How about them Kraken?!
The Seattle Kraken are currently enjoying the longest winning streak in franchise history. They’ve won four straight and five of their last six going back to before Halloween. They haven’t lost a game by more than one goal since October 17. In short, they look like an actual, real, good NHL squad. It has been delightful.
The difference between last year’s team and the team this season is stark to anyone who spent significant time watching both iterations of Kraken hockey. Goaltending was obviously a big issue last year, but the offense didn’t do them any favors either. Both have turned it around in a big way early on in 2022.
A common refrain throughout their inaugural season was “if the Kraken can just get league-average goaltending...” implying that barring the unexpected collapse of Philipp Grubauer, Seattle would be a decent hockey team that wouldn’t finish in the bottom-5 of the entire NHL. Well, they’re getting league-average goaltending now and wouldn’t you know it, the wins are now starting to pile up. Over these past four games specifically, Kraken goaltenders (three games of Martin Jones, one of Joey Daccord) have saved nearly 4 goals over expectation.
While this is obviously a huge boon for the team, it’s worth noting that the goaltending hasn’t even quite gotten back to average over a longer stretch of time. In their last nine games — during which time the Kraken have gone 6-2-1, mind you — the goaltending performances have combined for a .905 save percentage (19th in the NHL over that span) and -1.5 goals saved above expectation (21st over that span). They don’t even have to get league average goaltending, they just need near league average goaltending and they can stay competitive with anyone.
Offense: They score goals now!
The Kraken had a finishing problem last year. They didn’t generate a ton of chances relative to their peers, and the chances they did get just couldn’t seem to find the back of the net. With that in mind, general manager Ron Francis went out and added André Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand to the lineup, and with Matty Beniers picking up right where he left off at the end of last season, this group is different. Finishing is now a strong suit.
Seattle ranks 9th in the NHL in goals scored per 60 minutes (all situations) and has the sixth-best team shooting percentage in the NHL. Last year they finished 28th and 27th in those two stats, respectively. It is incredibly fun to watch a team that knows how to finish, and the fact that they’re doing it with guys up and down the lineup is huge when you’re trying to project the season moving forward. Bjorkstrand and Burakovsky playing alongside Alex Wennberg has been a revelation of late at 5-on-5, but the actual goals are coming in bunches from the depths (pun intended) of the forward group.
That angle Morgan Geekie how. pic.twitter.com/lxF6OXwHSA— Alyssa Charlston (@Alyssacharlston) October 30, 2022
Morgan Geekie has been lighting it up like it’s his first career game all over again. He’s 4th on the team with four goals despite playing only 10 minutes per night. Daniel Sprong is a few games behind as he dealt with some visa issues early on, but he’s also already notched a pair of goals with equally limited ice time. Brandon Tanev buried the game winner against his former team on Saturday and Yanni Gourde, after a slow start, now has 7 points in his last 6 games.
We here at Davy Jones’ Locker Room have spent our fair share of time analyzing the ice time of rookie Shane Wright. And while it can be frustrating at times to see the 4th overall pick getting single-digit minutes and being a semi-regular healthy scratch, it’s hard to argue that the four lines head coach Dave Hakstol has been employing aren’t the best four lines the team has right now. Taking Morgan Geekie out of the lineup would be madness at this moment in time. Wright is averaging 7 minutes per night, but that has increased with each game played recently, and ideally a full season playing limited minutes at the NHL level will be better for him than dominating juniors once again.
The other rookie watch to focus on is that of Matty Beniers and his Calder Trophy chase. As of this writing, Beniers leads all NHL rookies in scoring with 9 points, and has a positive expected goal percentage at 5-on-5 to boot.
Beniers has multiple 3-game point streaks under his belt already this year. According to DrafKings, he’s now the favorite to win the Calder Trophy at +380 (fellow Michigan alum Owen Power is at +1200 right now). He’s done just about everything one could want from a 2nd overall pick and shows no signs of slowing down. He could be a part of a really unique and exciting time for sports in the city of Seattle.
Seattle has a legit chance for Julio, Matty Beniers, Kenneth Walker and Tariq Woolen all to win rookie of the year awards in the same season. That's insane— Luke (@mariners_luke) November 7, 2022
The Kraken have a couple very winnable games this week against Nashville and Minnesota before a challenging stretch against the Rangers, Kings, and Jets. Let’s see just how long they can keep this franchise-record winning streak rolling.