Kraken Takeaways: The good, bad and head-scratching through 4 games
After two bad home losses in a row, the Kraken sit with an unimpressive 1-2-1 record after four games. They have tough games coming up against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday and then a road game against the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
They’ll have to step up their play if the Kraken want to avoid two more losses.
Four games in is too small a sample size to come to any conclusions about Seattle’s season, but there are some trends that can be explored. There have been some good and some not good things, and some things that make one wonder.
You don’t really get a handle on what type of hockey team you have until you’ve played 20-25 games so it’s too soon to make proclamations just yet. Here are the good, the bad, and the head-scratchers that we’ve seen through the first four games.
The good: offense and power play
Seattle has an improved offense, and a lot has to do with the new additions to the team and an improved power play so far. The Kraken are 6 for 18 with the man advantage, which is an impressive 33% success rate.
Last season they had one of the weakest power play units in the NHL, and it took them 16 games to score six times on the power play. The power play won’t stay at a 33% rate for the entire season but it’s obviously improved, which will make the Kraken more competitive overall.
Andre Burakovsky, who has a point in all four games so far, and Oliver Bjorkstrand have been a big shot in the arm for the Kraken power play.
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) October 18, 2022
Not only have they so far been as advertised on the power play, but they’ve been good on 5-on-5 and helped the overall Kraken attack.
Matty Beniers has simply been outstanding at the start of the season. In the first four games, he’s averaging a point per game and leads all NHL rookies in scoring (though technically, Minnesota defenseman Calen Addison has four points, as well). Beniers was projected before the season to be a contender for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, and so far he looks every bit the part.
matty on fireeeeeee pic.twitter.com/dtWu7PauoM
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) October 13, 2022
The Kraken scored eight goals over their first two games before running into the Vegas Golden Knights and Carolina Hurricanes, who are both 3-0-0. For a team that barely averaged over 2 1/2 goals per game last season, early on this season it’s been better.
The bad: goaltending and defense
Some of the same issues that were a problem last year have popped up early this one. Is it bad goaltending, a mistake-prone defense, or both?
In their two regulation losses and overtime loss to Anaheim, the Kraken have allowed five goals in each. Goalie Philipp Grubauer has had five hung on him in each of his two starts. His backup, Marvin Jones, was beaten five times in two periods against Vegas.
Those are ugly numbers, and it doesn’t mean it will be like that all year, but after last season the radar is up quicker than it might for other teams.
It’s easy to blame the goalie for goals. He’s the last line of defense and we all see the puck go past him. But you have to pay attention to what takes place before the puck beats the goalie. Like last season, the play in front of the net has been terrible at times this season.
Here is the first goal allowed this season, less than a minute in:
The puck goes behind the net where Justin Schultz and Jamie Oleksiak chase it. Oleksiak attempts to clear it but his pass is deflected. Meanwhile, both Jared McCann and Beniers attempt to help out but are too deep and have left the front of the net wide open. Anaheim’s Jason Terry heads there and receives a pass in a dangerous scoring area. That’s a goal almost every time no matter the goalie.
Seattle survived that early goal and had a 3-1 lead before taking a penalty late in the second period. On this next play, Alex Wennberg and Karson Kuhlman steal the puck at the blue line and take off the other way for a short-handed scoring chance. Defenseman Will Borgen jumps in the rush. All three crash the net, and instead of shooting, Wennberg attempts a pass that is broken up. Borgen gets knocked over and the puck goes the other way, leaving three of the four Kraken penalty killers trapped down ice.
The result is a two-on-one break and an easy tap-in goal.
Those two goals ended up being the difference in the game.
This isn’t to absolve Grubauer of anything. He has not been great, though maybe not as terrible as the numbers suggest after two starts. These mental lapses have led to goals early on, as they did at times last season.
Seattle cleaned that up in its 4-1 win at Los Angeles, showing what the team can do when it plays a sound game.
Those mistakes feel avoidable, but no team plays mistake-proof all season, in every game. Cleaning up those things will help, but at some point Grubauer or Jones need to bail out the defense and come up with a big save. Those high-scoring chances don’t have to be automatic goals.
The head-scratching: Shane Wright and good starts
Playing in the NHL at 18 years old was never going to be easy for Shane Wright. It was always going to be a development year for the the No. 4 overall pick, but early on, his usage by the Kraken has been odd.
Wright was in the lineup on opening night and played on the fourth line, but only got six minutes of playing time. He was then a healthy scratch for the next two games. It’s not unusual for teams to give top, young prospects nights off, but that is usually reserved for players that the club intends on returning to a junior hockey team.
The Kraken have indicated that they expect Wright to stay with them all year. Seeing him treated the same as a player destined to return to junior is odd. If that is their ultimate goal then there is nothing wrong with it, but if the goal is to develop Wright at the NHL level, then the early usage is strange.
So far, his scratches were explained as trying to get Morgan Geekie in the lineup for game 2. Seattle won that game and coach Dave Hakstol did what most coaches do, sticking with the lineup that won for the next game. That could be all this is and it makes more sense. Wright was back in the lineup Monday for the 5-1 loss to Carolina.
The Kraken have not started games sharp, giving up goals in the early minutes, including one to Vegas just 12 seconds in. Anaheim scored 51 seconds in and Carolina got a goal in the first four minutes. The result is playing from behind where players try to do too much, only to play over-aggressive and allow the opponent to take advantage and add to the lead.