The challenges the Kraken face as they look to stay in playoff race

Dec 29, 2022, 4:13 PM | Updated: Feb 5, 2023, 3:36 pm
Kraken Jared McCann...
Jared McCann celebrates his goal in the Kraken win over the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 18, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

On Tuesday night at Climate Pledge Arena, the Kraken missed an opportunity to put some distance between them and one of the teams chasing them in the Pacific Division race. Seattle didn’t necessarily play badly, at least through two periods, but faltered a little in the third period and ultimately the Calgary Flames got a goal from Jonathan Huberdeau to take a 3-2 lead that they held on to.

Jonathan Huberdeau breaks tie in 3rd, Flames beat Seattle Kraken 3-2

“In the third, we were on the wrong end of everything,” coach Dave Hakstol said Thursday after practice. “We generated two, three scoring chances maybe, and we gave up a bunch. So, that third period was not good enough for us last night.”

Calgary took the two points and vaulted over the Kraken into third place in the Pacific Division standings, but Seattle has four games in hand and has a higher points percentage. Technically, the Kraken are still ahead of the Flames.

Games in hand are great but at some point, you must take advantage by winning the head-to-head matchups and banking points. Thankfully for Seattle, it has another chance Friday night against the Edmonton Oilers at home.

The Oilers are currently tied with the Kraken in points but again, Seattle has three games in hand.

“We left a point on the table in Vancouver,” Hakstol said. “We left two on the table to another team that we’re competing for with for a playoff spot last night. That’s the true test for our team. The formula is not hidden for us. It’s not one or two guys. One or two lines. It’s a full complete team effort through our depth.”

Like it was Wednesday night, the game against the Oilers is not a must-win, but a game that is important as we near the halfway mark of the season.

The Vegas Golden Knights missed the postseason by three points last year. So, while it’s still December, these points are just as valuable as points in March are.

Seattle doesn’t need a massive overhaul, but does need to get a little more consistent and a little more thorough.

“Our play has to elevate as the stakes continue to get higher and the games continue to get tighter and tighter,” he said. “We have to make that decision as a hockey team, whether we’re satisfied with the level of play that we’ve had that got us to this point or whether we’re willing to make that decision to push to the next level. Not just through the next two home games here or through that road trip.”

The road trip Hakstol is referring to is a two-week, seven-game swing that begins after a New Year’s home date with the New York Islanders and former Seattle Thunderbird Mat Barzal.

It’s part of a January schedule that will see the Kraken play 15 times, which is why getting on the ice for half an hour Thursday was vital.

“Pace, execution those things are really important,” Hakstol said. “We got a little bit of that, we were able to do that today for 25 minutes. Now, tomorrow we’ll have the entire group and we’ll go full morning skate. We can work at a couple of pieces of systems that we need to work and we’ll do that in the morning skate setting.”

The challenge the Oilers bring

Calgary is a defensive-minded club that will throw the puck at you from all angles. The Oilers are not defense first and will push the pace and think offense first.

“Teams are built differently. The game last night was exactly what we knew it would be,” Hakstol said. “The challenge coming up tomorrow night, obviously [Edmonton] have a little bit different personnel. You’re facing a little bit different structure in terms of the way teams are built. But, an equally great opportunity in terms of two points with a team that we’re very tight with in a divisional race.”

That different personnel comes in the form of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, two of the best offensive players in the NHL.

Edmonton is a different challenge than Calgary was and the Kraken will need to find that extra level that Hakstol is talking about. The Oilers aren’t perfect and there could be opportunities to score. Seattle needs to take advantage and not leave goals on the table.

Where the Kraken stand in the playoff race

We aren’t quite in full scoreboard-watching mode yet, but it’s getting close. Hakstol brought up the divisional race a couple of times Thursday which indicates that the team is starting to pay attention to who the main competition is now.

Calgary and Edmonton are the obvious two teams to pay attention to, and if you’re a Kraken fan, start openly rooting against them.

But they aren’t alone.

The Kraken are six points behind the second-place Los Angeles Kings but have five games in hand so they could very easily move up in the Pacific standings with a strong January. The top three teams in the Pacific will get into the playoffs and after that, the remaining top two teams in the Western Conference get in as wild cards.

The Colorado Avalanche hold one of the two wild-card spots currently but the defending champs feel like they’ll catch the Central Division teams ahead of them which possibly brings the Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, or Dallas Stars into the playoff race against Seattle.

Within five points of a wildcard spot sit the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues who could get hot and sneak into the race.

It’s a crowded field in the West and within the Pacific Division and the best way for the Kraken to stay in a playoff spot is to keep banking points. Their first chance is Friday night against Edmonton.

Kraken can make statement, improve in standings in key division matchups

Seattle Kraken

Kraken Islanders AP...
The Associated Press

Bo Horvat scores as New York Islanders beat Seattle Kraken 4-0

Bo Horvat scored in his home debut with New York Islanders, leading his new team to a 4-0 victory over the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday night.
2 days ago
Seattle Kraken...
Andy Eide

Breaking down opponents the Kraken will face in upcoming road trip

The Kraken return from the All-Star Break to a five-game road trip that begins Tuesday in New York. Andy Eide breaks down Seattle's opponents.
2 days ago
Seattle Kraken Jaycob Megna...
Brent Stecker

Beniers protection? Kraken trade for big defenseman Jaycob Megna

The Seattle Kraken have some new protection for rookie All-Star Matty Beniers. The Kraken announced a trade Sunday night with the San Jose Sharks to bring big defenseman Jaycob Megna to Seattle.
4 days ago
Seattle Kraken Eeli Tolvanen...
Andy Eide

Breaking down surprise Seattle Kraken contributors Sprong and Tolvanen

Daniel Sprong and Eeli Tolvanen have turned themselves into key contributors for the Kraken who will be counted on moving forward.
6 days ago
Seattle Kraken Adam Larsson Vince Dunn...
Andy Eide

Grading the Seattle Kraken position groups in 1st half of season

With the Seattle Kraken at the All-Star Break, insider Andy Eide hands out his grades for Seattle's position groups so far this season.
9 days ago
The Associated Press

Wennberg scores against former team, Kraken top Blue Jackets 3-1

Alex Wennberg scored against his former team to help the Seattle Kraken beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 on Saturday night.
12 days ago
The challenges the Kraken face as they look to stay in playoff race