The last week in Kraken hockey had something that’s been missing — wins. The variety makes it easier to actually analyze what the Kraken have without the team being in full desperation mode.
Over the last two wins against the Hurricanes and Capitals to end the homestand, there were a few trends that started to benefit the Kraken. They still have a long way to go, entering Friday 10 points out of a playoff spot and several teams ahead of them with games in hand.
It’s a start, though. Here are some observations from the last week of Kraken hockey:
Marcus Johansson’s impact on the power play
It’s funny how the Kraken power play was such a polarizing topic the other way like a week ago. Suddenly, it’s been one of the most productive elements of their offense.
Since Marcus Johansson returned from an injury that kept him out since opening night, he’s tallied five points in eight games. His impact was immediate, nabbing a power play assist to snap a cold streak when the Kraken were in Vegas.
They still lost a bunch of games, but the power play has come alive and has been one of the reasons Seattle won two games to end the homestand.
“It’s been frustrating over the last few years with injuries and missing a lot of games. But there’s nothing to do about that,” Johansson said. “You look forward, and that’s the thing. When you get to play a few games and get back into a rhythm and also game shape, it does not matter how hard you work out and how hard you skate by yourself, there is nothing like playing the game.”
Johansson is already on pace for more than the 14 points he picked up in 36 games with Minnesota last year, and perhaps more than the 30 in 60 games with Buffalo before that. He’s not the same guy who produced 40-plus points a year between Washington and New Jersey, but he’s made a noticeable impact in Seattle in a quick period.
‘Sometimes, pucks just hit you’
The analytics community will tell you any sample size before 20 games has too many variables to be reliable. As the Kraken finish their 20th game Friday, there’s a few trends already regressing back to the mean, so to speak.
Philipp Grubauer’s early season struggles have been a head scratcher on the surface. One main difference in the two wins at home was his play, specifically making the timely saves when before those had been goals.
“Sometimes the puck just hits you,” he said. “You gotta get in position for sure and you gotta work for the really dangerous shots. … If you make some saves back there, the team has a chance to win.”
In some ways, he’s right; evaluating goalies is hard, and Grubauer has historically taken time to adjust to new systems.
Factor in the Kraken’s system didn’t exist even a few months ago, and, yeah, it’s going to take him some time.
That was time maybe the Kraken couldn’t afford, but given the funky start to the season across the league with COVID-19, injuries and scheduling, there’s still enough plenty of schedule left. Grubauer’s going to have to play like he did against Washington and Carolina, though.
Grubauer has mentioned offhand a few times since the preseason how he likes to see a lot of shots. In a weird way, that’s lined up with his better performances, even though he himself said allowing 35 shots a night isn’t sustainable. Seattle has allowed a league-low 27.1 shots per game, despite an NHL-low team save percentage.
“It’s a little bit tougher if you’re giving up one or two shots a period and that one shot might be a breakaway or a 2-on-1,” he said after the Carolina win. “It’s always harder, but on the other hand you can’t be giving up 35 or 40 shots every night. We’ve got to dial that down a little bit.”
Not that the Kraken need to let teams pepper Grubauer, but perhaps that stretch has set him in the right direction.
The Kraken rank second in the league in backhanded shots, and in the bottom five in tipped shots on goal. They are one of two teams that hasn’t tipped in a shot for a goal all season entering Friday, according to the NHL’s stats website.
The Kraken have worked on developing a stronger presence at the netfront, part of that being Johansson, but it’s something they’ve lacked so far. Just the Flyers also didn’t have a single tip-in entering Friday.
On the backhand, though, the Kraken have excelled. With 11 goals entering Friday, they were second in the NHL in scoring off the backhand. They were also second in the league with 68 attempts and eighth with a 16.8 shooting percentage.
Jordan Eberle is tied for second in the league with three by himself. Jaden Schwartz has two. He is also tied for third in the league with nine attempts. Only two Kraken players, Carson Soucy and Vince Dunn, haven’t attempted a backhander.
It’s pretty random, but it’s noticeable during Kraken games they excel on those looks. Next they could use getting some on tips in front, especially as a team that’s not about to win any barnburners.