was a key member of the power play before he left, and look for him to be back on the half-wall making plays.

What is working well for the Kraken?

Seattle continues to play well with the puck and is a positive possession team. At times, like in the second period Tuesday, they dominate the play, tilting the ice and creating a ton of chances. That hasn’t always led to goals, but if the chances are coming, the scores should follow.

“At the end of the day, it’s the result you need,” Wennberg said. “Obviously we can play as good as we want, but if you don’t get the two points, it’s kind of a disappointment, right? There’s a lot of games right now where we’ve been better than the other team but we still lose the game. We got to take one game at a time and focus on winning.”

Early on, the Kraken struggled to finish chances, but they’ve been improving and have a team shooting percentage of 8.84, which is sixth-best in the league.

Defensively, the Kraken have done well to limit shots and chances against. They’ve allowed 230 scoring chances – while creating 277 of their own – which is seventh-best in the NHL. Again, they need their goaltenders to come up with big saves more than they are because those scoring chances are turning into goals against.

Jordan Eberle has been working and scoring for Seattle. He didn’t score a goal over the Kraken’s first six games of the season but has scored seven over the last eight. Eberle now leads the team, and Wednesday at practice he was on a line with McCann and Jaden Schwartz. The three played well together in the preseason and at the start of the season. Seattle will need that line to produce over the homestand.

The gap between losing and winning is not a chasm but rather a crack for Seattle, and the Kraken have yet to consistently close it. They’re going to have to if they want to dig out of the early hole they’re in and start to climb the standings.

“Just dig in and keep pushing,” Hakstol said. “It’s not about moral victories and having parts of the game feel good and be good on a consistent basis. It’s about building wins. We’ve come up short in the last few nights in pushing and getting the win. We all have to push and be a little bit better to get across the finish line.”

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