Yanni Gourde? More Like Yanni Goal! Kraken Break The Ice, Taking Game 1 of Round 2 vs Stars

The opening game of Round 2 vs the Dallas Stars and the Seattle Kraken was a roller coaster of emotion. After defeating the Minnesota Wild in the first round 4-1, Joe Pavelski makes his return to the Stars lineup after taking a scary, and potentially career ending hit during Game 1. During his return, he also shattered the Kraken’s streak of opening goals this playoffs, and netted all four goals for the Stars. Despite this, the Kraken would come out on top with Yanni Gourde scoring the game-winning goal in overtime.

This was a high scoring game, no doubt. Especially going into the first, with six total goals, two from the Stars and four from the Kraken. This first period was extremely aggressive from both sides. The Kraken in particular have been hard hitting all this postseason, typically outshooting and out hitting their opponents, despite having a lower faceoff in percentage. Just three minutes into the first period, Joe Pavelski opened the scoring after taking a cross-ice pass from Mason Marchment, beating Grubauer on his blocker side.

With 8:35 left in the game, we see the beginning of a burst of Kraken energy that we’ve been waiting for all playoffs. Jaden Schwartz, moving the puck up the Kraken’s right side, lost control of it, which was then picked up by Morgan Geekie. He runs the net, spins, and passes the puck right BACK to Jaden Schwartz, who slips the puck in five-hole to score the first goal for the Kraken. Of course, less than a minute later we would see Joe Pavelski answer the goal after tipping in a shot from Thomas Harley, who ripped it from the center blue line.

With equal speed and ferocity, the Kraken fired back with not one, not two, but THREE OTHER GOALS before the end of the period, and they were all scored by different players. The Seattle Kraken this year have had goals scored by 15 different players so far this postseason. The first of many rapid fire goals this period, came on the forecheck, when Morgan Geekie dug the puck off the boards, and sent it over to Ryan Donato, who then buried the puck– yet again– past Jake Ottinger’s blocker side. Oliver Bjorkstrand then takes a pass from the Kraken D-zone and skates up center ice, maneuvering around a Stars defenseman, and ripping the puck top-shelf, yet again on Ottinger’s blocker side. The final goal of the period, still within a minute of the previous two, and the final regulation goal for the Kraken, came off of an offensive zone draw– and I mean almost immediately, when Vince Dunn gained possession of the puck, and his shot on goal was tipped in by Jordan Eberle.

The second period was lackadaisical to say the least. However, the energy coming from the Kraken as they left the locker room was simply electric. Almost instantly, after the opening faceoff, the Kraken dominated the offensive zone, and did an excellent job forechecking, allowing them to keep possession and avoid pucks from leaving the zone. While the tone of the game for both teams shifted to a sense of prioritizing defensive strategy, the Kraken still went on to dominate in hits. Their determination after they stepped off of the ice at the conclusion of period 1 was through the roof, and their physicality showed that. Philipp Grubauer and Jake Ottinger both turned around after the first, and dominated their respective creases in the second, allowing for a scoreless second period. Because Joe Pavelski was carrying the Stars in goals (and would continue to do so). The third is where things get a bit more tense. The Kraken start off the period looking worn down. They weren’t as responsive as they were the previous two periods, their passing was off, and they weren’t as physical, although still putting up a good fight. The bad begins, after a shot from Matty Beniers rips a shot, and hits nothing but iron, leading to a glove save by Ottinger. Minutes later, when a penalty is called on Mason Marchment, I guess the Stars were getting quite frustrated with the events of the hockey game. The Stars skater was given a two minute minor for tripping Morgan Geekie, who then continued to punch and crosscheck him while he was on the ground, in true crybaby fashion.

While the Dallas team didn’t capitalize on this powerplay, a little while after Marchment left the box, Joe Pavelski tipped in a rebound that was fired off by Jamie Benn. At this moment, I couldn’t say that I was upset. Joe was making his return to the Stanley Cup playoffs after coming off of an incredibly scary, and potentially career ending hit that caused him to miss the entirety of the first round vs the Minnesota Wild. He even puts up his fourth not too long later after Jani Hakanpaa receives a pass from Max Domi, and lobs it at Grubauer. Lo and behold, Joe was there to tip the puck in, just barely netting it on Philipp’s blocker side.

Unfortunately or not, this is the note that the Kraken had to go into overtime on. Whatever the case is, the fire was lit under the Seattle hockey club. During overtime, the Kraken’s energy had been restored a bit. They were no longer playing desperately like they were when their lead was slipping away. While still being aggressive and strong on the forecheck, the Kraken were able to mitigate their mistakes and hold out against the Stars. They were able to win races to the puck, and ultimately keep the game moving in their favor. We would see a very scary moment, when Will Borgen blocked a shot from Max Domi. Watching the clip, I wince every time. Back in middle school, I dislocated my knee at a trampoline park, and I know the type of pain that can come with leg/joint injuries. When Max Domi takes his shot, Will Borgen is in position to block, and block he did. The only issue is that the puck was probably moving between 70 and 90 miles per hour, and it hit Borgen on the top of the knee, where the knee pads end.

