Kraken Rising: Emerges as a Top Contender in the NHL

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Nobody predicted the caliber of success the Seattle Kraken would be experiencing after such a mediocre first year in the National Hockey League. Yet, with just three months left on the schedule, the Kraken find themselves at 28-14-5, good for 61 points and the best record in their division. If the season ended now, the Kraken would enter the playoffs as the third seed out of the Western Conference, ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and behind the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Given the tendencies of expansion teams across all North American sports, it’s hard to fathom that the NHL is on the verge of pumping out back-to-back immediate contenders in the Golden Knights and Kraken.

The Kraken rang the bell of the new year with a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders, kicking off a six-game stretch in 2023 without losing a game. Heading into game number seven, the Boston Bruins were the only other team who hadn’t lost in the new year, and they would serve as Seattle’s next opponents. The Kraken took the fight to them and emerged with a clean 3-0 victory to increase their streak. They would win one more, an 8-5 rout of the Chicago Blackhawks, before finally dropping a game, but in doing so, they made history. Never before had a team swept an entire seven-game series on the road, but the Kraken already have.

The Kraken are stacked with offensive firepower, placing sixth in goals at a 3.61 goals-per-game pace. They also achieve this with remarkable efficiency, taking fewer than 30 shots per game, placing sixth fewest. However, they are still among the league’s worst in winning face-offs, which I’m beginning to doubt is a meaningful predictive metric of success.

What’s perhaps most impressive about this team is the level of parity among the team members, with most skaters contributing a meaningful amount to the team. On a team with a high-powered offense, the leading scorer is Andre Burakovsky with 38 total points (13 goals, 25 assists). That clocks in at 87th in the NHL. Five other skaters – Matthew Beniers, Jordan Eberle, Vince Dunn, Jared McCann and Yanni Gourde – all have 30 or more points, while an astounding 17 players are in the double digits.

Beniers is the talk of the town, though. Beniers’ 36 points are good for the most among rookies, seven points ahead of Winnipeg’s Cole Perfetti. Picked second overall in the 2021 draft, he has, without a doubt, lived up to the draft capital and is the clear frontrunner for the NHL’s Rookie of the Year equivalent, the Calder Memorial Trophy.

The Kraken play interesting hockey because, despite a consistently successful offense, they aren’t exactly decimating everyone, and nothing really points to a potential for Stanley Cup contention. The goalkeeping is still subpar, with Martin Jones and Philipp Grubauer still maintaining a sub-90 save percentage. They have accumulated 25 total quality starts alongside 13 “really bad starts,” which indicates starts with a save percentage below 85. For reference, the New York Rangers have a similar 59 points on the season with a spot-on average points per game, but their goalies have 30 quality starts and just five total really bad ones.

However, does it really mean anything to bring up their shortcomings? Clearly not, because the wins just keep coming. And if there’s anything I’ve learned through watching many different sports, it’s that on any given day, any team can win, so why not the Seattle Kraken?