Chemistry Lessons for Kraken |

Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol approaches the long grind of an NHL regular season in five-game segments. Keep “winning” each segment (earning the majority of the 10 standings points available) and your team is trending in a positive direction. 

This particular form of hockey math calculates to promising numbers for the Kraken, who entered the weekend with 61 standings points, tied with Vegas, but get the first-place designation by having a higher points percentage (.649) due to playing two fewer games. To reach such a lofty status in season two is built on winning those five-game segments: To date, Seattle has “won” six such segments with point totals of 6, 8, 9, 6, 10 and 6. 

The Kraken have lost just two five-game packs, winning only once in the opening five games along with two overtime losses, to earn four of a possible 10 points. A mid-December stretch generated four points in five games, then five points (half) of the next available 10 in Games 31 through 35. Since then, the Kraken notched a perfect 10 of 10 and then six points as part of the recent franchise-record eight-game winning streak. Speaking of streaks, limiting any losing streaks to three games or less makes for winning segments. 

The current segment is Games 46 to 49 with three of a possible four points earned against Colorado last Saturday and the vanquished Canucks Wednesday in the first two opportunities and two more on the home docket before a refresh week during the All-Star break. 

Back at the season’s quarter-mark when discussing how his team elevated above the .500 mark (equal wins and losses) to start on a path that currently has the Kraken squad at 14 games over .500. He pointed to training camp and the ability for the team to get to know each other without pandemic restrictions, plus welcome new additions. 

“There’s a camaraderie among our group,” said Hakstol during an exclusive conversation on a late November road trip. “I’m not sure which comes first the chicken or the egg. We’ve had a little bit of success. We’re winning by playing hard [to win the puck back and disrupt opponents in all zones].

“That hard work and confidence started on day one of training camp. That’s a part of why training camp is so important. That’s where you see the initial beginning of team chemistry and growth.”

What any of us covering this team has noticed over and over is the players having fun, feeling loose, keeping high energy in most games and periods of play. It’s different than last season and not just because of more wins. 

“There’s going to be rough patches ahead, but we’re able to grow through those rough patches,” said Hakstol. “One of the things I like about our team is we’re able to enjoy ourselves without losing focus. We’re comfortable and relaxed. Then we’re competitive the next day. You know thats a real important piece to be able to have as you go through an 82-game schedule.”

Hakstol’s comments were after earning 17 points in the first 20 games. He was sensing the camaraderie and bounce-back energy before it came into full focus with 42 standings points in the next 26 games. 

Defenseman Vince Dunn talked about the team dynamic after Wednesday’s blowout win over Vancouver. His own January “segment” currently stands at 17 points for the month and points in 10 of his 11 games. He also said his teammates, especially those from the inaugural season, registered the need to beat the nearby rival Canucks. 

“That’s a great win for our club,” said Dunn at his locker after the game. “We definitely owe them over the past two years. To show a lot of character throughout the game, right till the end blocking shots on the PK [penalty kill] when we have a big lead, I like what that shows.” 

“We’ve taken care of each other and we’re willing to sacrifice for our teammates … we stuck to our game plan. We played simple and we executed very well. Like I said, a lot of guys contributed in a lot of ways. A lot of big saves. Goals all throughout the lineup. Special teams were great today, that’s really important, especially in the second half of the season coming up.”

That second half has one five-game segment in progress, six full five-game segments and a couple of final games (away and home against Vegas) in the playoff push upon us. The players and coaches are looking to have fun, keeping it simple and working in segments. No reason we can’t all do the same. It’s going to be fun.

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