Kraken’s Tough Final Stretch of the Season Is Underway

There are two types of schedule watchers (minus the fans) at this time of the year in the NHL. One is the bottom-feeders in the league – the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, who are counting down the games they have left in the season and how quickly they can get on the golf course. The other are those teams in a playoff position or playoff hunt, like the Seattle Kraken. This is unfamiliar territory for the Kraken, but territory they will gladly take.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Regardless of a playoff berth or not, what has defined the Kraken’s season already is just how much better they are than they were in their first year in the league in 2021-22. The numbers were awful, but expected. They didn’t scoreboard watch for most of the season or had any interest in what teams were doing over the last month because they were never in a playoff spot. They ended the campaign with a record of 27-49-6, good for 60 points. They finished 37 points behind the Nashville Predators for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Seattle’s last game was May 2, 2022, which was a 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets and depending on where each player lived geographically, it was all about making “tee-times” after that. No blame was cast, not even to first-year head coach Dave Hakstol. Golf was next, but not this year.

What’s Ahead for the Kraken

Starting Tuesday, March 21, the Kraken have 13 games left over the final 24 days of the regular season. Of the 13, seven will come against teams in a playoff spot with a combined 194 wins. The other six are versus clubs outside of the playoff picture with 173 losses between them. Seattle currently sits in the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 83 points. They have one game in hand on the Edmonton Oilers who the Kraken are chasing for third in the Pacific Division, and although the Winnipeg Jets are only two points back of Seattle in the wild-card race, the Kraken hold two very big games in hand.

Related: Oilers’ Potential Pacific Divisional Playoff Matchups Ranked

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Here is what the Kraken have through the end of March. On Tuesday they face the Dallas Stars, then on Thursday they play the first of a back-to-back against the Predators with both games coming inside Bridgestone Arena. They then conclude the month with a game on the 27th against the Minnesota Wild and wrap it up on Thursday, March 30, versus the Ducks.

Dave Hakstol Seattle Kraken
Dave Hakstol, Head Coach of the Seattle Kraken (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Of these five games, four are against three teams that are in a playoff spot. Overall the Kraken haven’t faired that badly against these clubs, going a combined 4-2-2 in the eight meetings combined. In April, they will play eight games spanning 13 days, with only three coming against playoff teams. They will play the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, April 1, then tangle with the Arizona Coyotes (who they have yet to play this season) in one of three games with them in the month on April 3. The next night they will face the Vancouver Canucks before meeting the Coyotes again on April 6. Then, they return home for a meeting on April 8 with the Blackhawks before playing the Coyotes “again” on April 10.

The last two games are huge: a home-and-home set with the Vegas Golden Knights on April 11 and 13. The Kraken’s combined record against the Kings, Canucks, Golden Knights and Blackhawks is 6-3-1, which like their record against the clubs they play in March isn’t that bad. However, it is deceiving.

Tight Games

In digging a little deeper into the Kraken’s season record against their remaining opponents, most of the games have been very tight, which creates some concern moving forward. For example, in the three games against Vancouver, they scored 15 goals and allowed 12. They have played the Ducks three times and while the Kraken found the net 14 times, Anaheim found Seattle’s net on 12 occasions. Then, against the Blackhawks, it was 12 goals for and 10 against. So, that’s 33 goals against in eight games versus three teams who are in the bottom third of the standings.

Philipp Grubauer, Seattle Kraken
Philipp Grubauer Seattle Kraken (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Against the better teams, the Kraken have held their own. They beat the Predators 5-1 in their lone meeting on Nov. 8. In two games versus the Wild, they scored four goals and allowed one. Seattle is 3-0 this season against the Kings, outscoring them 16-11. They split both games against Vegas, scoring six and allowing seven, and gave up nine goals to the Stars in two meetings while scoring five. In summary, that’s 36 goals for and 29 goals allowed versus clubs sitting in playoff spots.

The problem with all this is that the team is allowing too many goals, especially against the Canucks, Ducks and Blackhawks. If this trend continues in their three upcoming meetings in April against the Coyotes, the Kraken are going to be in trouble. Hakstol has gone with Philipp Grubauer far more often than Martin Jones and based on this, it seems pretty clear this is Grubauer’s net the rest of the way. In his last five starts, the 31-year-old has won only two of them and those came against the Ducks and Sharks. The other three were close. He was in goal during their 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on March 9 and then two nights later on March 11 lost 4-3 to the Stars in overtime. His most recent outing was a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers on March 18.

Again, the Kraken are scoring goals, but they are also giving up too many. They sit fifth in the league with a 3.48 goals per game average, but 16th in goals against per game at 3.19. The only other team in a playoff spot with a worse average is the Kings at 3.20.

There are 26 points left on the table for the Kraken. They need as many as they can to secure a playoff spot. It will be challenging and they do have some easier games left on the schedule, but those ones can sometimes be the hardest to win.

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