In the past week and a half the Seattle Kraken have been giant killers. They took down the highly touted Carolina Hurricanes, stopped the Florida Panthers’ home winning streak in its tracks, and beat the Edmonton Oilers soundly, never trailing for a minute in the game. Then Monday night rolled around, and the Pittsburgh Penguins gave our team a dose of humility.
Philip Grubauer, who stopped 29 of 32 on Friday night, was chased from his net after three goals on the Penguins’ first 4 shots. And while Joey Daccord performed better, the team fell 6-1 to a Pittsburgh club that, while still competitive, is a far cry from the dominance of their dynasty days. So how did the Kraken lose so thoroughly, after proving they can go toe-to-toe with any club not named the Tampa Bay Lightning? The simple answer: That’s hockey baby.
Momentum and Competition
In most sports, teams can’t help but play to the level of their competition. The club that lost to the Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks is the same one that recently beat three of the league’s best. Injuries and illness aside, most of the same players were in all those games, and sometimes a hockey game just comes down to bounces.
Let’s look at Seattle’s first matchup against the Edmonton Oilers, back at the start of November. A 5-2 hammering that foretold of the struggles the club would face in November, but it was closer than the score suggests. Down only a single goal entering the third period, Seattle outshot and out-hit Edmonton but the Oilers managed two even strength goals to pull away and secure the victory.
Seattle has shown since their early November slide that they aren’t the Atlanta Thrashers, or the 1974-75 Washington Capitals. A healthy Kraken team, now with enough practice time behind them to steady their defense and special teams play, might not be a Cup favorite, but they can skate with any team in the league — and beat them as well.
But it all needs to work for the Kraken to find success, and on the nights where the goaltending delivers, the defense stay in their lanes, and the forwards find the back of the net, they win more often than not. But in hockey, as in life, things don’t always balance out. Grubauer wasn’t the only one to blame on the three pucks that got by him, but while he looked invincible for 60 minutes against Connor McDavid & company last Friday, on Monday he was sitting on the bench in less than five.
Something similar can be said about the Kraken’s offense. When things click, they score in bunches, potting seven against the Buffalo Sabres, five against the Capitals, and four on many other occasions. That should be enough to win most nights, so long as the rest of the team delivers. On nights like Monday where they only manage one goal, they need a heroic effort from the back end, and unfortunately Gruuuuu wasn’t up to the challenge against the Penguins.
The point of all of this is that the Kraken don’t need to blow things up like some suggested last month. They’ve proven they can compete, but we all know they won’t win every game. As players like Jordan Eberle, Mark Giordano and Jaden Schwartz return to the lineup, the offensive touch should return, and Grubauer, the former-Vezina nominee, will return to form. Soon enough, general manager Ron Francis is going to have to decide if he’ll be a seller or a buyer at trade deadline and I, for one, hope he’s at least kicking tires as a buyer.