After the expansion draft, goaltending was seen as an area of strength for the Seattle Kraken. However, through the team’s first 16 games, defense and goaltending have struggled mightily. Seattle sits in last place in the Pacific Division with just 9 points and a minus-15 goal differential. They have allowed the fifth-most goals in the league and own the sixth-worst goal differential.
On a per-game basis, Seattle allows the second-most goals (3.69 GA/GP) while owning the league’s 20th-best offense (2.75 GF/GP). Kraken special teams have also been underwhelming, specifically on the powerplay. Seattle’s 12.5% man-advantage unit is the second-worst in the NHL, and a penalty kill that started the season strong has dropped to 18th in the league at 81.3%.
A major problem Seattle has run into is that opponents generally score first. Seattle has trailed first in 10 of 16 games this season, winning just 2 of those contests. In the 6 games Seattle has found twine first, the Kraken has 2 victories. It’s a small sample size, but Seattle has generally found more success when leading early in games. The first period has been a difficult one, as the Kraken are being outscored 18 to 12 in the first frame so far this season. Early deficits haven’t gone well for a team desperately needing better goaltending.
Philipp Grubauer was brought in to be the team’s starting goaltender. He has started the majority of the games, but has yet to have anywhere close to the success he enjoyed last season. Grubauer was one of three nominees for last year’s Vezina Trophy after winning a career-high 30 games with the Colorado Avalanche. Now with Seattle, Grubauer’s sparkling save-percentage (.922) and goals against average (1.95) from a season ago have crashed down to Earth.
He sports a .877 save percentage and a 3.18 goals-against average so far this season. Both would be the worst marks of his career by a significant margin. He has allowed the second-most goals among qualified goaltenders despite facing the 20th-most shots. Seattle has done a good job of limiting shots against with a league-low 25.6 per game, but the chances afforded are still dangerous enough for opponents to capitalize. Grubauer has seen fewer than 20 shots two times and has lost both contests.
Joey Daccord and Chris Driedger have combined for just four appearances but haven’t been any better. The goalies each rank in the bottom-five in save percentage, and both have goals-against averages above 3.4, placing them in the bottom-20. Driedger saw success in his two full seasons with the Florida Panthers, with at least a .927 save percentage and a goals-against average under 2.1 in each. He missed some time due to injury on Seattle’s opening road trip and may be relied on more heavily going forward with Grubauer struggling. Driedger and Grubauer look like a top-tier tandem on paper, but may need some time to settle in to their new environment.
The Road Ahead
Seattle’s goalies have had success in their careers but may still need time to adjust to their new team. Grubauer and Driedger are a formidable NHL duo, with Daccord proving to be a serviceable third netminder after a strong preseason performance. The Pacific Division has exceeded expectations early this season, and Seattle is facing a tough stretch of games over the next few weeks. Increased offensive output might also help spark Seattle and get them out of their current losing streak, which has now reached five games. The Kraken offense has been extremely top-heavy of late, and depth scoring can be just what the Kraken need to get in the win column, even if the goals against don’t drastically decrease.