“Never too high, never too low.”
If there’s one expression you hear a lot in the NHL locker room, it’s this one. It points out, in general, the importance of not allowing players and their teams to get drunk on success or saddened by failure.
Last season, the Seattle Kraken rose very high. In its second year of existence, the Sea Monster eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs, before pushing a second-round series against the Dallas Stars. All this while almost no one has detailed this club in their training camp expectations.
In short, the madness was at its peak.
After a little over six months, the residue becomes painful. At their current record rate, the team will collect 72 points over a full schedule, which is a very, very long way from their 100-point tally from 2022-23.
Custom objectives are numerous; Scored goals are rare. Young Matthews Benners, a standout in his first season, looks confused. Barring a miracle, Jared McCann will never repeat his 40-goal output. Jordan Eberle slowed down, and Yanni Jordi as well. This wasn’t really a team that relied on goaltenders to get out of trouble; It still isn’t.
Within the group, the word “steadiness” is spoken in unison. Meaning: absence.
“We played a good match, then we played two mediocre matches; then two great matches but we were unable to collect points, and an ordinary match but we managed to collect points in it. “It is somewhat incomprehensible,” explained Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, on Monday morning. , after Kraken training.
“We find ways to lose,” Jordan Eberle said. We gain momentum in the match, but we give away goals in crucial moments. »
Recently, I think we have shown more consistency, but ironically we have lost our last matches, even though we were playing well. It shocks us a little.
For his part, Matthew Benners agreed when a journalist asked him whether opponents had stopped belittling him and his colleagues.
“I think we surprised a lot of people last year. The good teams weren’t ready to face us. Now it’s more difficult.”
Yanni Jordi confirmed that the euphoria inherited from last spring was real at the beginning of the journey. “Maybe we had the impression that we would have an easier season, given that everyone had a year of experience,” he admitted. But after a few matches, we realized that would not be the case. We have played more than 20 games, and we have to find a way to do better. »
Bellemare said he saw the same phenomenon happen with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had a false start in 2022 after reaching the Final.
The French striker believes that “expectations change after a year like this.” I don’t want it to be poorly received, but you think “we’re going to go to the playoffs” instead of “we’ve got to work to get to the playoffs.” In Tampa, after the final, everything seemed complicated. »
But Lightning quickly corrected the situation. In Seattle, time is passing, but the situation is slowly recovering.
Belmar again: “We have to get back to winning habits. […] In the playoffs, you have that naturally, because you know that if you play well, you’ll win, but if you play poorly, you’ll get eliminated. On an 82-game schedule, the level drops. It’s less stressful. It’s hard to regain a sense of urgency. »
This “emergency” must emerge quickly, because spring hockey already appears to be moving away from the Northwestern United States.
The journey that the Kraken had completed in the city seemed like a disaster. Three defeats in as many matches, which followed a harsh setback at home.
After 25 matches, before facing Al-Canadi, the club was three points away from a place in the playoffs, with games behind its pursuers. Overcoming this gap is not impossible, but neither history nor statistics suggest optimism.
“We’re not scoring enough goals,” summed up coach Dave Hakstol. Before they packed their bags, his troops seemed to have regained their self-confidence [swagger]But it looks like this balloon has deflated, he said.
“We will need to work hard to make up for lost time,” he added. It’s not a big gap, but we can’t afford to lose points unnecessarily. »
Like losing in Montreal to a team that also struggles to score goals. So the residue will persist. And it could be even more painful with the season ending early in April.
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