Eide: Where the frustration for struggling Seattle Kraken lies
The stress of losing five games in a row is starting to show with the Seattle Kraken.
Throughout the past couple of weeks, which have been rough, the players and coaches have tried to focus on the positives rather than dwelling on the negatives. But they are competitive people, and when you aren’t winning it’s hard to continue to spin the good stuff.
“I wish I had an answer for it,” Kraken forward Jared McCann said after Seattle’s 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Climate Pledge Arena on Wednesday. “I’m frustrated. I want to win; I think everybody does on our team. You know, things aren’t going our way right now. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. That’s the way it is.”
McCann, who scored his sixth goal of the season on Wednesday, is right. The Kraken have had some bad puck luck, but they’ve also lost games thanks to self-inflicted wounds.
The loss to Chicago hurt. It was a winnable game against a team that started the season by losing its first six games while failing to hold a lead at any time. Chicago blew out its coaching staff but came into Seattle winners of three straight under interim coach Derek King. The Blackhawks left Seattle on a four-game win streak.
Watching the game, all the ills that have been plaguing the Kraken were on display.
Seattle Kraken start slow again
A growing trend for Seattle this year is starting slowly in the first period, allowing the first goal, and trailing after 20 minutes.
Wednesday was no different as Chicago scored 15 minutes into the game and led 1-0 at the end of the first. The Kraken are now 0-8-0 when trailing after the first period and 2-8-0 when allowing the first goal.
“It was a back-and-forth period, we gave up one out-numbered in the period and it ended up in the back of our net. They made an elite play on it,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think they skated better than we did in the first, I don’t think it was a poor period by us, but the ultimate result was we came out down by one.”
Hakstol liked the effort he saw from his charges but in this case, “poor” seems to be relative. The numbers don’t paint a pretty picture of the first period and how Seattle performed.
The Blackhawks outshot the Kraken 8-3 but had 10 scoring chances to Seattle’s three and took 71% of the quality shots. Seattle failed to register a shot on goal over the period’s final 10 minutes of play. Early on in the first, Seattle struggled to get out of its own zone and didn’t manage the puck cleanly, which led to extended offensive zone time for the Blackhawks.
It may not have been “poor,” but it wasn’t good either, and once again put the Kraken in a spot where they were chasing a game.
Lack of detail by the Seattle Kraken
During their current slump, the Kraken have played well at times only to make one mistake that ends up going the other way for a goal.
A perfect example of this was Chicago’s first goal Wednesday, scored by former Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones.
On the play, all three of Seattle’s forwards – Alex Wennberg, Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz – chased the puck below the Chicago goal line. That left no third forward high, which leads to trouble when the puck is turned over.
Jones sensed this and jumped in the rush as Patrick Kane raced the puck up ice. That created a three-on-two situation for Chicago and allowed Jones to go straight to the net, where he was all alone for an easy tap-in.
Whether it was a lapse in awareness or over-aggressiveness on Seattle’s part, it’s those types of mistakes that continue to happen and continue to prove costly.
Kraken dominate the second and third but don’t find the goals
After a slow first period and falling behind 2-0 early in the second, the Kraken then came to life.
In the second period, they owned the puck and outshot the Blackhawks 16-6, led in shot attempts 29-10, high-danger chances 7-2, and took 73% of the quality shots.
That’s domination, but they didn’t score on any of those shots or chances and Blackhawks goalie Marc-Andre Fleury went into the intermission with a 2-0 lead.
The third period was much the same until McCann scored on the power play and Yanni Gourde made it 3-2 with a late six-on-five goal.
It’s not the first time that the Kraken have dominated large stretches of the game without much to show for it. Some of that may be puck luck – they hit a crossbar and a post in the second period – and some of it may be players pressing too much and looking for the perfect shot. Whatever the issue, it’s a major contributor to the growing frustration.
Still looking for that big save
Philipp Grubauer made his 200th NHL start in goal Wednesday, and he allowed three goals on 18 shots. That comes out to a .833 save percentage, is far below what he’s been at during his career.
It’s hard to blame him for the goals on Wednesday, but he has yet to find a way to make a big stop when his team needs one the most.
The goal by Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat early in the second period was a great play by a young NHL star, but it wasn’t impossible to stop. If Grubauer finds a way to make that save, maybe even against the odds, the whole complexion of the second period – and maybe the game – changes.
“We gave one up that I’d like to see us get a save on, and we need a save somewhere in there along the way,” Hakstol said about the DeBrincat goal. “And that’s not certainly on our goaltender. It was an elite shooter that had an opportunity, it was a defended opportunity, that somewhere along the way we need a save in there.”
There’s little argument that Seattle’s goaltending is struggling overall, but the biggest issue is the lack of timely saves that contributes to the Kraken falling further behind in games.
Seattle’s warts are there for everyone to see. The team knows what the issues are, and the frustration is growing. They’ll have a chance to put the details together for a full 60-minute effort on Friday when a good Colorado Avalanche team comes to town.