Kraken forward Joonas Donskoi admitted Friday that being held goal-less through the first fifth of the regular season has been on his mind.
Donskoi potted 17 with the Colorado Avalanche last season and had been looked at as one of several potential 20-goal men for the Kraken when selected in July’s expansion draft. But while he’d notched six assists heading into Friday night’s game against his former club, Donskoi was still seeking to find the back of the net for the first time in the Kraken’s 17th game.
“I’ve been getting enough looks, that’s for sure,” Donskoi said. “I just have to kind of get it over with and get the first one out of the way and I’m going to start rolling here.”
The MoneyPuck advanced analytics website showed Donskoi as of Friday with an expected goals total of 2.7, suggesting he’s getting chances that aren’t being converted. The differential between his expected goals and actual ones was the team’s biggest by a wide margin.
Had Donskoi converted those chances, he’d be on pace for roughly a 14-goal season.
“I think the last couple of games, I haven’t played good hockey,” he said. “So, I think I’m going to have to get back to creating more and all of that kind of stuff. I think it all starts by playing good both ways. You do good things defensively, you work hard, you forecheck, I think the puck is going to start bouncing your way.”
Donskoi has endured prolonged scoring slumps in prior stops in Colorado and San Jose.
“It’s kind of crazy how it goes,” he said. “Sometimes you just start scoring goals and everything feels easy. Everything just kind of slows down for you and you start playing better and seeing the ice better.
“So, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, actually,” he added. “Like, why is that? And what can I do better mentally to kind of not think about that and just play the game? I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it. I’m just trying to come to the rink every day and work hard. Get better every practice and work hard. I think that’s all you can do and trust that it’s going to come.”
Donskoi said he was looking forward to playing the Avalanche.
‘I’m motivated, for sure,” he said. “It was a good couple of years there, a lot of good memories. A bunch of good guys there and hopefully friends for life. It’s always exciting to play against your former team.”
Driedger gets second start
Kraken goalie Chris Driedger got his second start of the season against the Avalanche, which was somewhat surprising given teammate Philipp Grubauer spent the past three years in Colorado.
But the move also wasn’t a total shock given Grubauer has posted some of the NHL’s worst goaltending numbers in starting 13 of the first 16 games. His .877 save percentage was the league’s lowest among goalies with at least five games played while the advanced analytics say the 14 goals he’s allowed beyond what was expected is the worst of any netminder.
Driedger looked fine in an emergency relief appearance for Grubauer last month in Philadelphia — a game in which he also hurt his knee but finished the contest before sitting out two weeks. He looked shakier at times in his first start last week in a 4-2 road loss to Vegas.
And they didn’t start all that great Friday as Driedger allowed a hefty rebound on a Colorado power play and Jeremy Lauzon’s clearing attempt went straight to Andre Burakovsky, who buried it in a vacated net just 4:06 into the game. Less than three minutes after that, Valeri Nichushkin got a short-handed breakaway down the right side and snapped the puck past Driedger.
Nonetheless, coach Dave Hakstol said before the game Driedger needed to get into a game and felt he’d looked strong in recent practices. Hakstol was asked what, in particular, he’d seen in practice from Driedger.
“Every goaltender is a little bit different, their styles are different,” Hakstol said. “So, I’m not really looking for true technical things. I’ll leave that to (goaltending coach) Andrew (Allen) and to the goaltenders. But just his overall poise, presence in net. Looking comfortable. Those are all things that coming off a long injury and rehab process, they take time to work back towards.”
The Kraken initially selected Driedger from Florida in the expansion draft to be their No. 1 goalie. Then, after signing Grubauer away from Colorado soon after, the team indicated the pair would be used more along the lines of a true tandem than a starter-backup situation.
Kraken general manager Ron Francis said earlier this week that with Driedger healthy, the team would be managing the split of games between the pair more evenly going forward.
The Kraken entered play Friday having already lost more consecutive games than three of the previous five NHL expansion teams. Five straight defeats for the Kraken heading into the Colorado game had already surpassed a season-long three-game skid for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18 and four-game losing stretches for the Minnesota Wild in 2000-01 and the Nashville Predators in 1998-99.
The Kraken still have a ways to go to catch the 2000-01 Columbus Blue Jackets at eight losses in a row and the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers at a dozen consecutive defeats.
Incidentally, the record for consecutive losses by an expansion team — and any NHL squad, for that matter — is 17 by the 1974-75 Washington Capitals. That mark was later matched by the 1992-93 San Jose Sharks, but they were in their second season by that point.