Today is a great day to be a Washingtonian. The only thing that even compares to the pride I feel for my state, is the pride I feel for the Leafs advancing to the second round for the first time since 2004. The only thing to top off Tye Katrye’s birthday now, is to order him a cake.
I was genuinely scared the Kraken couldn’t pull this off, I’m not gonna lie. There were some moments, like the goal by Mikko Rantanen’s ass in the second period that squeaked it’s way past Grubauer’s right side, that made me think to myself, “is this really how it’s gonna go down? The classic ‘Silent but Deadly’?” Alas, Mikko’s perfectly timed farts were no match for the Seattle Kraken’s defensive effort, whom of which honestly handed out an ass-whupping to the Avalanche tonight, doubling their recorded hits, 46 to 23. Because Sling forces you to watch the Bruins embarrassingly blow their 3-1 series lead due to the goaltender situation imploding in overtime during game 7, I missed the first 10 minutes of the game. That’s okay though, because just like game 5, it was a scoreless first period. A good omen to a Kraken hopeful. Paired with the fact that Grubauer was making some terrific saves in the first already, I knew for sure that this was gonna be a good game.
At the start of the second, the Kraken were on their A-Game. In their groove. Their Zen, if you will. They’ve finally found it. The thing that I’ve been talking about this entire series– is their confidence. They’re a phenomenal team. They’ve already proved it tonight by dethroning the defending Stanley Cup Champions, and causing a ruckus in the Western Conference. When the Avalanche took the lead last game, they rattled them. Unfortunately, Game 6 was a game where a single goal was enough to damage them for the rest of the match. The Avalanche took the opportunity to become more aggressive, and wear down the overall stamina of the team. This kills morale, and then you find yourself fighting an uphill battle, with a literal avalanche in your way. That wasn’t the story of this game, not by a long shot. Less than 5 minutes in, after a back and forth between the teams zones, the Kraken managed to hold possession in the Avalanche zone. Oliver Bjorkstrand gained possession and moved it into the in the corner, danced for a moment, swung around, and doinked the puck off of Brandon Tanev, which sent it over the netminder’s shoulder. This goal here also solidified the Kraken as the first team in the NHL (and youngest) to score first in all seven of their first playoff games since the Toronto Arenas, in 1918.
This goal here rejuvenated the Seattle team, and sent them into a frenzy. Their aggression perked up, they were making big hits, and their backchecking was on point. After a successful clearing from Eeli Tolvanen to the neutral zone, Oliver Bjorkstrand raced behind it and scooped it up for a breakaway down the left side. He glided, leaned forward, and gave the fans at Ball Arena that beautiful “pwang” of the puck as he snipes the crossbar for the Seattle Kraken’s second goal of the night. The boys were straight buzzin’. For the next 12 minutes, the Kraken and their extremely talented goaltender would play a fantastic game of zone protection and control, as they continued to clear pucks and make great hits.
Unfortunately, Seattle would draw a penalty, and the Dastardly Duo of Nate Dawg MacKinnon and Rantan-ass would put away Colorado’s first goal in the dying seconds of the period, while on the power play. Things got even scarier in the opening of the third, when Nathan MacKinnon got a hold of a drop pass from Devon Dowes, and he put one past Philipp Grubauer. Thank the Hockey Gods, that Dave Hakstol has hawk-eye vision, because this is the second time in three games where he’s challenged a goal for offsides, and been successful. Both times, he saved the game. When the Kraken stepped onto the ice, you could tell they were feeling a bit discouraged, but you could also tell that this wasn’t a normal funk. After the disallowed goal, it seemed like something clicked– they finally realized that they could count on themselves and their teammates to close out his series. After all, Yanni Gourde and Justin Schultz both have two stanley cups under their belts, along with Philipp Grubauer, Vince Dunn, and Jaden Schwartz, who all have one themselves. They all finally started playing like it. They’ve got their chemistry back, and boy are they feeling it. They were doing everything right, ESPECIALLY giving Grubauer space, like I’ve been complaining about all series. Oliver Bjorkstrand would have multiple chances to score a third goal for the team, but just couldn’t squeak it past Georgiev. However, they played like a true playoff team with a stellar defense, up until the final horn. With 1:45 left in the game, the Colorado Avalanche decided to pull their goalie for the extra attacker. Prevailing that same 1:45 later, the Seattle Kraken skated off the ice as the winners of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s Kraken hockey baby.
Stars of the Game
Coming in at number three, I’ve got Brandon Tanev. It would be Nathan MacKinnon, but this is KRAKEN hockey, and for the next four months, Nate Dawg’s gonna be golfing. For the opening goal tonight, although not officially credited, he was there to help. In the first goal, after Oliver Bjorkstrand just kinda aimlessly lobbed it into the slot, Tanev was there to bonk it into the net past Georgiev to not only give the Kraken the lead, but to make history as well.
Number Two was hard for me. The reason why is because it’s between Philipp Grubauer and Oliver Bjorkstrand. However, I decided to go with Bjorkstrand. He played a great game tonight, with two goals, and many more amazing Chances. I recalled a few of his shots ringing off of the posts. Him, along with Will Borgen, Jamie Oleksiak, and Adam Larsson have a combined shots blocked total of 13, and Even though Bjorkstrand scored the goals that ultimately won the game, Philipp Grubauer carried the entire series.
On that note, if you guessed Philipp Grubauer as my first star, then not only do I congratulate you on your ability to read, but also your level of common sense. Grubauer needs to go to a chiropractor after carrying this Seattle team. This playoffs alone, he’s posted a .926 SV% with a team who.. Honestly could do well to give him space to work more frequently. They did well tonight, but I’ll believe them when they’re consistent. Philipp Grubauer can honestly only be described with one word this playoffs, and it’s “cracked”
The Kraken defied all odds this playoff round. Many counted them out for the first round– and many more predicted a sweep. The newest franchise in the NHL has just proven to the entire league that they’re more than just a shiny new object. They’re a force to be reckoned with, and will humble you if you’re not careful. That’s not to say that the road ahead isn’t challenging. The Kraken will move on to Round 2 to face the Dallas Stars, who defeated the Minnesota Wild in their series 3-1. A gentleman’s sweep is a scary thing to have to go up against. However, if the Kraken keep their composure, keep doing what works, and they stay faithful, there’s not a lot that this new team can’t overcome. The Dallas Stars have advanced in the playoffs for the first time since 2020, where they were eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final vs the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars are eager to ride their momentum from their victory against the Minnesota Wild, and the Kraken will feel that pain, no doubt. The Kraken have proven themselves to be cup contenders this year, and they have the structure, discipline, confidence, and skill to win another round. Grubauer saved the team’s ass in the first round. This series ultimately, belongs to him. If the Kraken want to ensure future success, they have to make moves in the O-Zone, and keep that puck where they want it. The Kraken must make certain that they can repair their cracks in their armor, and stave off the Stars to take round 2. This Stanley Cup Playoff, we are watching history in the making. Regardless of how the rest of these playoffs go, the future for Seattle hockey is bright.