If tonight’s road game against the Avalanche doesn’t fire you up about the future of Seattle hockey, then I don’t know what will. In a visually dominant game against the Colorado Avalanche, the Seattle Kraken slipped out of Ball Arena back to Seattle with a 3-2 victory, taking the lead in the series with the same score. After Jared McCann’s injury after a late hit by Cale Makar in game 4, the AHL rookie of the year Tye Kartye made his NHL debut and scored his first ever NHL goal after being called up from the Coachella Valley Firebirds. It was clear that the Kraken left their locker room and stepped onto the ice with the fire, determination, and will needed to take the series lead, and they continued to show the defending cup champions (and their fans) why they shouldn’t count out and underestimate this new franchise.
With a Kraken-won opening faceoff, it was obvious that this game would be a hard fought one. It was hard to tell at first which team would dominate both defensively and offensively, as both sides did an excellent job at both. The Kraken however played their game just a bit better in the first period, maintaining the majority of offensive zone possession. While unable to capitalize on this situation due to Alexandar Georgiev’s water-tight goaltending in the opening 20 minutes with multiple (and admittedly GORGEOUS) glove saves in a row, they were able to give the Avs a tremendous run for their money, placing 15 shots on goal as opposed to the Avalanche’s 8 in a scoreless first period. While the skaters of the Seattle Kraken did a spectacular job of defending the puck, winning battles, and shooting on net, the Avs were significantly more physical not just in the first period, but throughout the entire game with 41 total hits by the end of the game, versus the Seattle Kraken’s 39.
That being said, Colorado’s physicality did not stop the boys from the Puget Sound from capitalizing on some stellar moments in the second. Even though Colorado came out swinging and determined to match the physicality of the first period Kraken, during the opening 7 or so minutes of the second period, the players on the Seattle roster looked like they had just woken up from a nap. After the penalty-killing Kraken won the opening faceoff of the second, and the subsequent turnover forced by the Avalanche, the rushing plays and aggression we saw from the Seattle top line had vanished. None of the players were trying to rush the puck carrier, there was minimal poke checking and even less physicality coming from the Seattle hockey club. After some close calls and a penalty drawn by Logan O’Connor, the Kraken were able to retake possession of the puck in their own end, and their confidence had returned, but without any luck on the power play. With roughly 14:30 to go in the third, Jaden Schwartz takes a shot on the Avs net, which was saved by Alexandar Georgiev. Unable to cover up, the puck rebounded, and what the Russian goaltender didn’t realize, was that at that moment, literal daddy Morgan Geekie would circle around the net on Georgiev’s right side, and shovel in the rebound 5-hole for the Seattle Kraken’s 5th opening goal this series (ayo, 5th opening goal in the series through the 5-hole?!?).
The Avalanche did not like this one bit, and Nathan MacKinnon answered back a little more than a minute later with an assist from Mikko Rantanen. The Seattle Kraken would have another beautiful opportunity to pull ahead, when Jordan Eberlie broke through the Avalanche defense, circled around the net from the Avalanche’s left side, and fed a spectacular pass to Tye Kartye for a one timer from the slot to not only give the Kraken the lead going into the third, but it gave Kartye his first career NHL goal in his debut game.
If you’ve been watching this series since the beginning, you’re probably aware that the Avalanche has already taken the Kraken from behind twice, and have won 12 comeback postseason games since the beginning of last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. In game two, the Kraken scored two goals in the first, but were beaten by the Avalanche in a 2-3 comeback. In game 3, after the Kraken tied it up 3-3 in the second period, the Avalanche would come back to win 6-4 when Mikko Rantanen and Nathan Mackinnon netted 3 combined goals to Jaden Schwartz’s 1 in the final period. If you watched tonight’s game, you also know that the events that transpired over those 60 minutes were almost no exception. Going into the final period, the Colorado Avalanche would win the opening faceoff with 40 seconds left on the power play, and absolutely POUND the Kraken in their defensive zone before the puck was deflected out of play with a save by Grubauer. Not that this would matter, as the Avs didn’t make anything of the opportunity, and the Seattle Kraken scored a minute-forty into the period when Oliver Bjorkstrand received the puck from Carson Soucy, took it behind the net and played a game of “catch” with Yanni Gourde before number 27 rocketed it into the back of the Avalanche net. The nail-biting came later, when there was little less than 4 minutes remaining in the third.
Jared Bednar, the Avalanche head coach, pulled Georgiev in favor of an extra attacker, and almost immediately (and frighteningly if you’re a Kraken fan), the extra attacker worked in Colorado’s favor after a very unlucky and nearly impossible to defend double-deflection goal by Evan Rodrigues, closing the gap and making the score 3-2. This was when the Kraken realized that it was now or never.
