Nobody wins a Stanley Cup in November, but as Jordan Eberle said following the Vegas game last week, when it was just a two-game losing streak, a team can certainly fall out of the race.
That’s where the Kraken are, without a point since they defeated Buffalo five games ago. Since a loss to the then-winless Coyotes in Arizona, the Kraken have been in a downward spiral that’s hit four games.
It could be a lot worse. The Ottawa Senators had a six-game losing streak. The Coyotes still have just the single win. The Kraken are just nine points out of a playoff spot with 67 games to go, and that’s far from insurmountable.
But it could get worse for the Kraken. After playing Chicago on Wednesday, the Kraken schedule gets significantly more difficult. They face a Colorado team that’s been a Cup favorite for a few years, the iron of the league in the Capitals and Hurricanes, and back-to-back games with defending champion Tampa Bay and popular Cup pick Florida.
In any other time, coming out of that stretch with even just a few points would be impressive. The Kraken put themselves in a position where anything but success in this stretch will be dire straits. The time to push was against Arizona, a struggling Golden Knights team and the Ducks. Instead, they spiraled and now could find themselves out of the race by December.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Certainly, dramatic comebacks happen in the NHL more than any other league. In 2019, the St. Louis Blues were in last place and fired their coach; they went on to win the Stanley Cup.
No one expects that result per se, but that it has been done gives some hope. Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn was on that Blues team — along with Jaden Schwartz — so he’s seen a team respond after it seemed like it was all but over.
“I want to be a veteran guy here and bring that experience, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” Dunn said. “Everyone just needs to do their part and not worry about what has to be done outside of their shift. Just do your thing, do what you do well, and then the team can feed off each other and get rolling.”
That Blues team had to win 29 of their last 42 games and have an 11-game winning streak. That’s not something to bank on.
The frustrating element for the Kraken is they haven’t played too bad but not too well either. On Saturday, in the loss to Minnesota, the Kraken had a strong third period and pushed to make it a game, which Dave Hakstol reasoned was why they pulled Philipp Grubauer so early, to give that last fighting chance.
The Kraken have had bad starts for three games in a row after jumping out 2-0 in Arizona only to falter. They’ve given up big goals at bad times, from the final seconds in Arizona to the end of periods in Vegas to on two breakaways against Minnesota.
“I think this year we’re guilty of giving up the big one,” Mark Giordano said after Saturday’s game. “The big goal, the big breakaway or the big odd-man rush that costs us games.”
At some point it comes down to whether the Kraken have it in their toolbox to fix these issues. They’ve identified what’s going wrong, but as the schedule gets tougher, implementing fixes is more challenging. Hakstol spoke extensively after Saturday’s game about what a tough team Minnesota is to play against, and that was why the Kraken struggled early in that game.
If that’s the case, maybe this will just keep happening when they deal with Colorado and Carolina and Washington and Tampa Bay and Florida. But that’s the spot they’re in, and nine points out of a playoff spot and five behind Colorado — who will make a playoff surge, don’t be mistaken — they have to find ways to win, or it’s going to be too late.
They know that, too. “Find ways to win” might as well be the motto of the past few days. With what’s ahead of them, it’s fair to wonder if they’re able to.