If you’ve ever strapped on hockey gear, you know what I’m talking about. After Will Borgen went down, play continued for a moment, before being blown dead by a linesman. When helped off the ice, it was clear that Borgen was unable to put weight on it, and the fans both at home and at American Airlines Center feared the worst. Thankfully, soon after, he was back on the ice for his next shift. With 7:46 left in overtime, the hero of the game, Yanni Gourde arrives, and scores what can only be described as a “wheel-around-wrister” after a rebound was lost from Ottinger’s sight. Gourde skated across the crease, picked up the loose puck, twirled around, and slung it up top-shelf past Jake Ottinger’s head, sealing the Kraken’s victory for Game 1 of the second round.

Game 1 was dominated by Joe Pavelski. I mean, he carried the Stars so much that the eventual joke became ”Joe Pavelski vs The Kraken”. I feel like if Joe had continued to stay out for this game, we would have easily had a different outcome, and I don’t think overtime would have even been a thought. If I were Pavleski, I would be livid at my team. If I put away 4 goals, I expect my team to put away some as well. Joe Pavelski’s dominance on the ice revealed the Star’s lack of dominance in roster depth. For the Seattle Kraken, 15 different players have scored goals this playoffs, compared to the Dallas Stars’ 11. Even in this first matchup between these two, a different player with the Kraken scored a goal each. If DeBoer thinks that he can rely on Pavelski for the rest of the series, he’s wrong. The fact that Joe also got as much ice-time as he did (19:29) after coming off of a major injury like his, it feels like the Stars are just begging to lose him again, especially with how physical the Kraken have been.

Except for one goal, all of the other goals, again only scored by Joe, have been tipped-in or rebounded. It will be the Kraken’s responsibility the next few games to keep the Stars from getting into positions where they can score with bounces, rebounds, or deflections. So this means keeping Grubauers crease clear. On conventional shots, Grubauer is a monster. His downfall comes in situations like Joe Pavelski’s multiple tip-ins, or Mikko Rantanen’s fart-redirection in round 1. Positioning has been an issue for the Kraken since the start, and they need to be more aware of their surroundings. Otherwise, the team we’re seeing debut against the Stars this offseason is leaps and bounds beyond the playing level that we saw from the Kraken in round 1. Seattle just has to keep their foot on the gas, and hold true to their confidence and determination.

Stars of the Game

My number three star for Game 1 Round 2 is Oliver Bjorkstrand. Although his plus/minus this offseason is a -2,  He’s been popping off the last few games. In Game 7 vs the Avalanche, he put away two goals. The first one, which wasn’t the prettiest, deflected off of Brandon Tanev after Bjorky lobbed it from Georgiev’s right side. Following that goal and a poke-check from Eeli Tanaven, Bjorkstrand yoinked the puck from center ice and rang the crossbar for his second that game, and almost did it again in overtime. For the opening game against Dallas, Bjorkstrand demonstrated his scoring value yet again after a beautiful open-ice pass, and phenomenal maneuvering against Esa Lindell to beat Ottinger blocker side. If I were a betting man, I’d say Bjorkstrand gets a hat trick this series.

My Second star tonight is Jaden Schwartz. I think he played an excellent game, and had phenomenal situational awareness the entire time. The symphony of passing and communication that he had with Morgan Geekie led to the Kraken’s opening goal, and a beauty too, as Schwartz slipped the puck through Jake Ottinger’s 5-hole.

And now… The man we’ve all been waiting for, for the Seattle Kraken, and my pick for YOUR first star of the game, we’ve got back-to-back Stanley Cup Champion, Yanni Gourde. I mean, what can I say? He saved the Kraken’s game. It’s really hard to tell what happened, so I can’t say that it was a particularly impressive goal, but it counted nonetheless. What LOOKED like had happened, was Oliver Bjorkstrand nearly netted his second of the game, and managed to get on the rebound to poke it toward Yanni Gourde. Gourde then spun around, and chucked it past Ottenger’s glove side in a desperation shot. Boy howdy, did it pay off.

Going into game 2, the Kraken need to focus on a couple of things: first off, being their composure. As we’ve seen since the Kraken’s stepped foot onto the ice, when they’re organized and in the proper headspace, they are a force to be reckoned with. Their passes are laserlike, they have superior forechecking and zone protection abilities (thanks to their stellar defensive core), they can lay big hits when it matters most, and their ability to move and clear the puck is textbook. Just so long as they stay organized, and the Kraken don’t let the little things get to them, they can do great things as a team. My next issue, and my GOD did I scream about it in Game 6 vs the Avalanche, is that the Kraken like to try to defend the net by standing RIGHT on top of Philipp Grubauer. Earlier, I made the point that the majority of goals on Grubauer this postseason went in either due to deflection, rebounds, or tip-ins. This is because the Kraken skaters end up screening their own goalie, or are standing in spots that either limits Grubauer’s ability to move, or where one lucky shot from the opposition bounces off of a Seattle player because he was in the backdoor position, and the attacking skater took advantage of that. Composure and positioning are the name of the game for the Kraken, and they need to do everything they can to reduce those risky situations, and keep their head up when things get flaky. However, they did an amazing job of getting shots on net, including Brandon Tanev who rang the post in the scoreless second. The Kraken can beat Ottinger on his blocker side in most scenarios, and they can use this to their advantage. Three more wins till round 3. We move.

#ReleaseTheKraken #SeaKraken

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s