The Seattle Kraken have five games under their belt, and to quote New Jersey rock band, Bon Jovi, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” The timing of their matchup with the New Jersey Devils is fitting in how it lines up with this Bon Jovi tune.
Yes, it’s only been five games, but you still want to see progression. The Kraken appears to be stagnant. Here are three takeaways from the Kraken’s 4-2 loss to the Devils.
Rough Start Leads To Rougher Finish
In any sport, it’s hard to win games if you’re always playing from behind. The Kraken fall to 1-3-1 through five games, and in those five games, have given up the first goal in four of them. To make matters worse, in those four games, the first goal was scored less than 10 minutes into the game.
It’s not hard to see why the Kraken are giving up goals and being put in the hole early in games. They were outshot 14-7 in the first period by the Devils and 16-8 by the Flyers in a 6-1 loss the previous game. While it’s a silver lining that they won against the Nashville Predators, despite the one-goal deficit less than five minutes into the game, the Kraken can’t keep playing this way.
Goals are coming at a premium for the Kraken. They’ve scored just 11 goals through five games, an average of 2.20 goals per game, tonight being par for the course. Their two goals in the first period this season are their least of any period. They have seven goal scorers, five registering a lone goal, and none of them named Jordan Eberle or Jaden Schwartz.
Getting depth scoring is good. Riley Sheahan scored against the Devils at even strength, but aside from Jared McCann (five points in five games), the “big guns” for the Kraken have been firing blanks. Since the Kraken aren’t scoring early, they absolutely cannot allow themselves to be outshot so egregiously early in games.
Power Play Problems
Being that it’s early in the season, power-play percentages are going to be inflated. The Kraken power play is firing at 20% in five games to start the year. However, that 20% came from just three goals in 15 attempts and scored in only two games.
Against the Devils, McCann scored his second power-play goal of the year on a 5-on-3. It was the only Kraken power-play goal in five attempts. McCann, captain Mark Giordano, Eberle, the newly returned Yanni Gourde, and Schwartz all spent a minimum of 4:44 on the power play, with Giordano and Gourde getting assists on McCann’s goal.
Being down early, the Kraken desperately needed their power play, and without it, they drowned. Since scoring two power-play goals in their second game, the Kraken has one in their last 10 attempts.
Would it be too knee-jerk to make some adjustments, being that Eberle and Schwartz are struggling to find twine? Probably. The Kraken need to find something that clicks to get those guys going, but it is early in the season and way too soon to make any serious changes. The Kraken have a lot of veterans who should be trusted in the early stages of the season to work themselves out of being snakebitten.
Kraken Embrace Physicality
When Kraken general manager Ron Francis selected players like Brandon Tanev and Jamie Oleksiak in the expansion draft, it was clear that they planned on being a physical team. Their physicality is on full display to start the year and was evident against the Devils.
Though tallying just 12 hits in the game, it brings the Kraken’s season total to 116, second in the NHL. Similarly, they’ve been racking up the penalty minutes, leading the NHL with 106, as of the writing of this article. To break it down, that’s 12 minors, six majors, five misconducts, and a bench minor. The six majors, being fighting majors, also lead the league, and three saw gloves flying in New Jersey.
Say what you will about fighting, these aren’t the center ice, staged fights of old. They’re organic. Players are fighting based on the context of the game, owning up for a bad play, protecting themselves, or standing up for their teammates. It goes to the closeness of the locker room that guys are already standing up when they need to, as evidenced by Ryan Donato fighting Jonas Siegenthaler following a high hit on Morgan Geekie.
While the fighting numbers may fall as the season goes on, don’t expect the physicality as a whole to follow suit. Physical play will be a Kraken staple, they have to make sure they’re smart about it.
These aren’t takeaways but recognition for a few players who stood out during the game. This edition goes to two players who made their Kraken debuts against the Devils.
Despite originally being projected to miss the first two months following shoulder surgery, Gourde made his Kraken debut against the Devils and tallied an assist in 22:25 ice time. He went 57% in the faceoff dot and wasn’t afraid to get in on any post-whistle action.
Joey Daccord made his first Kraken start and played well despite the loss. He stopped 29-of-32 shots, having to stand on his head for 29 shots through the first two periods and all six power-play shots he faced. It’s unclear how long backup Chris Driedger will be out for, and this was a decent first-showing for Daccord.
Home Sweet Home
The Kraken will have three days off as they head back to Seattle for their inaugural home opener against geographic rivals, the Vancouver Canucks. If the preseason was any indication, this will be a very entertaining game and rivalry. It’s a big game for the team and several individual players. Is it too early to call this a must-win?
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.