Slumping Kraken Need to Get Back to Basics

After recording seven consecutive wins, the Seattle Kraken are in the midst of a slump that has seen them drop three games in a row. With a tough road trip underway, they’ll need to figure something out in order to keep pace with a chaotic Pacific Division.

The second through fourth spots in the Pacific are separated by just four points, meaning a rough stretch of games can put you at a severe disadvantage. Despite the rough patch, the Kraken remain in a divisional playoff spot and a good trip can put some distance between them and the other three teams.

Keep Shooting and the Goals Will Come

The goals may not be coming for the Kraken, but it isn’t for lack of trying. In their losses to the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens, they outshot their opponents by a combined total of 69-44. The exception to this was their Dec. 9 loss to the Washington Capitals, where they saw 38 shots while only recording 26 of their own.

Seattle Kraken Celebrate
Seattle Kraken Celebrate (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Kraken are doing a good job of getting the puck to the net, which bodes well for finding their way out of this rough patch. Consistent shooting typically reflects how much a team is carrying the puck, meaning they’re doing a good job of controlling possession. With their finishing talent, it’s hard to envision a stretch where they struggle this much for an extended period of time.

That seems very straightforward, but it’s true. According to JFresh, the Kraken still lead the league in goals scored above expected. That simply means they’re finishing at an extremely high rate, and despite recent struggles, they’re still a really talented team who can score a ton. As long as they don’t have repeat performances like the one against the Capitals, they’ll likely score their way out of this slump.

Grubauer and Jones Need to be More Consistent

Despite the better start, both Kraken netminders have slipped significantly. Even during their win streaks, the team often had to do a lot of work to outscore their opponents. In their past ten games, the Kraken have allowed four or more goals in six of those.

The 8-5 win over the San Jose Sharks and the 9-8 win over the Los Angeles Kings inflate the numbers a bit, especially when you realize that Martin Jones was the goaltender who allowed all 13 goals between those two games. After beginning the season with a .912 save percentage (SV%) through 13 games, four of his past five starts have been dreadful. Through his 18 starts, he now carries a .888 SV% and has dropped significantly in Money Puck’s goaltender rankings.

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Philipp Grubauer hasn’t seen much action since returning from injury, although his loss in the Dec. 9 game against the Capitals was not because of him, as he posted an impressive .944 SV% after allowing two goals on 36 shots. Overall, Grubauer has a .882 SV% in seven starts this season.

With above-average goaltending for the first quarter of the season, it hurts to see it plummet so much in the past few weeks. That being said, the blame cannot and should not be placed solely on the shoulders of the goaltending tandem. While they need to be more consistent, so does the defensive group in front of them.

The Kraken have struggled recently in keeping shots to the outside and subsequently allow the shooters to get a clear run at the goalie. Part of what made them successful earlier this season was limiting those inside shots while also cutting down on cross ice passes. Not only will tightening up help the goaltending, but it also allows the offensive group to settle in without needing four or more goals to win games.

Difficult Road Trip Ahead Should Be Motivation

Despite their recent struggles, a strong road trip against some of the NHL’s toughest teams would be a great way to re-assert the Kraken as a team to beat in the West. They may have opened the trip with a bad game in Washington, but they have a chance to put up some strong performances against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. They also have a chance to rebound against a Panthers team that just beat them 5-1.

Seattle Kraken Celebrate
Seattle Kraken celebrate (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It’s easy to pick apart the losses and focus on some of the goaltending woes, but overall it’s hard to be overly pessimistic about the start of the season. Even with the recent stretch, their 15-8-3 record has them sitting fifth in the Western Conference. They’re also coming off a month to remember, posting a 10-1-1 record in November. That should be enough to realize that they’ve done their part to show they belong with the best teams in the NHL.

That being said, you can only be the best once you beat the best. Pardon the cliche, but it’s true. Rebounding from their slump is the best way to get back into a groove and continue to climb in the standings. Even after this eastern swing, they find themselves in Winnipeg to play the Jets, a team who sits just four points ahead of them in the West.

The pieces are there to find their winning ways again, but they just have to get back to playing the game that has given them so much success this season. If they’re able to return to their November form, it’ll say a lot about how this team deals with adversity. Dealing with adversity like this down the stretch will give them a good chance to assert themselves as contenders in the Western Conference.

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