Kraken can still turn season around if goaltending comes through

Seattle Kraken Goaltending
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In some ways, the Seattle Kraken has been exactly who we thought they would be this season. And in other ways, they haven’t been.

When their initial roster was assembled at the NHL Expansion Draft they had the look of a team that had a chance to be strong defensively, weak offensively, with decent goaltending that would give them a chance to win on most nights. Their money was spent on defense (Mark Giordano, Adam Larsson, Jamie Oleksiak, Vince Dunn) and goaltending where they signed a Vezina Trophy finalist (Philipp Grubauer) and one of 2020-21’s best backups who looked poised for a bigger role (Chris Driedger). If they were going to win and compete for a playoff spot, that was going to be the recipe: Strong defense, and stronger goaltending.

Through their first 16 games they have mostly had the defensive play down, and the offense has been about what was expected.

It is the goaltending that has not really provided what was hoped. Or anything close to it, really.

Following their 4-2 loss to Chicago on Wednesday night the Kraken’s goaltending trio of Grubauer, Driedger, and Joey Daccord has combined for an .871 all situations save percentage, last in the NHL, and an .868 5-on-5 even-strength percentage, also last in the NHL. Goaltending, as always, is the great equalizer in hockey and will elevate average teams to playoff status and take playoff teams and drop them to the lottery. No single position or player can impact a team more, and through the first quarter of the season Seattle is getting a very quick lesson in that reality.

It is especially eye-opening when you look at Seattle’s defensive metrics in front of the goalies where they consistently rank among the best, most efficient defensive teams in the league at both even-strength and in all situations.

A quick rundown on those numbers….

  • The Kraken allow the fewest 5-on-5 shots per 60 minutes (25.2) and in all situations per 60 minutes (25.6)
  • They allow the fewest 5-on-5 total shot attempts per 60 minutes (47.4) and in all situations per 60 minutes (47.0)
  • They allow the fewest 5-on-5 scoring chances per 60 minutes (22.2) and in all situations per 60 minutes (22.3)
  • In terms of expected goals against and high-danger chances against, they are in the top-five during both 5-on-5 play and all situations.

In other words, when it comes to limiting shots and chances, the Kraken have been one of the best teams across the board. The defense they invested so heavily in is, for the most part, doing what was expected of it, and maybe even better.

But a league worst save percentage can easily make all of that irrelevant.

The popular refrain in this type of situation always comes back to a quality vs. quantity argument in terms of the shots against. But it’s a simple fact that teams that allow the fewest shots tend to also allow the fewest goals (and vice versa) unless their goaltending abandons them.

Of the top-10 teams in shots against so far this season, five of them rank among the top-seven teams in goals against, while only two of those 10 teams rank lower than 15th (Minnesota at 21st and Seattle at 31st).

Of the bottom-10 teams in goals against so far this season, only one of them (Seattle in first place) ranks better than 17th in shots against.

In general more shots, leads to more chances, which leads to more opportunities for something to go wrong, which leads to more goals.

Seattle is the outlier here, and it has crushed their early season record.

But here is the good news if you are a Kraken fan: This is correctable. They have the most difficult part of the process in place (limiting chances) and their starting goalie, Grubauer, has a pretty extensive track record in the NHL that he is better than this. Way better than this. In 227 appearances over parts of 10 seasons he has never finished a full season with a save percentage lower than .915, and he has rebounded from similar slumps like this one he is playing through now.

During the 2018-19 season, for example, his first as a member of the Colorado Avalanche he went through a 13-game stretch in the middle of January and February with an .870 save percentage (worse than his current mark through 13 games). He followed that up with a .950 save percentage over the next 13 games. These things have a tendency to balance out over the course of a season, especially when you are dealing with players that have an extensive track record (one way or another) in the NHL.

If it is going to happen for Seattle, it better happen quickly because the schedule over the next couple of weeks is going to be an absolute bear. Their next five games are against Colorado, Washington, Carolina, Tampa bay, and Florida. The defense is going to get challenged, and the goaltending needs to come through, but there is still a chance to turn this around.

But it is going to have to happen soon.

