The Kraken haven’t won a game since Dec. 14 in San Jose. They had four games postponed in that stretch but have lost four in a row since, gaining just a single point in an overtime loss to Philadelphia.
They enter the new year in the basement of the Pacific, not where anyone expected they would be at this point in their first season. It’s not like they’re playing horrible; the loss to Philly went to overtime, and against both them and the Flames the past two nights, they blew leads and gave up goals right after tallies of their own.
If anyone had answers to what the Kraken need to do to be better, they probably would be. Here’s some thoughts on the past week of Kraken hockey.
Secondary scoring concerns
It’s never a good sign when the Kraken mostly get goaltending and a strong defensive effort and still can only muster two goals.
Brandon Tanev and Ryan Donato, two of the top six Kraken scorers, have been out this week; Tanev isn’t going to come back at all this season. Against the Flyers, they held them to 22 shots and could only generate two tallies; one came from defenseman Jeremy Lauzon after he had a goal called back for goalie interference earlier.
If the Kraken are going to string wins together, they need a lot more from players not named Yanni Gourde, Jordan Eberle, Jared McCann and Jaden Schwartz. Calle Jarnkrok got on the board Thursday. They scored four goals in that game but lost for other reasons, like giving up goals right after scoring and poorly timed penalties.
Joonas Donskoi hasn’t scored all season. Alexander Wennberg is on pace for a quiet eight tallies. Morgan Geekie has reached a career-high 10 points but has added only three goals. Marcus Johansson has six points.
The Kraken are finding creative ways to lose, and it’s not just the offense to blame. It might not even be the biggest issue. But if the Kraken want to climb out of a seven-losses-in-eight-games rut, they are going to need more consistency throughout the lineup, especially without Tanev.
The Will Borgen era?
The Kraken blue line hasn’t been set in stone at any point, but Will Borgen keeps earning himself more looks.
This week, it seemed like the Kraken might be short-handed on defense before three players returned from COVID protocol. Borgen ended up playing back-to-back games with seven defensemen available.
He’s made the most of his limited time. After not playing in the first 21 contests, December has been a solid showcase for the 25-year-old.
Against the Flyers he had a monster shift blocking shots and making hits in the third period; against the Flames, he made a near-170-foot stretch pass to McCann for a breakaway with one of the better offensive instinctive plays from a Kraken defenseman all season.
Also against the Flyers he had a shift where he generated three consecutive shots in the same possession Lauzon eventually tied the contest. He’s not a Norris candidate or anything, but he’s sure made the most of his seven games. They don’t lose anything when he’s in the lineup, and perhaps he’s someone they can build on.
Vibe checking the lineup
While Borgen has been a bright spot, Haydn Fleury doesn’t seem to have much favor right now.
He’s played just 17 games and has been the odd-man-out more often than not in recent weeks. He’s played just five games since the start of December, including against the Oilers on Dec. 18 when they were short-handed.
Seattle has some decision-making to do on defense. There’s the possibility they move Mark Giordano to a contender for some assets, but one has to wonder where Fleury fits in. He’s not playing in Seattle much and has been apparently usurped by Borgen. They have Ryker Evans waiting in the wings for next season; Jeremy Lauzon is, like Fleury, a RFA this offseason.
Meanwhile, Colin Blackwell was a healthy scratch during the Florida trip at the end of November and then he sat for two games after scoring a game-winning goal against the Oilers, and it seemed like he might not get a hold on a consistent lineup spot. Since coming back from COVID protocol, he’s played two high-energy games.
He’s a guy who had a career year with the Rangers and the Kraken had penciled in to up his numbers again this year. He was hurt to start the season, but an immediate spark when he returned. Now that Tanev is out, they probably would like to see him become that bottom-six energy forward who has the ability to score like a middle-six forward.
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