Adam Larsson was clearly struggling to find answers for what has gone wrong after the Kraken’s 5-2 loss to the Canucks on Saturday.
On Tuesday after practice, fellow defenseman Carson Soucy called it “deflating.”
The Kraken have allowed a goal within two minutes of scoring 10 times this season, including the past three games at home against Philadelphia, Calgary and Vancouver. They don’t know why it keeps happening, but they know it can’t continue.
“The time of those mistakes, kind of we’re in the stretch right now again where we score a big goal it seems that we’re kind of riding high but next shift, we kind of give up one and lose that momentum, and that’s hard to bounce back from,” Soucy said.
The Kraken (10-19-4), who have lost five consecutive games, were built to be a defense-first team, where the scoring might lag but be enough to win tight games. That’s been anything but how they have played their first NHL season.
A lot of their defensive woes can be attributed to goaltending, which is on pace for the NHL’s worst save percentage since the 1996 San Jose Sharks. They’ve allowed nearly 30 more goals against than expected.
Starting goalie Philipp Grubauer has not been good. Backup Chris Driedger hasn’t had many chances to develop consistency. It still doesn’t explain the timing of big defensive mistakes and goals allowed, specifically.
“It’s an issue. It’s been an ongoing issue, and that’s something that we’ve got to be better at,” Driedger said last week after a home loss to the Flames. “I don’t know exactly where that starts. But from my standpoint I’ve got to stop those pucks. That’s something that we’ve got to address as a team.”
Statistically, the Kraken defense isn’t bad. They allow the third-fewest high-danger chances against per 60 minutes in five-on-five play at 9.18. They are ninth-best at sopping quality shots, according to expected goals against. They’ve also played short-handed in recent games, with four regular defenders spending time in and recovering from COVID-19 protocol.
The timing of the goals allowed, though, has been especially bad.
“Trust me, we’re trying not to get scored on,” Larsson said after Saturday’s game. “It’s a hard league, and it’s something we really need to figure out. It’s been an issue for us. We have talked about it. We should expect the push. I don’t know, it’s frustrating.”
It has been an issue for the Kraken all season. In the season opener against the Golden Knights in Las Vegas, Seattle stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the score in the third period. Less than a minute later Vegas scored and went on to win 4-3. In a loss at Arizona in November, the Kraken tied the score with 1:18 left but allowed a Coyotes go-ahead goal 13 seconds later.
The next game, again in Las Vegas, the Kraken scored at the end of the second period and allowed a goal 15 seconds later.
Goaltending aside, the Kraken are not a bad defensive team, but the worst breakdowns are happening at the worst times.
“It’s just deflating,” Soucy said. “I mean the record, and it’s happened when it’s happened before, it just deflates your team a little bit. It’s hard mentally, you can say all the right things on the bench, you can try and stay positive about it, but it is deflating at any time in the game, and it’s just hard to bounce back from especially when other teams are so good and so competitive. You just kind of put yourself behind the eight ball, and that’s hard to do.”
Against the Canucks, avoidable mistakes were on display. On the first goal allowed, Kraken defenseman Will Borgen turned over the puck to Vancouver. On Conor Garland’s go-ahead goal, there was a miscommunication behind the net with the top defensive pair of Jamie Oleksiak and Mark Giordano.
After practice Tuesday, coach Dave Hakstol expressed the need for more urgency in practice. Echoing Soucy’s comment about the record being deflating, they hope use this week-plus off from game action because of COVID-19 postponements to address this issue.
On Saturday though, Hakstol said he didn’t think the quick score following a Kraken goal had cost them in that game. On Tuesday he cited mistakes and timing.
“For us right now, we’re not consistently there in games where there’s too many points in games where we’re making critical mistakes,” Hakstol said. “You can call them systematic, you can call them individual. They’re happening, and they’re happening too often. We have to get those out of our game.”
Defense is not the Kraken’s biggest issue. Statistically it is goaltending, and the lack of scoring hasn’t helped. The timing of goals against, though, has continued to plague them, and until they find a way to address that mentally or physically, that deflating feeling isn’t going away.