What does huge road win over powerhouse Bruins mean for Kraken?
Seven games in a row. The Kraken extended their win streak Thursday in an unlikely place. Nobody had skated into TD Garden in Boston and left with a regulation win this year. The Bruins had only lost four times in regulation anywhere coming into the game. None of that phased the Kraken, who played with a near-perfect defensive effort in a 3-0 win.
Overall, the Kraken have won seven straight but have also won six consecutive road games and have started what looked like a brutal road trip by picking up 12 out of 12 available points. Seattle will try to make a clean sweep of the road trip Saturday when they are in Chicago to take on the Blackhawks.
Was Thursday’s win a statement? Was it the best win in franchise history?
“I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s a good win. I love it and I’m proud of the guys and the effort the guys had tonight, and they should feel good about it. You don’t come in here with any passengers and win a hockey game. For me, that’s what you hope to do in any road game.”
It’s understandable for the coach to try and downplay how big of a win it was. The job is far from finished as the season has just hit its midpoint. The Kraken wrap up their road trip Saturday but have a packed schedule the rest of the month.
There is still a lot of hockey to go but since we aren’t the coach, being excited about the win in Boston is acceptable.
It was a big win. What does it mean overall?
Seattle has big wins on its resume already this season. They are a week out from a dominant win in Toronto and a few weeks away from a road win in Florida. They’ve won in Vegas and have beaten Colorado and Los Angles.
Boston felt different
Over an 82-game schedule, the best will still drop a game now and then.
What stood out Tuesday was that Seattle won by playing its game. As good as Martin Jones played in goal, this wasn’t a steal. There weren’t crazy bounces that all went the Kraken’s way. Seattle only scored three times but they stuffed the top offensive group in the league.
“We checked well,” Jones said. “In front of the net I thought we did a really good job with blocked shots, we picked up sticks, we cleared pucks out, that was probably the biggest thing.”
What Jones doesn’t say there is that Tuesday was the blueprint for Kraken hockey executed to precision.
Seattle smothered the Bruins. They were tough on the forecheck, creating turnovers and offensive chances. In the neutral zone, the Kraken didn’t allow free passage and clamped down in their own end.
The Bruins had some pushback, they’re number one in the league for a reason, but even while they played with desperation in the third, the Kraken still had over 60 percent of the shot quality. Most of the Bruins shots were kept to the outside.
Defense has been the calling card for the Kraken during the win streak. For Seattle to have success, they have to play well defensively. It kick-starts their offense and a big reason for the recent wins. It’s one thing to do it against Montreal and Buffalo but doing so against the league’s best was remarkable.
The blueprint is there and the path forward is clear for Seattle.
Defense must come first and if they can do it on the road against the Bruins, it should be repeatable most nights.
Is Jones taking over?
The last NHL team to win the first six games of a road trip was the San Jose Sharks in November of 2015. Jones played for that Sharks team and made five of the six starts. He’s made six of the seven starts for Seattle during this win streak and appears to be taking over as the number one goalie for the Kraken.
No pasta for Jonesy tonight 😏
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) January 13, 2023
He’s played well in parts thanks to the solid play in front of him but Hakstol’s confidence in playing him night after night is a shift. Before this road trip, the Kraken used more of a tandem approach to the net.
Philipp Grubauer started against Buffalo and played very well but it was back to Jones for the Boston game. That’s a sign that either the Kraken look at Jones still having the hot hand or that he is now the number one goalie.
He’s rewarded Hakstol and the team.
Jones has back-to-back shutouts and over his last six starts, he has a .946 save percentage and a 1.40 goals-against average. It’s hard not to write his name in the lineup each night when he’s been that good.
Grubauer’s start against Buffalo was encouraging and having both goalies playing well is the best situation for Seattle moving forward but for now, it appears Jones is the guy.
Are the Kraken a playoff team?
With Tuesday’s win, the Kraken improved to 25-12-4 and 54 points. They are only two wins away from matching their total wins from last season and are in third place of the Pacific Division. A closer look at the standings brings better news, however.
Seattle is two points behind the Los Angeles Kings for second but has four games in hand and a higher point-earned percentage. The Kraken are four points behind division-leading Vegas with two games in hand.
They continue to bank valuable points and are in a great position to make a run at a playoff berth.
The games in hand are great but the Kraken will need to take advantage of those points for them to become meaningful, just like they did Thursday in Boston.
At the halfway point of the season, the Kraken lead the division with a plus-25 goal differential. They are 8-4-2 within the Pacific which is a far cry from last season’s 6-20 mark.
They are a positive possession team who takes over 52 percent of the shot attempts per game at 5-on-5 and are averaging just over a goal per 60 minutes more than they are allowing.
Those numbers all add up to a team that is playing well and should maintain the levels to make their continued success a reality. As long as they keep playing defensive-minded hockey.