The role Seattle Kraken lineup consistency is playing in hot start
The Seattle Kraken put their franchise-best four-game win streak on the line Tuesday at Climate Pledge Arena against the Nashville Predators. It’s been a fun start to the season for the Kraken, who have won some big games and played complete hockey early on.
There are a lot of factors you can point at for the Kraken start, but one of the big reasons is that they have been able to put a consistent lineup on the ice.
All six defensive pairings have been the same this year, and, for the most part, so have the forward lines. Last season’s forward lines were constantly in the blender thanks to injury, COVID, and the lack of a trio emerging and grabbing the opportunity.
Things are different now for head coach Dave Hakstol and the Kraken. The top six forwards have been playing together all season and the third line has been mostly consistent. While the fourth line has seen a rotation of players come through it, it has been productive led mostly by Morgan Geekie’s play.
“We’ve been able to have some consistency there, and that’s been important that it allows some of the chemistry to grow,” Hakstol said after practice Monday. “Not only amongst that (top) group of three but also just in terms of their roles within a hockey game. That can change on a nightly basis depending on the situation but for me that’s been one of our strengths, having guys from different areas of the roster step into different roles throughout a 60-minute hockey game. The consistency has been a positive factor.”
Forward lines are rarely static, and at some point during the season, changes will have to be made for various reasons. Jared McCann’s lower-body injury has already caused a shake-up in Seattle’s third line, and despite him practicing Monday he remains day-to-day.
A coach may tweak a line during a game or from game to game depending on the situation at hand. For now, Hakstol can pencil in his top six nightly, and it’s a big difference from last season.
Here’s a look at how the Kraken lines have been performing.
• Andre Burakovsky-Alex Wennberg-Oliver Bjorkstrand
This top line has driven play for the Kraken but still has a little more to give. When they are on the ice at five-on-five, they push the pace and have an unblocked shot attempt advantage of 115 for and 84 against, which is good for 57.79%.
“I think we’re battling hard, working for each other, helping out the battles,” Bjorkstrand said. “I think we’re reading off each other and making good plays. I think we’ve put in some good minutes. I still think we need to finish and let’s put the puck in the net. Once we figure that out, I think we can take our line to another level as long as our chances keep coming.”
The finishing that Bjorkstrand mentioned is the only thing the Kraken top line is missing.
Burakovsky has three goals, but two of them have come on the power play. Bjorkstrand has only scored once but has chipped in with six assists and leads the team with 46 shots on goal. Wennberg, known as a playmaker, has three goals for the group.
The goals will come, and with the chances and possession the trio produces, they will become deadly when they do.
Bjorkstrand says the chemistry the three have developed happens mostly in games. Burakovsky is a new teammate but Bjorkstrand and Wennberg do have a history from when both played in Columbus for the Blue Jackets.
“He assisted on a lot of my goals,” Bjorkstrand said. “I like playing with him.”
• Jaden Schwartz-Matty Beniers-Jordan Eberle
Seattle’s second line has been an efficient mix of youth and experience. Schwartz and Eberle played together a lot last season before Schwartz went out with an injury, and Eberle had chemistry with Beniers during the rookie’s 10-game stint at the end of the season.
Beniers has fit in with the two veterans, and the three have skill sets that have been complimentary. Schwartz is a possession machine and he wins puck battles on the boards and with the forecheck. Eberle is a do-it-all vet who has seen and done a little of everything in the NHL. Beniers has benefited and has shown he is a 200-foot player who can make those around him better.
During the Kraken win at home over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 29, Beniers drew defenders to him which allowed him to slide the puck to Eberle for his first of the season.
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) October 30, 2022
A game later, it was reversed with Eberle setting up Beniers for what would be the game-winner in Calgary.
〽️ATTY. ICE. pic.twitter.com/ZHNHXdPvyI
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) November 2, 2022
The line is putting up solid underlying numbers as well. At five-on-five they are a 50% shot attempt trio but have enjoyed an impressive 54.87% of the shot quality.
As Beniers matures even more, the sky could be the limit with this line.
• Jared McCann-Yanni Gourde
There has been some flux with the third line but Gourde and McCann have been the most regular, playing in 10 games together. Brandon Tanev and Karson Kuhlman have spent time on this line, as has Shane Wright and most recently Morgan Geekie.
But as long as Gourde and McCann have been involved the line has been pretty good, with an unblocked shot advantage at five-on-five of 56.15%, and they have 55.29% of the shot quality. How this line deploys Tuesday depends on McCann’s health. At Monday’s practice, McCann took every other line rush with Gourde and Tanev, which leaves a question mark. If McCann is good to go, good chance he’ll be with Gourde.
• Daniel Sprong-Morgan Geekie-Ryan Donato
The fourth line has been the one line that has had several players cycle through it, but lately this trio has been productive.
Playing limited minutes, Geekie has scored four times and added three helpers while Sprong has been great with seven points in seven games. Donato is the type of player who gets involved no matter where he is in the lineup. Having a productive fourth line gives Hakstol some advantage in matchups, especially at home when he gets last change. He can put this line out against the opponent’s fourth line and be a threat.
More from Andy Eide: Can the Kraken sustain their hot start?