Last season, the expansion Seattle Kraken faced frequent comparisons to the Vegas Golden Knights, who reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural campaign.
Perhaps because the fledgling Kraken finished just 27-49-6, there's been little comparing them to the Golden Knights this winter.
Yetentering a Friday night game against the visiting Calgary Flames, the Kraken are not only tied with Vegas for the Pacific Division lead, but they are on pace to shatter the Golden Knights' record for most points in an expansion team's second season.
At 28-14-5, Seattle has already exceeded last season's win and point totals. The Kraken are currently on pace for 106 points, which would be the most for a second-year team since the NHL went from the Original Six to 12 teams in 1967-68. Vegas holds the record with 93 points.
"It's a different team," forward Oliver Bjorkstrand said of the 2022-23 version of the Kraken. "We've definitely figured some things out this season. We're onto some good stuff. Consistency is a good thing, and throughout the season for the most part I think we've been pretty consistent."
Bjorkstrand, acquired via trade in an offseason salary dump by the Columbus Blue Jackers, scored twice Wednesday as the Kraken defeated visiting Vancouver 6-1.
It was Seattle's first victory in seven meetings with the Canucks (1-5-1).
"That's a great win for our club," said Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn, who added two assists. "We definitely owed them over the past two years."
Seattle coach Dave Hakstol wasn't pleased by a hit Vancouver's Tyler Myers put on rookie of the year candidate Matty Beniers early in the second period.
Beniers, who is scheduled to represent the Kraken in next week's All-Star Game, appeared to hit his head on the ice after being checked by Myers. The officials issued an interference call against Myers on the play because Beniers didn't have the puck.
"I thought the hit on Matty was garbage. Didn't like it at all," Hakstol said in an interview with KJR-FM on Thursday night.
Beniers took three more shifts Wednesday before sitting out the third period. Hakstol said Beniers likely would be a game-time decision on Friday.
While the Kraken are 2-0-1 in their past three games, the Flames have had a disappointing week at home.
Calgary struggled to defeat Columbus 4-3 in overtime on Monday, then lost 5-1 to Chicago on Thursday. The Blue Jackets and Blackhawks have the two lowest point totals in the NHL.
The Flames enter Friday below the playoff line in the Western Conference -- tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild card but behind in the tiebreaker -- after winning the Pacific Division last season.
Calgary goaltender Jacob Markstrom made 24 saves against the Blackhawks, yet he received no more than one goal from the offense for the 10th time this season.
"Obviously, it's unacceptable," said Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored the Flames' lone goal against Chicago. "The way we came out and the way we played, too many odd-man rushes. They had so many chances. I feel bad for (Markstrom) because he's been playing (well) lately and we're not playing good in front of him."
The Flames were without defenseman Chris Tanev on Thursday because of an upper-body injury, and he will sit out again on Friday.
"We made some glaring errors on the back end that cost us goals against," Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. "You've got some defensemen that even though they're younger guys, they also have to take some leadership in it, too, in terms of direction and poise."
--Field Level Media