KRAKEN

Should you be skeptical or optimistic about Seattle Kraken after latest win?

Nov 23, 2021, 12:11 PM
Seattle Kraken...
Jordan Eberle of the Seattle Kraken celebrates his goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period at Climate Pledge Arena. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Nothing cures what ails more than a big win and the Seattle Kraken certainly were feeling better after Sunday’s 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

Schwartz, Seattle Kraken top Capitals 5-2 to end six-game skid

The win snapped a six-game losing streak that was nothing but miserable and was starting to wear on the Kraken players. Frustration was showing for the Seattle Kraken, but the team met together on Saturday and made sure they were all on the same page before Sunday.

“Everybody wants it, everybody is working hard,” goalie Philipp Grubauer said. “Sometimes you’re working hard but not smart enough. So, we had a couple of conversations. It’s kind of embarrassing to lose six in a row at home… we wanted to come out and give the fans what they want. We need those points.”

Grubauer was center stage Sunday, playing his best game of the year by kicking away 37 shots, including 22 in the third period. He wasn’t understating anything when he mentioned how valuable the two points were for the Kraken.

They improved their record to 5-12-1 and their 11 points have them one point clear of the Western Conference cellar. It’s still early and 18 games into an 82-game schedule is no time to wave the white flag of surrender, however, the Kraken need to start banking points if they want to stay within sight of a playoff berth.

Going into play Monday, Seattle was 10 points out of the last wild card spot in the West with six teams ahead of them.

Was Sunday’s win a sign that the team has solved its issues? Or was it just a fluke win against a good team that was playing the second of a back-to-back on the road? Are you optimistic about the Kraken or skeptical?

What the skeptics might say

If you see the glass half empty, Sunday night may not have swayed your view of the Kraken.

Yes, they won, but they’ve still 2-8-0 in their last 10 games and in last place in the Pacific Division. Seattle is too far behind to be able to get into any kind of playoff race.

While Grubauer was great Sunday, he’s still sporting a .882 save percentage and allowing over three goals per game on average. He simply hasn’t been good enough to win on a consistent basis.

The Kraken scored five goals, but one was in the empty net and the team still struggles to score. Even the three goals they scored against Colorado came after the team was down 7-0 and were in garbage time. Seattle isn’t scoring enough to be a team in the playoff hunt.

All of these struggles are the fault of general manager Ron Francis for screwing up the NHL Expansion Draft. Look at how well Vegas did in its first season.

How the optimist looks at the Kraken

If you’re an optimist you probably take a more Zen-like, calm approach to the start of the season.

To begin with, 18 games is far too small of a sample size to have hot takes about how terrible everything is. There are 64 games left in the season and plenty of time to make up ground.

Obviously, Grubauer has not played his best so far, but Sunday gave us a glimpse of how good he can be. His save percentage is low, but he’s never been below .916 in any full season he’s played. Coming to a new team and new system it’s taken him time to adjust. He’s starting to learn where his teammates are going to be and more importantly, where to expect shots from.

Sunday was a sign that it’s coming together for him. He went through a similar start during his first season in Colorado back in 2018-2019. Fans and media were aiming their complaints at him, but he turned it around and ended with an 18-9-5 record and .917 save percentage. He can do the same for the Kraken.

Seattle is among the NHL leaders when it comes to suppressing quality shots and chances against. With Grubauer back in form, it’s going to be harder to score against the Kraken.

The Kraken are averaging 2.89 goals per game which are 18th in the league. They’re averaging more than the Toronto Maple Leafs with their three stars, and the Stanley Cup contending New York Islanders. They create far more scoring chances, and high danger scoring chances than they allow.

Yes, they need to capitalize more on those chances but that will come. As long as the chances keep coming the goals should follow. Calle Jarnkrok scored his first on Sunday and Colin Blackwell scored his first on Friday. Those are good signs as both players have the potential to be 20-goal players.

It’s easy to second guess the picks Francis made during the Expansion Draft. Why didn’t he select Carey Price or Vladimir Tarasenko? Price has a huge salary hit and has yet to play a game this season after a year where his save percentage was below the league average. While Tarasenko might help with goal scoring, his $7.5 million salary would have an opportunity cost that would cut into adding depth players.

The game plan heading into the Draft was to pick a team that would be solid defensively, get good goaltending, and leave the Kraken with salary cap flexibility.

Francis has a team that is not allowing a lot of chances against. If the goaltending comes around as it should then he’ll have exactly the type of team he wanted.

He has cap flexibility with just over $8 million in cap space along with nine players in the last year of their contracts. The Kraken could add salary at the trade deadline or during free agency in the off-season. Seattle is positioned to compete for the long term.

The road ahead

Tonight is one win so we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves here,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said Sunday night. “My feeling is that this should give us a burst and a real push as we go into a tough stretch.”

Seattle will host the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday before back-to-back road games against Tampa Bay on Friday and the Florida Panthers on Saturday. Three teams whose combined records going into Monday’s games are 37-8-6.

It’s a stretch that will teach us a lot about Seattle and maybe whether the skeptics or optimists are right.

Follow Seattle Kraken insider Andy Eide on Twitter.

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