With the Seattle Kraken’s 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils last night, the expansion franchise watched their record drop to 1-3-1. Through the first five games of the season, the Kraken have been outscored 11-19 and are quickly losing ground in what is shaping up to be a competitive Pacific Division. Now, it’s still early, and there are 75 games left to play before the regular-season transitions to the playoffs, but warning signs are blinking feverishly. With that being said, here are three takeaways and observations from last night’s defeat.
Daccord Busy in Kraken Debut
Backup goaltender Chris Driedger was placed on Injured Reserve (IR) prior to the game, meaning that Joey Daccord made his first appearance in a Kraken uniform in his place. Unlikely to feature heavily under normal circumstances, the former Ottawa Senators netminder made the most of his opportunity.
Daccord stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced, keeping Seattle in the game until Pavel Zacha iced the victory with an empty-net goal. As Driedger will miss at least ten games due to the rules of IR placement, Daccord should accrue a few more starts to relieve starting goaltender Phillip Grubauer. If he can maintain his solid level of performance, the Kraken will remain competitive in most of their upcoming matchups.
Defense Struggles to Uphold Reputation
After the expansion draft and free agent frenzy, much was made of the Kraken’s collection of defensive talent. For a team lacking reliable offensive weapons, suppressing the chances created by their opponents is the key to success in their inaugural season. Defensemen Adam Larsson and Jamie Oleksiak, in particular, were heralded as pillars of Seattle’s chance-prevention strategy. Unfortunately, their stellar reputation has not matched their on-ice results thus far.
At five-on-five, the Kraken conceded 18 high-danger chances (shots from in and around the slot) to the Devils, only accumulating nine of their own. Consequently, the Devils controlled over 58% of the expected goals (a barometer of chance quality) share, with a dominant first period (68% xGF%) setting the tone for the rest of the game.
The loss continued an unsettling trend of allowing scoring chances at an alarming rate. Their expected goals against (xGA) per-60-minute rate ranks 23rd in the NHL at five-on-five, and their propensity to concede scoring opportunities and high-danger chances (both 24th) does not bode well for future success. If the Kraken are to fix their porous defense (27th in goals-against per-60), head coach Dave Hakstol must revamp the team’s defensive scheme, and better insulate his goaltenders.
McCann Makes Magic
Although presumed first-line center Yanni Gourde made his season debut, McCann’s strong start to the year casts doubts on which player will be leaned on most heavily. After another goal on the power play, center Jared McCann boosted his bid for continued deployment on the Kraken’s primary scoring units.
Through five games, the former Pittsburgh Penguins forward is tied for the team lead in goals (3) and paces Seattle with five points, two more than Brandon Tanev in second. After a breakout season of 32 points in 43 games with the Penguins last year, this offensive explosion comes as no surprise. With greater offensive responsibilities and more playing time, McCann should continue to drive the Kraken’s attacking impetus.
Next game vs. Vancouver Canucks (1-2-1)