(Data in this post via Natural Stat Trick)

Malkin’s late goal lifts Penguins past Ovechkin, Caps 4-3

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PITTSBURGH — Evgeni Malkin remains a live wire. Even now, 17 seasons into a career that is likely destined for the Hall of Fame, there’s an unpredictability the Pittsburgh Penguins star plays with that can be both endearing and exasperating to teammates and coaches alike.

The latest proof came against Washington on Saturday.

An untimely roughing penalty in the third period helped spark a Capitals’ rally from a three-goal deficit. Malkin made up for it by burying a breakaway with 1:20 left in regulation that lifted the Penguins to a 4-3 victory.

“His care factor and his compete level for me is off the charts and that’s what I love about him and usually when the stakes are high that’s when he’s at his best,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He gets a huge goal for us tonight at a key time.”

Malkin’s 25th goal of the season – a low wrist shot to the far post – helped the Penguins avoid a potentially messy collapse. Pittsburgh appeared to be ready to cruise to victory after Jake Guentzel‘s power-play goal 27 seconds into the third period made it 3-0.

Washington instead stormed back, with Alex Ovechkin right in the middle of it. Ovechkin scored his 42nd goal of the season and 822nd of his career from his favorite spot in the left circle with 6:42 to go in regulation. Washington drew even when Dylan Strome flipped the puck into an open net with 2:44 to go in regulation.

Yet instead of sagging, the Penguins surged. Malkin stripped Washington’s Anthony Mantha near center ice and broke in alone on Kuemper. Seconds later, the puck was in the net and Malkin was on one knee celebrating while pumping his fists, the kind of display of raw emotion that’s become one of his trademarks.

“It’s a huge goal for me, and two points for the team,” Malkin said.

Pittsburgh moved three points clear of Florida after the Panthers lost to the earlier Saturday. Both teams have nine regular-season games left.

Ryan Poehling and Chad Ruhwedel scored a little over two minutes apart in the second period for Pittsburgh. Jake Guentzel added his team-high 32nd goal early in the third before Washington scrambled back. Casey DeSmith played spectacularly at times while finishing with 31 saves.

Tom Wilson started the Capitals’ comeback with his ninth goal of the season 5:19 into the third. Kuemper stopped 36 shots, but was outplayed by DeSmith as Washington’s hopes of making a late push for a playoff berth took a serious hit. The Capitals are six points behind Pittsburgh with only eight games remaining.

“It’s a tough one,” Washington center T.J. Oshie said. “I don’t think that last play was the only thing that lost the game for us. I know that (Mantha) feels terrible about it, but we trust him with the puck. It just wasn’t a good enough 60 minutes against a good hockey team over there.”

It felt like old times for much of the night for teams that usually enter late March battling for a spot near the top of the Metropolitan Division.

Not this season.

While the 35-year-old Crosby is averaging over a point a game as usual and the 37-year-old Ovechkin is steadily making inroads on Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record, their teams have spent most of the year skating in place.

Pittsburgh has been wildly uneven thanks in part to goaltending that has fluctuated between solid and shaky, the main reason a 17th straight playoff appearance is hardly assured. Washington, meanwhile, appears to be pointing toward the future after injuries and a small sell-off at the trade deadline.

Pittsburgh put itself on slightly firmer footing with DeSmith making a compelling case that he should supplant Tristan Jarry as Pittsburgh’s top goaltender down the stretch.

DeSmith was spectacular at times, including stoning Ovechkin on a breakaway near the end of the second period in which Ovechkin deked DeSmith to his knees, only to see DeSmith extend his left leg just enough to knock the puck out of harm’s way.

“I’m not very tall,” the 6-foot DeSmith said. “But I had that one inch that I needed.”


Capitals: Host the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Penguins: Visit Detroit on Tuesday.

Devils defeat Senators 5-3, clinch playoff berth

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NEWARK, N.J. — Jack Hughes had a goal and an assist, Mackenzie Blackwood had 25 saves and the New Jersey Devils defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-3 and clinched a playoff berth on Saturday night.