After Colorado had made a dent in the goal differential, the Kraken that we saw leave the locker room 58 minutes beforehand had returned. The defensive efforts by the Kraken in the final minutes of the game was unlike anything I had ever seen, and it was textbook hockey. Seattle suffocated the Avalanche forwards with pressure, they did an excellent job clearing the puck, and they almost took advantage of the Colorado empty net on multiple occasions. Sweet relief and victory finally washed over every Kraken fan (and Avalanche hater) when the final horn sounded, and the final score was announced as 3-2, sending the Kraken back to Seattle with not only the series lead, but with renewed confidence in not only the players, but in the passionate Seattle market as well.
So what did Seattle do in this game that was different from other games in the series? They were consistent with their pressure. They held a sound defensive structure. They didn’t take risks that were unnecessary, and in turn it gave them the 3-2 win. All night I believed the Kraken players were great at using their bodies to defend the puck, and clearing wasn’t a problem. Whenever Seattle was in the offensive zone, the defensemen did a phenomenal job of keeping the puck in the zone and keeping it moving. It also looked like the Avalanche were having an awful time trying to get anything done in puck battles along the boards, probably due to how physical (even if they had less official hits) Seattle was. Nathan MacKinnon was even showing some frustration as he was caught up in a trip that wasn’t called by any of the officials during the second period, which in turn led to the Kraken’s 2-1 lead. While it’s mostly agreeable that the officiating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year has been atrocious, I firmly believe that the referee or linesmen had very little, if any, impact on tonight’s game. The Seattle Kraken went into this competition with a specific and ironclad mindset– one that if they continue to have it, could potentially take them to the Cup Final. The Kraken are here to win, and if they can’t go all the way, they’re taking down anyone they can with them. These players know that there are many doubts about Seattle’s playoff capabilities, especially after their performance during their inaugural season, going 27-49-6. This year, after spending the offseason fine tuning the rosters and getting the right folks in the front office, immense conditioning, teamwork building and spending the regular season training, fighting, and playing hard with the attitude of bringing a bright future to Seattle hockey as a brand new franchise, the Kraken are fully prepared to give the fans what they want. Whether it’s just a decent playoff run, or going all the way to the cup, who knows? One thing is for certain: Seattle is a hockey town.
Stars of the Game:
My third star of the game is Oliver Bjorkstrand. Watching him play tonight, I believe he has made some spectacular opportunities for not only himself, but others as well. Throughout the game, Bjorkstrand had 3 shots on net, including a beautiful backhand on a breakaway that Alexandar Georgiev just barely kept out of the net. Oliver Bjorkstrand also had an assist, helping Yanni Gourde net his first postseason goal this year, and the last goal for the Kraken this game.
Coming in as the second star, I have Philipp Grubauer. While the shots on net during tonight’s game was a bit low (Seattle finishing with 29 SOG, Avs 28), this was one of Philipp Grubauers best games, and I felt like he was absolutely, positively, without a doubt, dialed in. As I mentioned a lot of times already, both teams did an unbelievable job defensively, and that includes screening. In other games, especially where the Avalanche came back and won, screens were one thing I noticed that Grubauer had an issue with. Not only screens from the opposing team, but from his own teammates as well. It was easy for him to lose the puck and the flow of play. During tonight’s game, Philipp Grubauer had X-Ray vision. At all times he knew where the puck was, he positioned himself accordingly, and just like Alexandar Georgiev in the first period, his goaltending was water-tight, putting up a .929 SV% with two goals allowed, one of them being a bitch to be able to save.
Finally, my number one star of the game is Tye Kartye. This one may be controversial, but let me explain: Tonight, as I said before, was Tye Kartye’s NHL debut. Not only was it his first NHL game, it was his first PLAYOFF game. Coming in with the third-lowest amount of time on the ice at 8:41, Tye laid 3 hits on Alex Newhook, Josh Manson, and Erik Johnson all in the Avalanche zone, which were all huge in helping the Kraken maintain the puck in the o-zone as much as they did. Tye Kartye was also named this season’s AHL rookie of the year, putting up an impressive 57 points, 28 goals and 29 assists in the prospect league’s regular season. Oh, and let’s not forget the whole “scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game” situation, because that was an absolute beauty of a one-timer, and I think that was pretty fucking rad.
With the conclusion of this game comes many things. One such thing is hope. “Could the Seattle Kraken go all the way this year?” Nothing is certain, but the Kraken have proven that they have the skills necessary to hang with the top dogs of the league. “Do they have the ability to plunge the dagger into these said mongrel hounds?” If they keep playing the way that they have been, yes. 100% I have faith in the Kraken to close out the series. “Will Jared McCann come back before the end of the series, and how could this affect future matches against Cale Makar?” If the Avs don’t take the next two games, I hope he will. Without knowing the extent of his injuries though, it’s hard to say one way or the other. Unfortunately, with this newfound hope after taking the series lead, comes more questions than answers, and the only way those answers will be revealed is by moving forward, and continuing to make the same kind of fantastic plays like the ones seen tonight. The Avalanche are a tough team, and the Kraken still have one more game to go before . As we move forward, though, not only will we receive the answers we seek to our questions, but we may find out more about our beloved team than we ever thought we would have.