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Kraken vs Panthers Preview: Playing for a feeling

Philipp Grubauer, left, defends the net against Panthers player Sam Bennett. To Bennett's right is Justin Shultz defending the play, and in front of all three is Yanni Gourde skating in towards netfront. The Kraken are in their reverse retro jerseys and Bennett is in a white away jersey
Photography provided by @Jennthulhu_Photos on Instagram

The Need to Knows

  • The Time: 7:00 pm PT / 10:00 pm ET
  • The Place: Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, WA
  • Where to Watch: ROOT Sports NW, Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+, Sportsnet+
  • Where to Listen: KJR 93.3 FM
  • Opposing Viewpoint: Litter Box Cats

Know Your Enemy

The last time the Kraken saw the Panthers, Florida was sitting with a pretty even record. It was still early into the season, though. Since then, the Panthers have jumped out ahead to a 17-8-2 record, good for 36 standings points and second place in the Atlantic Division. This is, after all, the team that made it to the Stanley Cup Final last season and fell short. The Panthers got a glimpse at what the ultimate glory could be like, and they want to chase it down again.

As for players to watch, Sam Reinhart sits as the undisputed leader in goals (17), assists (20), and points (37). Reinhart also just came off of being named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week, earning a goal and 7 assists over 3 games. This is in fact his third time being named a Star of the Week this year, so he’s playing really good hockey for the Panthers consistently this season.

Matthew Tkachuk is always a player to keep an eye on with his unique ability to blend physical play with good offense. Love him or hate him, he’s also the shot in the arm that this league needs, a star that’s actually marketable. So far this season, Tkachuk hasn’t had too many goals to his name—only 5—but with 15 assists, Tkachuk is setting up his teammates nicely.

As for special teams, the Panthers have the 18th best power play with an 18.8% success rate, and their penalty kill is 13th in the league with an 81.3% success rate. Compare this to the Kraken’s stats, which have the 17th best power play and the 22nd ranked penalty kill. While the Kraken have the slight advantage in power play skills, the Panthers’ better penalty kill will likely put that to the test.

Game Preview

The longest losing streak in Kraken history sits at 9 games, starting on December 15, 2021 and not being broken until a win against Chicago on January 17, 2022. (In double checking these dates, I was reminded of how many games during that stretch that were postponed due to COVID-19 and weather concerns. What a completely different world we were in that inaugural season…) A loss against the Panthers would tie that losing streak.

Now, if you, like me, are familiar with the 2017-2018 Philadelphia Flyers and how they made the playoffs in spite of a 10-game losing streak, you might begin to think to yourself “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” But usually teams that stew in defeat for this long don’t end up making it in. Looking at the picture right now, the Arizona Coyotes currently sit in the second wild card spot with 28 points. While it doesn’t feel like too a large gap to be down by only 5 standings points (the Kraken have 23), there are currently four other Western Conference teams above the Kraken knocking at the door trying to get in.

Oh, and the Kraken have played more games than all of those teams, meaning they all have more chances to earn wins.

That’s not to say that I think the Kraken’s strategy going into this game should be “Welp, time to tank!” The team has reached the point where the focus likely needs to change away from making the playoffs, but trying to instill winning habits back into the culture of the Kraken is still a must. The best thing for the Kraken in the long term is to not let their current ways become the norm.

Unfortunately, the Panthers aren’t exactly the kind of team for the Kraken to gradually build those habits back up against. Though who knows, maybe Seattle could break through for a win if they manage to score the first goal of the game. It’s not just an 8-game losing streak the Kraken are on, it’s also been 8 games where the other team scores first. Not that scoring first is a foolproof way to win a game (if it were, we wouldn’t need the full 60 minutes), but it’s a lot easier to win when you aren’t crawling out of a deficit.

Rebuilding winning habits require baby steps, and that starts now.

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