A close look at what Seattle Kraken are chasing in standings
The NHL’s holiday break turned into a COVID break this week, with the Seattle Kraken themselves having three games postponed after a league-wide breakout.
The Kraken are set to return to play Monday in Vancouver against the Pacific Division rival Canucks. A game against a division and geographic rival is always good fun but for the Kraken, the game is close to the point of being a must-win.
Seattle finds itself with 23 points in the standings after 30 games, 13 points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Canucks, with 30 points, are one of six teams between Seattle and the playoffs.
Monday’s game in Vancouver is one of two the Kraken are set to play against the Canucks over the coming week. Seattle will host Vancouver on New Year’s Day, giving Seattle an opportunity to not only earn points in the standings but take four away from Vancouver.
Even if Seattle sweeps both upcoming games, the Kraken have some work to do. Climbing the standings is going to take improved and consistent play from the Kraken, and they’ll need help from elsewhere, as well.
Here’s a look at the teams ahead of Seattle in the wild card race and what the chances are that Seattle can begin to reel them in.
• Chicago Blackhawks (Record: 11-15-4, 26 points)
It’s been a tumultuous season for Chicago with both off-ice controversies and a dismal start. The Blackhawks are still struggling but any team with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marc-Andre Fleury is one that will remain competitive. The Kraken lost a 4-2 decision to the Blackhawks in November and those two points would come in handy now. Seattle will be in Chicago on April 7.
• Vancouver Canucks (Record: 14-15-2, 30 points)
The Canucks spoiled Seattle’s home opener back in October but the Kraken stayed ahead of Vancouver in the standings until recently. Vancouver made a coaching change on Dec. 5 and fired Travis Green – along with general manager Jim Benning – to bring in Bruce Boudreau. Vancouver hasn’t lost since and is riding a six-game win streak. They have talent with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes, and the question remains if their recent hot streak is Boudreau bringing out the potential of those young stars or merely the temporary effect of a new coach?
• San Jose Sharks (Record: 15-14-1, 31 points)
Surprisingly, the rebuilding Sharks got off to a red-hot start, but they have come back to earth over the last month. Seattle beat the Sharks a week ago in what was an important win. The Sharks have to decide if they are in playoff contention or if they should sell off players like Tomas Hertl, who is in the final year of his contract with San Jose. He’s a popular player in the Bay Area but if the Sharks don’t feel like they can sign him, he may be on the market which would mean that San Jose doesn’t view itself as a true playoff contender. The Kraken host the Sharks on Jan. 20 and finish the season on April 29 against San Jose at Climate Pledge Arena.
• Dallas Stars (Record: 15-12-2, 32 points)
The Stars advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in the bubble two years ago but have hovered in the mediocre category in the seasons since. They have good goaltending with Jake Oettinger and Braden Holtby, and young stars on the back end like Miro Hesikanen. Up front they are leaning on veterans Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn. Will they be able to stay in the playoff race or fade over the second half of the season? The Kraken won’t see the Stars until a road game on Jan. 12 with a chance to make up ground.
• Los Angeles Kings (Record: 14-11-5, 33 points)
The Kings are a team in the middle of a rebuild. Los Angeles’ best years are ahead of them as some impressive prospects work their way to the NHL level, but the Kings are still led by veterans in their 30s like Anze Kopitar (34), Drew Doughty (31), Dustin Brown (36), and goalie Jonathan Quick (35). Can those players keep the Kings in the hunt? Quick has dipped into the fountain of youth and has a .930 save percentage, which logic argues he can’t maintain. The Kings make their first trip to Seattle on Jan. 15.
• Winnipeg Jets (Record: 14-11-5, 33 points)
The Kraken got a look at the Jets on Dec. 9 and were shut out 3-0. Winnipeg is dealing with a coaching change after Paul Maurice surprisingly resigned from the position on Dec. 17. Interim coach Dave Lowry has yet to coach a game so how the Jets will react remains unknown. Winnipeg is one of the better defensive clubs in the West and has the goaltending with Connor Hellebuyck, but the question remains if they can score enough to be a playoff team. They have some firepower, led by the likes of Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois, both of whom have had solid starts the season. Seattle gets another crack at the Jets in Winnipeg on Jan. 8.
• Edmonton Oilers (Record: 18-11-0, 36 points)
The Oilers hold the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, tied with the Colorado Avalanche. Seattle has played the Oilers thrice, sitting with a 1-2-0 record. Edmonton features the league’s top two players in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl – the last two league MVPs – and a deadly power play. The question in Edmonton has always been if there is enough of a supporting cast for McDavid and Draisaitl to drag into the playoffs. After a blistering start to the season, the Oilers dropped six straight but enter the break winning two in a row.
• Colorado Avalanche (Record: 17-8-2, 36 points)
Considered Stanley Cup favorites before the season, the Avalanche have had to overcome an early-season injury to star Nathan MacKinnon and are 7-2-1 in their last 10. Colorado is loaded, as the Kraken discovered during a brutal 7-3 loss at home back on Nov. 19, and are a club that could end up on top of the Western Conference table when the season ends. Seattle lost to a Colorado team missing MacKinnon and will get a look at them with him on Jan. 10 in Denver.