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This Kraken season once again hinges on goaltending

The great news for Seattle fans is that the Kraken look better this season. They’re scoring first, they’re scoring on the power play, they’re driving the play and they could easily be sitting at 3-0 right now. With the team’s new additions and promising rookies, the roster holes from 2021-22 have been filled and then some. There’s only one major question mark, goaltending.

The Kraken gave the game back to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night, coming away with a loser point in the overtime loss, and then guillotined the Los Angeles Kings the following evening. Saturday, versus the Vegas Golden Knights, they let it get away from them early. Aaaand then continued to let it get away for the rest of the evening.

Who’s in net?

Philipp Grubauer was amongst the first significant contractual commitments made by the Kraken in the summer of 2021. His six-year, $35.4 million contract was meant to put a giant checkmark next to the goaltending box on the roster sheet. He doesn’t hold all the blame for the inaugural results, but few would hold him blameless. The math suggests that he’ll bounce back this season, but his 0.815 save percentage in Game 1 looked awfully familiar.

The goaltending against the Kings was far better, with Martin Jones posting a 0.963 in the victory. That’s an unsustainable number naturally, but these early season standings points may play a significant role in determining playoff qualification, so the win was important. Jones earned himself a second start in a row versus Vegas, and while he made some nice plays, including stopping a penalty shot, he allowed 5 goals on 24 shots and Grubauer entered the net to begin the third.

It’s not about bad goals

Grubauer had a gaff against the Edmonton Oilers in the preseason where he fired a puck off Leon Draisaitl’s shin pad and into his own net. It was memorable, and certainly derailed a game the Kraken had a chance of winning, but it wasn’t what lost that evening. Jones certainly wants one or two of the Vegas goals back as well. Those goals can happen, and will happen to any goaltender, they just can’t be one of five on a night the team scores three. It all comes down to averages.

At the risk of sounding obvious, the team needs to score more goals than they allow. Grubauer, last season and in a very small sample size this year, has not provided an NHL average number of saves. His contract, and career history, suggest he’s capable of that at a bare minimum, but if he doesn’t find a way to do so, then the sunk cost might not matter to Kraken management. That could open a door for Jones, but it will be up to him to step through.

Jones was on a bad Philadelphia team last season, and on some post-contender Sharks teams in the years prior, but he hovered around .900 throughout. Behind better teams, his career numbers tend to climb. Assuming he has gas left in the tank at 32, it’s not such a stretch to imagine him getting back to his early career averages. The early impression is that this version of the Kraken has a real shot at a playoff berth. That possibility needs to factor into every decision over the coming months, especially in net.

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