“It means everything to the group. I went into the dressing room after the game and just said that I was proud of the work that was put in, proud of where we got to clinch tonight to be one of three teams that have an X next to their name,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “All the work that’s been put in, the adversity they face during the year. The adversity they face right at the start of the season to where we’ve got to now.”

New Jersey could have clinched its first postseason berth since 2018 with a win, but it happened before their first intermission when the Florida Panthers lost to the New York Rangers in regulation.

“I had a lesser role then,” said Jesper Bratt, who was a rookie for the Devils in 2017-18. “I would say at a younger age, it’s kind of like you think that just because it happened your first year that it might happen every year. And then it goes pretty fast with reality that was not the case and you got to work extremely hard for it.

“It’s a really tough league. So this feels really good. It’s been a lot of years with struggle, not winning, and it’s just awesome coming out now playing these kinds of games and getting that.”

Bratt, Dawson Mercer and Dougie Hamilton scored for the Devils and Tomas Tatar scored an empty netter with 42.3 seconds left to put things away.

Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot and Mark Kastelic scored for the Senators and Dylan Ferguson had 30 saves.

Tkachuk scored his 33rd goal of the season to give the Senators the 1-0 lead 3:14 into the first period. The Devils responded midway through the first period with Hughes’ 40th goal of the season on a breakaway, going five-hole to tie it.

Nick Holden gave the puck away and Bratt scored his 31st goal of the season on the breakaway 2:24 into the second period to give New Jersey the 2-1 lead. Mercer’s 23rd of the season came just over a minute later.

The Senators answered midway through the second period when Thomas Chabot scored his 11th goal of the year to cut the deficit to 3-2. They knotted things up 16:03 into the second when Kastelic scored his fifth of the season.

“We were confident going into the third period. We felt like the game was there for our taking,” Travis Hamonic said. “They score on their chance, and that’s game.”

Hamilton scored 3:34 into the third period to give the Devils the lead. His 19th goal breaks the franchise record for goals in a season by a defenseman, surpassing Scott Stevens – the Devils great whose number is hanging in the rafters – record of 18 in 1993-94.

NOTES: This was the first game for the Devils backup Blackwood since Feb. 19. … Nico Hischier has a six-game point streak after recording two assists.


Senators: Host the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

Devils: Play at New York Islanders on Monday night. —

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Kings tie franchise mark with point in 11th straight game

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LOS ANGELES — Viktor Arvidsson had two goals and the Los Angeles Kings matched their longest point streak in franchise history with a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon.

Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist and Alex Iafallo netted a power-play goal for Los Angeles, which has earned points in 11 straight games for the fourth time. The last occurrence was 2013-14, when the Kings won their second Stanley Cup championship.

Joonas Korpisalo stopped 25 shots for Los Angeles.

Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for Winnipeg and Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves.

Arvidsson – who has 22 goals on the season – has four in the last four games while Doughty has found the net four times in the last five games.

Arvidsson’s first goal came 82 seconds into the game. Trevor Moore won the faceoff in the offensive zone and made a backhand pass to Arvidsson, who snapped it into the net from the back of the left faceoff circle.

He also had an empty-net goal late in the third period.

The Kings extended their lead to 2-0 five minutes into the second period on the power play. Phillip Danault made a great pass between Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon and Hellebuyck as Iafallo buried it into the short side of the net.

Doughty extended the lead to 3-1 27 seconds into the third period with a wrist shot from outside the right faceoff circle near the boards after Anze Kopitar won the faceoff.


Winnipeg got its first power-play goal in seven games with 1:23 remaining in the second period when Dubois took a cross-ice pass from Kyle Connor and scored from the left faceoff circle to get the Jets within 2-1.

The Jets got a five-minute power play after Los Angeles’ Blake Lizotte received a five-minute match penalty for a vicious cross-check to Josh Morrissey’s face. The goal came with 33 seconds left in the man advantage.

NOTES: Danault picked up his 300th career point and 200th assist. … Winnipeg’s Connor set a career high for most assists in a season when he got his 47th on Dubois’ goal.


Jets: Travel to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

Kings: Host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

“The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

“We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”