B/R NHL Roundtable: Teams in Playoff Positions That Aren’t Going to the Postseason | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

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Someone had to pick on the new guys—and it was high time I put my “noted jerk” label to work—so here I am going out on a huge limb and saying the Seattle Kraken, in their second NHL season, will fade out of the playoff picture. That might sound like I’m being sarcastic, but I assure you, I am not.

The Kraken are battling Los Angeles for second in the Pacific Division behind scorching-hot Vegas. That alone puts them in a playoff spot, and MoneyPuck has their playoff odds at around 89 percent to make the postseason. So, let’s poke holes in all the good things they’ve been doing this season so the teams behind them like Calgary and Edmonton can catch them in the division and Nashville, St. Louis and Minnesota can do the same in the wild card.

The Kraken have, so far, been outstanding in almost every facet of advanced statistics. Shot attempts, expected goals, expected goals against…you name it, they’re in the top 10, and those things should bode well. But some things don’t make sense.

They’ve gotten fantastic goaltending from 32-year-old Martin Jones. The Kraken had the worst goaltending in the NHL last season due to Philipp Grubauer having the worst season of his career. Despite that, Jones was brought in to back him up this season and was coming off four consecutive average-to-below-average seasons with San Jose and Philadelphia. An early-season injury to Grubauer opened the door of opportunity for Jones and he’s running with it, but they’re also running him into the ground.

Jones has played in 15 of their first 18 games and started 14 of those. That would put him on a pace to play in around 70 games. The last time Jones played 60-plus games was 2018-19 with the Sharks. Over his first four years in San Jose, he averaged 63 games per season during which he had a .910 save percentage, but for the past three seasons (two with the Sharks, one with the Flyers), his split-starter and backup duty saw him post a well-below-average .898 save percentage.

That he’s at .913 this season doesn’t jibe with that trend as he’s gotten older. He’s either been very fortunate or he’s having a renaissance. Call me a jerk if you want to, but it’s tough to believe he’s turned it around this well.

While Seattle goaltending has played over its head, the offense has been unimpressive. The Kraken have scored 58 goals, which places them firmly in the middle of the pack in the NHL (18th), and they score 3.22 goals per game, which is a little higher in the middle of the pack (14th). They don’t have a definitive goal-scoring threat and have spread out the offense more among their skaters.

Each of the teams they’ll be battling with down the stretch have one or two aces they can count on when they need to get a goal late in games. In those tight games as the season rolls on, I’d like my chances with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl or Vladimir Tarasenko or Kirill Kaprizov or Filip Forsberg. Of course it’s nice to have a balanced offense. But the regular season is such a grind, and having an elite scorer provides an advantage.

Don’t get me wrong in any of this: I love what the Kraken have going for them and they’re going to get better sooner than later, but they’re not there yet.

– Joe Yerdon

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