Can the Seattle Kraken sustain their hot start to the season?
After winning for a third straight time Thursday night, the Seattle Kraken own a 6-4-2 record, which puts them in third place in the Pacific Division. They have 14 standings points and a .583 points percentage mark. Those are solid numbers and their start is undoubtedly a good one.
Is the start sustainable? There are 70 games left in the regular season and the sample size is still to small to say that the Kraken are going to keep this pace up. Can they do it? There may not be enough games banked to determine if this is the team the Kraken have but early on the trends are promising.
With so much time left, head coach Dave Hakstol, his staff, and the team don’t, and shouldn’t, be looking that far ahead. Luckily for the Kraken, they aren’t.
They are looking at smaller sections of the schedule.
“Typically, we look at them in five games segments,” Hakstol said. “Without getting into too much detail on it, we have goals within each segment and obviously the end goal is to put segments together, the end goal is to put yourself in position to be a playoff team.”
The second segment was a success and the current five-game segment is off to a positive start, with a win in Calgary and another in Minnesota on Thursday.
Can the Kraken keep ‘winning’ five-game segments moving forward?
Reasons to think they can
Seattle’s underlying numbers are positive. They have been a good possession team, routinely getting more shot attempts than they allow playing at 5-on-5, and they are averaging more than 50% of the shot quality this season. Those are all good trends but again, the sample size of 12 games is still small, and too early to say this will be who the Kraken are over an 82-game season.
But there are other good signs. Nobody on the roster appears to be playing above their head. There hasn’t been one player who is carrying them and playing better than what the back of their trading card says.
In fact, Seattle is getting contributions from everyone and they tied an NHL record for having 19 different players score goals in the first 11 games. That’s a promising sign and they aren’t relying on one player to carry the day.
The Kraken are scoring a goal more per game so far than they did last season which builds confidence and makes them more competitive night in and night out.
They’ve accomplished this good start without some of the big players having heated up yet. Yanni Gourde has a goal and three assists and Oliver Bjorkstrand has one goal – scored on opening night – so far. Both players will score more.
Matty Beniers has been as good as expected but even he isn’t playing at a level that feels unsustainable. He leads NHL rookies in scoring with five goals and four assists in 12 games. His numbers are good but not out of this world, which should be expected. Beniers is shooting an impressive 20 percent which is high but being a rookie, we don’t have a season to compare and see if that is unusually high or not.
It will be interesting to see how he does once he gets past the 30-game mark and into new territory for games played.
Defensively, the Kraken are suppressing shots and in games where they manage the puck, the goaltending has been good enough to win. The blue line has chipped in offensively as well, leading the NHL with every defenseman who has played a game having scored a goal so far.
The power play continues to produce and is improved. Free Agency signee Andre Burakovsky has been a force as has a healthy Jaden Schwartz. The latter leads the team in scoring and four of his five goals have come on the power play.
Reasons it might not be sustainable
The first area of concern is the penalty kill. The last two games have been better, and they haven’t allowed a power-play goal against, but over the first 12 games, the Kraken are 28th in the league with only a 71.8 percent success rate.
That can, and has, been the difference in winning and losing. Against the Vancouver Canucks last week, the Kraken dominated the game in shots and territorial play but the Canucks went 2-for-2 on the power play and won 5-4. The penalty kill will have to improve and the last two outings are optimistic.
The goaltending situation for the Kraken is tenuous. Martin Jones was signed in the summer to fill in for the injured Chris Driediger as Philipp Grubauer’s backup. But now Grubauer is on the injured reserve as well so Jones has become the number one guy by default.
Jones has played well at times but you wonder how many games will be too many for a guy who’s been relegated to a backup the latter part of his career. It remains a mystery and one we won’t have an answer for until Grubauer, who is out week-to-week, gets back.
How well the goalie plays depends a lot on how the team plays as a whole. When they’ve won, they’ve managed the puck cleanly and played solid defensively. Seattle has done that more than it hasn’t this year but it still rears its ugly head from time to time. Even in their exciting comeback against the Calgary Flames where they surrendered two goals in 16 seconds thanks to lapses in puck management.
Can they keep it clean enough to support whoever is in goal?
Injuries can always be a wild card and that will play a role in how sustainable the Kraken start will be. They’ve had goalie injuries and Jared McCann is out currently with a day-to-day lower-body injury. Every team deals with bumps and bruises and must rely on their depth. Seattle has better depth this year and if they can last the season with limited or only short-term injuries, they’ll be in good shape.
The next 10-15 games will go a long way to clear up the picture of who the Kraken are. For now, sit back, watch, and enjoy an improved team who is off to a fun start.