NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Kraken vs. Canucks (December 22)
Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Matty Beniers of the Seattle Kraken.
Kraken vs. Canucks Odds
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The sixth-ever edition of what will hopefully become a budding rivalry will take place Thursday night, as the Canucks host the Kraken for a Pacific Division matchup.
Seattle has lost all five previous matchups between these sides but is still priced as road favorites in this spot due to its excellent form thus far this season.
Will the Kraken record their first-ever victory over the Canucks on Thursday?
Vancouver ran wild over Seattle last season, winning all four matchups by a combined score of 19-8.
However, as stronger handicappers will always note, that holds no indication on tonight's matchup, and the Kraken have a good chance to illustrate how using NHL trends dating back even one season can be a risky business in this matchup.
The Kraken are by no means the same team as a year ago, and all of their offseason additions have found strong form, while rookie Matty Beniers is playing like a true number one center on the top line.
Over the last month of action, Seattle's expected goals share has actually dipped to just 48.7%, but that modest mark came through a very tough schedule that included dates with the Golden Knights, Hurricanes, Lightning, Jets, Kings and the suddenly red-hot Washington Capitals.
A 48.7% expected goals share through that schedule is actually very reasonable considering how each of those teams has controlled play over the last month.
Many expected Seattle to take a tumble down the league's standings throughout that tough schedule, but it managed a respectable 5-5 record and remains firmly entrenched in a playoff position.
Philipp Grubauer projects to start in this matchup, but further confirmation of that should come after the morning skate. Grubauer was arguably the league's worst netminder a year ago, and his lowly play was the key reason the Kraken's roster remained widely underrated entering this campaign.
Grubauer has found more respectable form this season with a -1.4 goals saved above expected rating with an .882 save percentage in 11 appearances.
Vancouver appears to be in arguably the worst possible spot any sports franchise can find itself in.
The roster is not quite bad enough to end up with a high draft pick but not talented enough to have a realistic shot at a championship or even a playoff berth. Ownership remains reluctant to commit to a full rebuild despite the fact that the roster on hand is not going anywhere.
The negative storylines are running rampant around the Canucks right now, which surely is not a lot of fun for a flawed side that I would argue has actually competed respectably despite owning the 26th-best record in the league.
Talent is talent, and whether you want to point to the team's work rate or head coach Bruce Boudreau, neither of those factors is going to hide that management has built a flawed lineup.
Vancouver's defensive core is simply below league average, and players such as Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn and Oliver Ekman Larsson would likely be struggling much the same given the same usage on other NHL teams.
The addition of Ethan Bear has shored up the Canucks' bottom defensive pairing to an extent, but the defensive core has proven to be an area of concern dating back to the start of last season. It doesn't appear likely to manage league-average form anytime soon.
Offensively, the Canucks have generated just 2.97 xGF/60 over the last month of play, which is the 26th-worst mark in the league. Some may believe the greater problem is the forward corps, but strong play that drives defenders is a gigantic part of generating offense and controlling play in the current NHL, and the Canucks are lacking in that department.
Elias Pettersson has missed the last two contests with illness and is a game-time decision for this matchup.
Spencer Martin will likely start in goal for Vancouver, but he has fallen into a poor run of form after a surprisingly strong start to the season. Martin owns a -7.4 GSAx rating and .885 save percentage in 17 appearances.
Kraken vs. Canucks Pick
Seattle's impressive record has come with some solid underlying results and seems replicable moving forward.
From a non-analytical perspective, it's easy to see that Seattle has consistently played with an elite competitive level and made life tough on the opposition with its ability to get after opponents shift after shift.
Many may not recognize a ton of names from Seattle's roster, but the Kraken are one of the more well-rounded teams in the league top to bottom — particularly on nights in which the goaltending holds up.
Vancouver is clearly somewhat of a flawed side, as its deep offense is hampered by a blue line with well below-average abilities to suppress opponents' chances and move the puck up the ice.
There's enough of a gap between these two sides that I see value in backing a Kraken win in regulation at +120 — and that's handicapping this contest with the expectation that Pettersson plays.
The gap widens significantly if Pettersson remains sidelined, as he has played at an incredibly high level this season and is the Canucks' top skater.
Pick: Kraken Win in Regulation +120 (Play to +115)