As the Kraken approach the playoffs, you’ll hear the old “special teams and goaltending” cliché. Deservedly so. It’s said time and time again for a reason.
First of all, the name of the game is “goalie”. If the goaltending slips, you’re done. Simple.
Two, even if one’s power play isn’t working very well, it’s very important to make sure the penalty kill is proficient. It goes hand in hand with the goaltending, which reminds us of another cliché, “your goaltender is your best penalty killer.” It allows your team to try and win games at even strength. That’s been a winning formula for the Kraken in 2022-’23.
For three consecutive postseasons between 2011 and 2013, we saw teams win the Stanley Cup with subpar power plays. In 2011 the Boston Bruins went the distance with a 11.4% success rate with the man advantage. The Chicago Blackhawks won it all with the exact same percentage two years later. In between, the LA Kings hoisted the chalice with a playoff power play that clicked just 12.8% of the time. All three teams featured regular season power plays that worked at 17% or less.
What made the difference? The masked men of course. In those consecutive seasons, Tim Thomas for the Bruins, Jonathan Quick for the Kings, and Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks all played out of their minds. The previous two sported playoff save percentages at or above .940. Crawford’s was closer to .930 or just below, but he did it twice, in 2013 and again in 2015.
The game has opened up in recent seasons and become a little less nasty, but fans will still notice an amped up physicality. Emotions can run wild. Great goaltending can settle things down and give a team a collective confidence.
Power plays for championship teams have improved over the last decade. Colorado and the Tampa Bay Lightning converted more than 30% of their man advantages over the last three playoffs. That’s nuts. The Kraken won’t be pulling that off, so it’s important to get the job done at the other end.
The simplest solution: “Stay out of the box”.
Of the Kraken’s likeliest first round opponent, to be determined, the Colorado Avalanche, despite a season-long rash of injuries, presently sport the NHL’s 5th best power play at 24.7%. The Dallas Stars are right behind them at 24.4%, while the Minnesota Wild offer the least challenging effort thus far at 21.7%. That’s still not too shabby.
The Kraken’s PP has worked this season overall at 19.7%, 21st in the league. They have picked up the pace lately, never a bad thing coming to season’s end, with power play goals in six of their last eight games. Keep in mind, the opponents haven’t exactly been the NHL’s toughest. The Coyotes and Blackhawks penalty kills both stink.
Kraken Cares And Concerns
As for the all-important Kraken PK, it’s very much improved. The 76.2% season-long success rate is a bad number, but it doesn’t reflect recent efforts. Since Valentine’s Day, that’s a pretty fair sample size, the PK has killed at a rate of 88.4% through Saturday night against Chicago. Stick with that number and you’ll likely find some wins in the postseason. It also likely means your goaltending is intact.
Speaking of netminding, the big picture numbers will not get it done. Philipp Grubauer’s save percentage over the season is .893. Martin Jones: .889. Not good, and we’ve all noticed the inconsistencies. That said, it appears ‘Grooby’ is heating up a bit.
Jones may have injured a hand on Saturday. That’s just guess-work. He left the game after two periods. No word at this point on deets from the club regarding his situation. If he’s unavailable, Joey Daccord will be the Kraken’s playoff back-up. We’ll see who gets off the airplane in Arizona for Monday night’s game against the Coyotes.
Ultimately, keep those cliche’s in mind. They’re the key to playoff hockey, wrapped up in one very, very exciting package.