The NHL season just began, but already plenty of action took place its first week. Some fan bases sit puzzled or frustrated with their teams through their first couple games. Others see reasons for more optimism than anticipated just weeks earlier. Teams all begin the season on level ground, with an equal opportunity laid before them. Regardless of prediction models or betting odds, players league-wide step onto the ice each night with the same goal in mind. Winning games, scoring goals, making saves, executing on the little things…everyone has a clear slate and want to make the most of it. And for the Seattle Kraken, offence leads the way and offers plenty of reason for excitement in the Pacific Northwest.
Excitement in Seattle Led by Kraken Offence
In their first three games this year, the Kraken went 1-1-1. That record matches what they accomplished in their inaugural season a year ago. In those three games in 2021-22, they got outscored 9-8. This year, they’ve been outscored 11-10. All of that said, the general vibe surrounding the club right now feels a lot stronger than it did last season.
Beyond their record and scoring alone, other predictive numbers tell a far more exciting story. The Kraken hold a stronger set of advanced statistics this time around, with a 52.9% Corsi-for percentage. They outshot Anaheim 48-27 despite losing 5-4 in overtime. Then the Kings outshot them marginally (22-27) while Seattle pulled out the 4-1 win. In their home opening 5-2 loss, they still outshot Vegas 33-30. That comes out to a 103-84 shot advantage.
Last year, those same predictive statistics told a different story. Instead of advantages, Seattle ran deficits. They trailed their opponents in shooting by a count of 77-85. Their Corsi-for percentage sat worse too, unsurprisingly. Over the entirety of the season, they managed a 50.7% Corsi-for, basically on level ground with their opponents on an average night.
Kraken Offence Led by New Faces
Leading the team in scoring, Matthew Beniers snagged four points in these first three games of the season. Though he did play with the club briefly at the end of last season, it is safe to dub him a “new face”. This counts as his rookie season, after all. But beyond Beniers, the other new faces jump off the page too. Andre Burakovsky, fresh off a Stanley Cup Championship with the Colorado Avalanche, also collected four points in these first few games. Behind those two forwards, Jaden Schwartz rounds out the forward trio with at least one point per game, with three points. Then, another new forward, Oliver Bjorkstrand, grabbed two points.
The returning Kraken forwards now face competition for the top minutes they received regularly all year last season. That’s good news, as competition fosters a stronger on-ice product in most situations. Jared McCann, Yanni Gourde, and Jordan Eberle were the only three 20-goal scorers for Seattle last year. With those players still in the toolbox, Seattle now has at least one capable scorer on the ice nearly all game long.
Offence Contributions from the Blueline
The Kraken generate goals from their defencemen this season, too. In their first three games last year, all eight of their goals came from forwards. This year, Justin Schultz and Adam Larsson already have a goal apiece. Their willingness to rush up and join the play jumps out to viewers as a notable difference between this year’s club and last. Sure, it costs them some scoring chances going the other direction. But that might reduce the more the team gets comfortable to the more aggressive style. With the forward group they possess now, that comfortability should appear sooner than later.
Goaltending Still Up in the Air
Unfortunately, all that scoring goes out the window if they can’t keep the puck out of their own net. Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger struggled mightily last year, posting a league-worst -40.3 goals saved above (or below, in their case) average. Their team save percentage of .890% fell far below the NHL’s unwritten expected minimum .900% save percentage. Driedger turned things around towards the end of the year. But due to an offseason injury, he’s the one goalie unavailable to the Kraken for the foreseeable future.
Already this year, goaltending woes plague Seattle once again. Grubauer looked outright bad in his one start thus far, dropping a very winnable game to the Ducks. He surrendered five goals that night, and owns a .848% save percentage. That, without a doubt, will improve, as it really can’t get much worse.
But, new goaltender Martin Jones hasn’t fared much better. He helped Seattle win their one game, but looked really bad against Vegas in their home opener. He allowed five goals in two periods and wound up on the bench at the start of the third. Between Jones and Grubauer, Seattle already sits in the hole with a -3.9 goals saved above (below, again) average.
What this Means for the Future
The whole hockey world knows goaltending remains the “great equalizer” in this sport. A bad team can win on any given night, if they receive exceptional goaltending and/or face an opposing goaltender having an off night. With Seattle, this is where things have went wrong time and time again. Now, they’re spending significantly more on their roster and sit only $1 million away from the upper salary cap limit. With more money on the line, ownership and fans alike expect better results.
But if their goalies keep giving up goals they should save, the 2022-23 season will feel longer and harder than it did in 2021-22. And that season felt long and hard enough for Kraken fans. The excitement surrounding the team comes exclusively from the Kraken offence. Their defence, though thin, contributes to that excitement too. They should score plenty more than they did last year. Finding a goalie capable of keeping them afloat, though, remains a glaring need.
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