When looking at the Seattle Kraken and their forwards, one thing jumps off the page: the fact that no name sticks out. Their team shows a lack of elite power on offence. The defence and goaltending rank up among the best in the league in both talent and depth, but the same just can’t be said of the forwards. So, ahead of the season, it seemed clear that they would need to win a lot of tight, low-scoring games. Now with two games under their belt, their identity looks to be taking shape. The Seattle Kraken identity, to no one’s surprise, appears to be patience, responsible play and opportunism.
Seattle Kraken Identity
Through two contests thus far, the team is 1-1-0. They scored seven goals and gave up the same total in those matches. That comes out to 3.5 goals per game (both for and against). Over a full season, that ranks near the high end for both goals for and goals against.
Granted, we’re discussing a two-game sample size. The odds go against this pace being the norm for the full season. Philipp Grubauer certainly wouldn’t be pleased, as his .883 save percentage currently surely will rise. He looked great in the third period against the Nashville Predators to seal the franchise’s first-ever victory. However, analytics show him without a “quality start” thus far.
Anyways, right now they don’t seem to embody the “tight game” expectations so many had for the team. A closer look tells the story more completely.
Game 1: 4-3 Loss vs. Vegas Golden Knights
The NHL pitted the newbies against one another in the first night of the 2021-22 season. In the end, the 32nd franchise lost by a goal to the 31st franchise.
Seattle stormed back from a 3-0 deficit in the final 30 minutes of the game though, tying it up at 3-3 in the third. Vegas countered just 35 seconds later though, on a controversial goal many fans thought was kicked in. The referees reviewed it and determined no “distinct kicking motion” occurred, though many disagreed with the call. Sadly, Seattle wound up losing by that goal.
Without the kick-in, Grubauer stopped 26 of the other 29 shots he faced. Seattle killed all four of Vegas’ powerplays as well, though failed to convert on any of their four attempts either. Vegas remains one of the best teams in the league, and Seattle hung with them all night. They outshot the Golden Knights 31-30, and outhit them 33-26. The grit displayed in the comeback effort bodes well, especially this early in the season. A couple of notable moments: Ryan Donato scored the franchise’s first-ever goal, and Morgan Geekie scored the third goal with an unbelievable snipe from the outside circle past Robin Lehner.
Game 2: 4-3 Win vs. Nashville Predators
The matchup against Nashville wound up going Seattle’s way, and featured another come-from-behind effort. The team gave up another early lead to its opponent, but this time began the comeback much earlier. Jared McCann and Brandon Tanev each potted a powerplay goal in the first, giving the team its first lead in history. Nashville tied it at two-a-piece with a powerplay goal of their own in the second, but Alex Wennberg reclaimed the lead five minutes later. His goal came on a slick feed from Alex Barre-Boulet in his debut, no less.
Tanev notched his second into an empty net, which also counted as one of their only two shots on goal in the third period. Grubauer and the defence weathered the storm throughout the final frame. Though Mikael Granlund broke through a minute after Tanev’s empty-net goal, it proved to be too little too late. Seattle hung on to win the night.
Themes in Both Games Show a Seattle Kraken Identity
In game one, Seattle got caught early by one of the best teams in the league. It wasn’t a shock, considering the COVID-19 situation that played out prior to the debut, increasing the tension and uncertainty of the day. But they held in there, showing off the surprising maturity and patience of the brand-new team. Outshooting Vegas is no easy feat, even if it was only by one shot. The Knights also blocked 19 shots to Seattle’s 11 blocks, so the shot attempts favoured Seattle by a wider margin too.
Handling adversity is a great sign. Killing four penalties against a lethal offence is, too. And getting an opportunistic game-tying goal in the third period from a depth forward? Remember, they only lost this game by a controversial kick-in. Seattle could just as easily be undefeated right now.
In game two, Seattle got caught early again but regained focus faster than before. This is another positive, as they seemed to have an answer earlier than later this time around. Plus, they went two-for-two on the powerplay, an important breakthrough that puts their man advantage at a high-40% to date. That will surely dip, as surely as Grubauer’s numbers will rise. Their penalty kill sits at 80%, too. That gives them the 10th-best power play thus far, and the 12th-best penalty kill.
Special Teams, Grit a Key to Kraken Success
Keeping their special teams’ numbers in the top half of the league will go a long way for this club. Again, they are without any superstar scorers. They need contributions when opportunities present themselves, as they did against Nashville, to earn victories. And they need responsible team play, as they showed against Vegas, to hang around and have a chance to win every night.
Head coach Dave Hakstol looks to have this team focused pretty well for only two games of experience as a group. Anything can happen going forward, but the signs early show maturity many didn’t anticipate. The goaltending will improve; if the offence by committee holds up, they’ll win more often than not.