Welcome to this edition of our Seattle Kraken 3 Up, 3 Down column. In this series, we look at some of the highs and lows of Seattle’s recent play. From the play of prospects to storylines surrounding the NHL franchise, The Hockey Writers is your go-to place for all things Kraken.
As the Kraken hit the stretch run of the season, playoffs are on their mind as they close in on the first postseason berth in franchise history. They have started off March strong with nine points in seven games and once again find themselves near the top of the Pacific Division standings. Here is a breakdown from the first 14 days of March.
Plus One: Jared McCann Continues To Light The Lamp
Since he put on a Kraken jersey for the first time, all Jared McCann has done is produce. In his first seven games of March, he has six goals and has now established new career season highs in goals (33) and points (52) in a season. He also recently passed the 125-goal mark and 250-point mark for his career all before his 500th game. A contender for team MVP at the end of the season, the 26-year-old is already living up to the five-year, $25 million contract he signed last March.
Related: Kraken’s Beniers, Dunn and McCann Are Team MVP Favorites
Since the calendar flipped to 2023, McCann has been one of the best goalscorers in the league. He sits tied for 13th with 23 goals, and his 20.7 percent shooting percentage during that time is higher than Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Kirill Kaprizov and David Pastrnak. He is having a season to remember and will be leaned upon heavily as the Kraken make their final push for the playoffs.
Minus One: Once Again, Goaltending Is A Problem
As it has been for the entire season, the Kraken’s goaltending has been a problem through the first seven games of March. Despite Seattle allowing 26.4 shots per game, the team is averaging 3.43 goals against per game, with neither Philipp Grubauer nor Martin Jones posting a save percentage above .900. With the playoffs on the horizon, this is an issue that needs to be sorted out if the Kraken want to avoid a short exit from the postseason.
The Kraken are getting lucky right now because they are finding ways to win despite goaltending. The issue is they won’t be playing teams like the Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets in the postseason and instead will have to contend with teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings. With 15 games remaining on the schedule, one of Grubauer or Martin needs to find a way to kick their game into high gear and solidify themselves as a stable starter for the postseason run.
Plus Two: Vince Dunn, The Point Machine
Just as he has all season, Dunn is putting up points left, right and center, with one goal and 10 assists in his last 11 games. So far this season, he has set new career highs in assists (44) and points (55) while also tying his previous career high in goals with 12. He also became the first player to hit 70 assists with the franchise and is just 10 points from hitting 100 for his Kraken career.
Related: Kraken Are in a Win-Win Situation with Vince Dunn
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One area of Dunn’s game that has been very impressive this season is that he is getting more involved in the offence. He is recording primary assists at double the rate he was last season and looks less nervous when the puck is on his stick. His development this season has been very encouraging as he starts to mould into the number one defenceman Seattle pictured him becoming when they selected him in the Expansion Draft.
Minus Two: Kraken’s Faceoff Issues
Faceoffs have been an issue for the Kraken throughout the season, with the first seven games of March being no exception. Over that time, they have a 42.9 percent win rate, which ranks 29th in the league. It doesn’t matter what zone the faceoff is in; they are below 45 percent in all situations except on the power play, where they are 50 percent in the faceoff dot.
Just like the goaltending, this has been an issue all season that the Kraken need to work on going into the postseason. Faceoffs do play an important part in the game, as winning gives teams a better chance at gaining possession and creating a play. If Seattle can work on faceoffs and get themselves around the 50 percent mark over the next 15 games, it will make them a stronger team in the playoffs.
Plus Three: Coachella Valley Continues Their Fine Form
The Coachella Valley Firebirds have been one of the best stories in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season. They have gone 4-2 through the first half of March and could clinch a playoff spot as early as March 15, 2023. Not only have they dominated in their inaugural season, but they are also Calder Cup contenders who could also be crowned regular season champions depending on how they do over their last 17 games.
Related: Kraken Monthly: Sprong, Firebirds, Jackson & More
Led by Dan Bylsma, Jessica Campbell and Stu Bickel, the Firebirds have exceeded all expectations this season. Their offence is thriving, their defence is one of the best in the league, and they now have one of the strongest goaltending tandems in Joey Daccord and Chris Driedger. Expect plenty of excitement in the desert over the next few months as Coachella Valley has turned into a must-visit spot for all hockey fans since their inaugural home game back in December.
Minus Three: Outside Of Dunn, No Offence From The Blue Line
While Dunn has been racking up the points this month, the rest of the Kraken’s blue line has been rather quiet. Of the other seven defenders to have played at least one game, only Jamie Oleksiak has scored while Justin Schultz is the only defenceman to post more than a single point over the seven games. To make things worse, only two of the five assists generated are primary assists showing that not only is the defence not contributing offensively, but they also aren’t even getting involved when a goal is scored while they are on the ice.
Depth scoring and points from the blue line are keys to long-term success in the NHL. While the Kraken’s defence has been pretty good so far in contributing points, there has been a decline as the season progresses when it comes to everyone except for Dunn. While they have been getting shots on goal, more engagement from the blue line is needed and could help make this Kraken team better, well-rounded headed in the playoffs.
Plenty Of Games Against Playoff Teams Left In March
With seven games remaining in the month of March, the Kraken will be able to test themselves as five of those matchups are against potential playoff teams. If they have eyes on the Pacific Division crown, they will need to go 5-2 at a minimum while beating the Oilers in regulation on March 19, 2023. While they haven’t officially secured a postseason spot, a strong March will all but solidify their spot in the 2023 Playoffs.