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Analysis: The Kraken have yet to establish an identity, but there are things to learn from their first three games

UPDATED: Sun., Oct. 17, 2021

Seattle Kraken defenseman Haydn Fleury (4) and goalie Philipp Grubauer (31) makes a stop in front of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (44) during an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. The Blue Jackets won 2-1 in overtime.   (Associated Press)
Seattle Kraken defenseman Haydn Fleury (4) and goalie Philipp Grubauer (31) makes a stop in front of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (44) during an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. The Blue Jackets won 2-1 in overtime.  (Associated Press)
Marisa Ingemi Seattle Times

COLUMBUS — It’s been just three games. We don’t know anything about what kind of a team the Seattle Kraken will become.

The Kraken hasn’t even played at home yet, but it has gone into three difficult buildings and come out with three points ahead of back-to-back games in Philadelphia and New Jersey.

As much as it’s tempting to compare trends and those to the preseason, it’s impossible to make an authoritative statement of what the Kraken is yet. Still, there are a few things to take away from the past couple of games.

There’s how tough the Kraken has been to play against.

“What stands out is one-goal hockey games,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “Every night is close, every night is competitive. … That’s what stands out; those are the kinds of games we’re comfortable playing.”

The first game in Vegas, a 4-3 loss, included a three-goal comeback from the Kraken before the Golden Knights won on a controversial goal. In Nashville, the Kraken led in the third period but needed its empty-net tally — its only shot of the period — to hold on. Then, in Columbus, the Kraken surrendered a 1-0 third-period lead to lose in overtime.

There are a few potential bad habits there, with the defense sitting back on its heels with a lead, but Hakstol saw differences in the two third periods, even with a blown late lead costing the Kraken a point in the standings.

The Kraken is being outshot by 12 shots in the third period over the last three games — the third-most in the league — the bulk of them the result of the third period in Nashville on Thursday. Last season, of the 12 teams to be outshot in the third period for the season, just three of them — Minnesota, Edmonton, and Washington — made the playoffs but were eliminated in the first round.

“The other night wasn’t perfect, in the third period,” Hakstol said. “We came into this building tonight, it’s disappointing to have a lead going into the third period, we wanted to push to extend that lead, we didn’t do that (Saturday night).”

One-goal games can be good if a team is finding ways to get standings points. They’re tough games with high-pressure situations late, and can wear down a team not getting results.

Last season, the Washington Capitals had the best record in the league in one-goal games, going 19-1-5 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The bottom five — the Red Wings, Rangers, Sabres, Kings, and Canucks — all missed the postseason.

The Blues played in the most one-goal games last season with 31, going 14-8-9, the 14th best record in the league. They made the playoffs and lost in the first round.

Perhaps the Kraken will find itself in a bunch of grueling games, and perhaps that will mean something. For now, it’s three games and there’s a lot more to learn yet, but that it has played in competitive contests is, if nothing else, a good sign of a competitive club.

Missed chances

Despite the single goal in Columbus, the Kraken didn’t have a shortage of chances, especially in the second frame. There was one chance for Ryan Donato on the power play where the puck hopped over his stick. If he had connected, it likely would have been a different game.

“Some of those little bounces that you get will land right, and sometimes they sit there and look like they’re going to be a Christmas present,” Donato said. “Then they jump right over your stick, so it’s tough.”

Donato’s line, with Brandon Tanev and Morgan Geekie, has generated a lot of the Kraken offensive chances through the first three games. Both Donato and Geekie have a goal, and Tanev has three after scoring the lone tally on Thursday night.

Notes

• Monday in Philadelphia will be Hakstol’s first time returning to Wells Fargo Center as a head coach after coaching the Flyers from 2015 until 2018. He had been back in the building as an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019.

• Kraken forward Alex Barre-Boulet played a single, nine-second shift in the third period in Columbus. Hakstol said that was a coaches decision.

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