No longer a secret around the league, the Seattle Kraken look good this season.
In almost every way, the 2022-23 version of this franchise stands heads and tails above their 2021-22 inaugural team. As of this writing, Seattle sits second in the Pacific Division, behind the Vegas Golden Knights by just two points, with two games in hand on them. They also hold enough games in hand to catch both teams in the Central Division ahead of them in the standings. In terms of win percentage, Seattle actually lands first in the entire Western Conference, with a 26-12-4 record and 56 points.
Despite all this, the Kraken goaltending woes from last year continue plaguing them in this campaign. Their team improved enough to offset it thus far, but the underlying issue remains a major concern for the franchise in the future.
Seattle Kraken Goaltending Woes Flying Under the Radar
At first glance, the problems in net don’t jump off the page. Seattle’s record alone is enough to turn most heads away from scrutinizing much about the team. Even a closer look doesn’t change much.
Without context, Martin Jones looks like the team’s starting goaltender, with 31 games played. His 21-5-3 record feels practically elite, plus a 2.76 goals-against average and three shutouts seem solid enough, too.
Where an average fan may see the weakness is at the backup position. Philipp Grubauer currently holds a 4-7-1 record and 3.49 goals-against average. But, Grubauer has dealt with injury already this year, so maybe that could be offered as a light excuse.
Deeper Look at the Seattle Crease
Unfortunately, the eye test and the underlying advanced metrics both inspire more reason for concern than they do optimism. Start with Jones, who looks dominant regarding wins and losses. Despite regularly winning four out of five contests, he does so sporting a .895 save percentage.
He also only carries a .571 quality start percentage, well below his .681 win percentage. That means he delivers a quality start less often than a win.
Those stick out like a sore thumb, too. He already played 12 games in which he allowed four goals or more. Incredibly, he went 5-4-2 in those games, so he actually has a winning record in the games he allowed the most goals.
Jones allowed all eight goals in a wild 9-8 overtime win over the Kings in November. He also surrendered five in 8-5 wins versus the Sharks and Blackhawks. His goals saved above average mark remains bad, at -7.4. That means he’s already allowed 7.4 more goals than an average NHL goalie would be expected to at the halfway point of the season, based on the quality and volume of shots he’s seen.
Grubauer Furthers the Seattle Kraken Goaltending Woes
Unfortunately, Grubauer looks equally as shaky. Despite playing less than half as many contests as Jones, Grubauer already holds -7.2 goals saved above average. His .885% save percentage flat out stinks too, actually marginally worse than his abysmal .889% from last year.
And this makes the case so tough for Grubauer because he set the bar really low last season already. The franchise and its fans hoped for some level of a bounce-back campaign from the 2020-21 Vezina finalist. Unfortunately, he lost his starting job to another below-average veteran goalie.
The two together combine for major woes for the Kraken goaltending tandem. Their efforts land Seattle at 25th in team save percentage, at a bad .890% marker. They sit in the top ten in terms of fewest high-danger chances allowed, and their expected goals against rank third best in the league.
Despite that fact, they’ve given up the 16th-most actual goals against. The difference between expectations and reality remains disappointing for the goaltenders, even as they rack up wins.
Concerns for Kraken Future with Goaltending
As it looks, Seattle can withstand their problems in the pipes. At least, it should continue being doable for the rest of the regular season. After all, they got more than halfway through the season without a goaltender consistently providing .900% goaltending or better.
But, in the playoffs, that gets significantly more difficult. Opponents have extra time to study, learn, and adjust their game. Seattle, a team without postseason experience, may struggle in their first appearance.
The silver lining remains that Chris Driedger returns from his injury and could bring great goaltending. He did improve as the season wound down last year, though an ACL tear this summer may be tough to come back from easily. The prognosis initially came in at a seven to nine-month recovery window. The short end of that opened in January, so somewhere between now and March could see his return.
While that may be the solution, it also looms over the club in a weird way. They likely won’t make trades involving goaltenders because they don’t want too many or too few goalies. Though Jones and Grubauer have struggled, the team has continued winning.
Unless that changes, the team probably rides it out. Then, Driedger either improves the situation or leaves it as bad as it looks today. For a team playing with house money and exceeding expectations, this seems good enough. That said, it would be interesting to see how far this team could go with competent goaltending.
Embed from Getty Images