They made jokes.
After scoring a goal in the Kraken’s win over Edmonton on Friday night, defenseman Adam Larrson drew chuckles when he told media members not to get used to it. Asked to describe his goal, Colin Blackwell said he “blacked out.” Head coach Dave Hakstol closed his press conference with a back-and-forth about assistant coach Paul McFarland, who was hit in the head with a puck during the game.
“Actually glad that one hit him because I did see it,” Hakstol said with a smirk on his way out the door.
The mood after Friday’s game was a far cry from the quiet, frustrated press conferences of November. There wasn’t much to joke about when the Kraken were in the midst of a six-game losing streak, having dropped eight out of their last nine. Instead of teasing, the players lamented the team’s tendency to find ways to lose. But that hasn’t been the case lately.
“Everything’s great,” Blackwell said when asked about the team’s recent mood.
It’s easy to see why.
Winners of five of their last seven, the Kraken are on an upward swing. Their 5-1-1 record — good for 11 points — since Nov. 21 is tied with Minnesota (5-0-1, 11 points) for the NHL’s best mark in that span. Seattle has also registered points in four straight games.
“I think we’re getting a lot of good efforts from everybody,” Blackwell said. “I think that’s what it takes to win in this league. There’s positivity around the room. You see it on the bench, too. Somebody might not win a battle — or maybe you do win a battle — everybody is kind of cheering each other on and that’s what it takes to kind of motivate one another and support one another. Good things are happening for us.”
The success on the ice has translated to a lighter atmosphere and energetic practices. And as Hakstol and his players spoke after the victory over Edmonton, the word “identity” came up again and again. A month ago, they were talking about searching for one. Now, they seem to have found it.
“I think it’s just the confidence,” defenseman Carson Soucy said Friday of the team’s shift in mood. “Last home stand we beat some good teams and then we went on the road and beat some good teams, too. I think it’s confidence in our game and what we have to do to be successful.
“I think we’re starting to see what that takes and how to do it night in and night out. Obviously, it’s not going to be perfect games but I think we’re closer to 60 minutes every night. I think just that confidence is kind of building.”
The difference in the Kraken from a month ago until now was on full display against Edmonton, a team that beat Seattle 5-2 on Nov. 1. This time around, the Kraken took control in the second period and then held off a comeback attempt from Connor McDavid and the high-powered Oilers. Thanks to a Seattle penalty, Edmonton even played the final 90 seconds with a six-on-four advantage.
“We have a little bit more cohesion,” Hakstol said. “That’s natural. That’s going to come with being in those situations together. There’s different people involved. The guys, especially down the stretch, did a pretty good job. We gave up (a goal) right after the power play. That’s one that made our job a little harder. But again, they made a good play and got within one. But from there, they took a deep breath and then went out and did our job from there.”
With 20 points, the Kraken are currently in seventh place in the Pacific Division and six points out of the final wild-card spot. They’ll have a chance to make up more ground over the remainder of this home stand. After facing Pittsburgh on Monday, Seattle will play Winnipeg and Columbus before heading back out on the road.
“We’re a much more mature group right now,” said forward Yanni Gourde. “We’re making better decisions. We know what to do. We’re confident in our group. We got to keep pushing.”