Sleepless In Seattle: Avalanche Force Game 7 In Blowout Victory Against Kraken

Just like the Leafs, the Kraken were unable to close out the series, and are now forced to play a game 7 in Denver at Ball Arena. And I’ve gotta say… This is not the Kraken that we have seen in previous games in the series. This has been their worst effort by far in this playoff, and quite frankly, I’m disappointed. It feels like the players decided to trade team jerseys and throw the game. Even after the final buzzer, the look on Dave Hakstol’s face was one of pure disbelief. Even the head coach himself didn’t recognize the team that skated off the ice after 60 minutes. Personally, I don’t blame him. The Kraken’s performance was well below the bar, and at the next morning skate, there will be hell to pay.

The opening period started like any other: The Kraken players were fired up, the crowd was the loudest I’ve ever heard in a barn, and the Seattle Kraken put on a phenomenal show in the first. They were doing everything right that they had been doing in their other game victories– and even the games where the Avalanche had come back. They were doing well with their man coverage, they were clearing pucks, and they even held decent control of the neutral zone, which was an improvement from their previous game. However, if you’re a believer in superstition, then the disallowed goal which was supposed to be Bowen Byram’s first NHL goal served as a bad omen for the Kraken and fans. Being disallowed due to the play being offside, the Seattle hockey club soon answered back. During the game of his return, after being booed yet again by the Seattle hooligans, Cale Makar and his squad of completely rearranged lines battled it out in their defensive zone. After an attempted pass by Samuel Girard, the puck nearly misses the stick of Evan Rodriguez and was snatched up and passed to the newest Kraken, Tye Kartye, who’s shot from the high slot was blocked. On an attempted clear on the rebound from Erik Johnson, Vince Dunn was just in the perfect spot to score an absolutely SCHMEXY one timer to beat Alexandar Georgiev right under his blocker side. Fans in Climate Pledge Arena, as well as at home, still witnessed history last night as well. In their first – and unfortunately only goal of the game – The Seattle Kraken became the second team in the history of the NHL to have the opening goal in each of their first five games of playoff hockey.

The celebration wouldn’t last long. The Kraken would continue their defensive push, going on the power play with three minutes left in the period, after a hooking call on Dennis Molgen. The Avalanche penalty kill unit would prevail, and Mikko Rantanen would tap in a rebound with 19 seconds left in the period. This goal. This single goal. Was devastating for the Seattle Kraken’s confidence. As I mentioned in my game preview, the Kraken has had an issue with this. The Colorado Avalanche is a well experienced team, back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, hungry to win it all for the second time in the row. I think anyone, especially a franchise still in its infancy, would be nervous to play against a club like this. These nerves got to these Kraken, hard. The dominant offensive zone time that the Kraken once held was ripped away by the Avalanche. Starting the second period, the Avalanche almost seemed to feast off of the Kraken’s energy with that goal.

Despite Seattle winning the opening faceoff of the period, the Avs came out hard hitting, almost instantly taking puck possession, going onto the power play two minutes in, and outshooting the Kraken almost double up until the end of the third. While the Seattle Kraken still showed a good defensive effort at the beginning of the period, playing a somewhat organized man-to-man coverage, and making some good pass interceptions, but the Avalanche were simply the better skaters. With Cale Makar’s return, the Colorado Avalanche was completely reorganized, and this played in their favor. The Kraken couldn’t keep up with the fresh chemistry in the new lines. With a little less than 13 minutes left in the period, a battle in the near corner of the Avalanche zone won by the team with the same name had provided Erik Johnson with a scoring opportunity after the puck was dumped to the center of the zone, and he shot it from the high slot after intercepting. It deflected off of Branden Tanev, and Grubauer didn’t stand a chance.

As the game dragged on, I became increasingly frustrated with how close to the goaltender the Seattle players were when trying to defend. In an attempt to block shots or screen the shooters, players would get bunched up in Grubauers crease, restructuring his movement, or just flat out screening him themselves. As the game continued on, the Avalanche got more comfortable. As the Avalanche got more comfortable, the Kraken became more panicked. The overall experience went from watching two high skill teams hashing it out to punch their ticket to round 2 of the playoffs, to watching… Well… An NHL team play a not NHL team. All the Kraken could do was use their speed to try to keep up with the puck and try to disrupt play, but the Avalanche were moving and working so smoothly, they became water that seeped through the cracks in the Kraken’s armor with 9 and a half minutes left, Tye Kartye draws a penalty for interference on Andre Cogliano, and no less than a minute later there was a scuffle between Mikko Rantan and Morgan Geekie behind the goal, where Will Borgen interfered. Both Mikko Rantanen and Will Borgen got 2 minute minors for roughing, meanwhile Arturri Lekhonen got sent off ice with a slashing on Philipp Groubauer, making the play 4-on-4. This is when I had a little spark of hope flair up in me, because Seattle plays some good 4-on-4 hockey. They’re able to maneuver better and use the open ice in ways other players don’t think to, and their ability to make those tape to tape passes is what makes their special teams unique. What’s that age old saying? “A boy can dream?” A dreamer I stayed. After what can be argued as one of the best saves this series by Philipp Grubauer, and unable to capitalize on the extra ice space, the Avalanche close out the period with an even wider gap, after a shot from Devon Towes is deflected into the Kraken net by Mikko Rantanen, ending the half-way period at 3-1.

What can I say about the third period that I didn’t say about the second? I guess the Kraken did a better job of prolonging the inevitable? Going into the third, their defense started strong, and admittedly, it stuck around. The Avalanche offensive effort was still stronger, and they simply couldn’t keep up. Grubauer was just really good at his job last night. Despite a loss, Philipp Grubauer posted a .921 SV% with 35 out of 39 shots saved. But because the Colorado team was skating circles around the Kraken, and forcing them to defend their zone for so long, the Avalanche was able to force the Kraken to crowd their Goaltender, screen him, and allow for some pretty fucked up deflection opportunities. Two out of the four goals that the Avalanche scored this game were deflections, so the lack of shot blocking isn’t an issue. The issue is, we have a stellar goaltender, the Avalanche spit on the Kraken’s confidence, clouding their judgment of both the play on the ice, and their own ability to play. To give Seattle some leeway, the Avalanche lines were organized differently from the previous games, and that could throw anyone off. Now that the Kraken have a taste of the new lines, and because those new lines did well, the Kraken should know what to expect from this Colorado team now. As shown in previous games, Seattle can close out a game, and they can do it well. My point for this entire series though, is that the Kraken are unable to maintain their confidence, and when they start slipping is when we see games like last night. Going into game 7, the Kraken must be aware of what they can do. They need to rely on their chemistry and natural talent to overcome the Avalanche. It’s all there, we’ve seen it. Whatever steps the Kraken need to take in order to stay confident and avoid discouragement, they need to do it and do it quickly, otherwise the record they broke this game will be the only one for the rest of their season. Finishing out the game, Grubauer was pulled with a minute and a half left in a last ditch attempt to tie the game and send it into overtime. The Avalanche prevailed, and they buried the empty netter in the dying seconds.

It all comes down to Sunday.


Author: Sebastian Towles

Hello! I'm the newest writer covering the newest franchise in the NHL. Originally born in Oklahoma and raised in North Carolina, I moved to Spokane in July of 2021, and fell in love with the city that eventually introduced me to hockey through the WHL. A Leafs fan at heart, I'll be bringing you some great stories about the Seattle Kraken, and more.

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