From the bottom of the standings, to standing at the base of the playoff mountain, and then continuing to dethrone the former Stanley Cup Champions, it seems like the Kraken could be facing the end of their 2023 Stanley Cup playoff run. The Seattle Kraken now have to manage two wins in a row against the Stars if they want to continue on with their season. All and all, the Kraken played a good game. Despite being down early, they made a great comeback effort, but just couldn’t pull it off in the dying minutes of the game.
If you’re the superstitious type, then the two back-to-back goals for the Dallas Stars in the first five minutes of the opening period was a bad omen for the Kraken, especially after their 6-3 loss the previous game. Grubauer started this game asleep– and he was unprepared for the energy that the Dallas Stars had opened the game up with. Personally, after Game 4, I would have put Martin Jones in net, not because I think Grubauer is a bad goaltender by any means. However, he has been carrying the Seattle Kraken for a lot of this series, and I imagine that can make one exhausted. With exhaustion, comes some silly mistakes. Granted, Grubauer would clean up and regain his energy for the majority of the rest of the game, not allowing any more goals until the dying minutes of the third. With that being said, Martin Jones is a pretty solid goaltender as well, and they’d do well to give him a shot. While the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t have a choice in regards to putting Joseph Woll in net after Ilya Samsonov was careened into his net, they did almost have a shutout in their Game 4 against the Florida Panthers. Perhaps Jones could show the same level of success. Unfortunately though, facing elimination Game 6, I don’t see Dave Hakstol switching out goalies, as Grubauer is the more seasoned veteran of the two, and has better overall stats.
For the remainder of the first, the Seattle hockey team would start to lay down some great pressure, managing to take the puck into the Star’s offensive zone, and keeping it there. They continued to pile on their shots on goal, finishing out the period 14 to 5. The Kraken began to make their comeback effort in the second period, but not before Joe Pavelski scored within the opening minute after shooting the puck into Grubauer’s chest, who was unable to hold onto the rebound. Joe Pavelski then rushed the net, shoveling it past the Kraken goaltender. Again, not looking too good for the boys as the score sat at 3-0 with over 19 minutes to play in the period. Adam Larsson would bring a glimmer of hope two minutes into the period, after taking a pass from Jordan Eberle across the top of the slot, where he would then walk it to the net and send the puck past Jake Ottinger, shattering the possibility of a shutout.
Continuing with heavy pressure in the Dallas Zone, the Seattle Kraken would establish a dominant forecheck, thanks to some line-rearranging by Dave Hakstol. Jared McCann would be pumped up to the higher lines, giving the Kraken’s offense a bit more bite. After five and a half minutes of relentless pressure against the Stars in their zone and then ending up back out in the neutral zone, Jordan Eberle crossed the Dallas blue line with a drop pass to McCann, who was right along with him during their entry into the Stars’ side. McCann took the puck up the right wing, spun away from a Dallas skater, and turned around for a brilliant snipe through traffic. Traffic so heavy in fact, that the goal was originally credited to Larsson due to the fact that it looked as though the puck deflected off of his skate or stick. This goal would make Jared McCann the Seattle Kraken’s 18th individual goal-scorer this postseason, as well as marking his first goal of the playoffs.
While the Kraken would continue to boast an impressive offensive effort with great work by the defensive pairings on the blue line, These would be their last goals of the night, and the third period would become hairy for the Puget Sound based hockey players. They began the period with the same ferocity that they had ended the second with. The Seattle Kraken won the opening draw for the third, and almost immediately they were in the Star’s zone establishing the forecheck that had brought them so much success in the second. Unfortunately for them, Jake Ottinger was ready to play, and he was able to block every shot the Kraken made from that point on. This wore down the Kraken’s offense, causing them to make poor passes. Admittedly, their passing was kind of “meh” for a lot of the game already, unable to make tape-to-tape contact, or just mussing the receiver’s blade all together. Pucks were ending up in skates or rebounding off of the boards, and this became worse as the third continued. This allowed the Dallas Stars to capitalize on poor puck handling, as they ended up with turnovers that allowed them to either clear the puck, or move it into the Kraken’s defensive zone. It even got to a point to where MULTIPLE Kraken skaters weren’t even making adequate contact with the puck on golden scoring opportunities, either snagging the edge of the puck and nudging it into the blade of a Dallas skater, or just completely miffing the shot all together. Halfway into the final period, Roope Hintz would take a pass originating from behind the Kraken net, allowing him to backhand it over Grubauer’s pads. Confusion in American Airlines Center ensued, as the players on the ice thought the puck hit the crossbar, and didn’t cross the goal line. After watching the goal, I myself even thought the goal was no good, until the situation room in Toronto chimed in, and caught the puck entering Grubauer’s net, top left corner.
Admittedly, it was a pretty goal. A VERY pretty goal. And honestly, Roope deserved that one, and even though it sucked to go back into a two goal deficit, having a goal like that overturned would have sucked ASS, so I’m glad it counted. In a desperate attempt to cut the Dallas Stars’ lead, Dave Hakstol made the decision to pull Philipp Grubauer in favor of the extra attacker for Seattle. This would backfire severely. On a breakout by the Kraken, Radek Faksa would steal the puck from Jaden Schwartz as he skated up center ice, giving him an easy shot into the Kraken empty net, giving their win an insurance policy, with the final at 5-2.
If the Seattle Kraken want to have any hope of making it to Round 3, it is absolutely IMPARATIVE that they win their next game. Some comfort comes with knowing that they’ll be playing at Climate Pledge Arena in front of a home crowd which will be guaranteed to be fired up for this upcoming game. Be that as it may, the Kraken have to do more than win on home ice. They also have to go back to Dallas, and win a second time in a row on the STARS’ turf, which may prove to be difficult. If I were Dave Hakstol, I would really work on passing during next practice, and hammer home the concept of tape to tape, or tape to skates. The amount of bad and dropped passes this game was baffling, and quite honestly surprising, and it was clear that a lot of them led to good opportunities for the Stars. I think beyond passing, the Kraken also need to work on that stick-to-ice contact when they shoot. As I mentioned earlier, I can count three different times off the top of my head where a Kraken shot on net was poorly executed, and the puck barely moved from the original shooting position. I’ve personally been there myself, and messing up a shot like that can really throw your focus and your game off. All and all however, the Kraken played a decent game, but made some very preventable mistakes that ultimately cost them the game. The good thing about those mistakes, however, is they’re just that– preventable.
If Dave Hakstol continues to encourage the offensive zone pressure we saw tonight, as well as working on stick and puck handling paired with shot practice, I think we could make the proper adjustments to win the next game. Two in a row is hard to imagine given the current circumstances, but it’s very much possible. No matter what happens this coming Saturday, the Seattle Kraken has played a season that has exceeded the expectations of nearly everyone — fans included. The people of Seattle, as well as fans worldwide, are beyond proud of the outstanding organization that the Seattle Kraken have become. The Kraken have an amazing group of players who are phenomenal both on and off the ice, and who will continue to bring exemplary success in unprecedented amounts their organization, fans, and city for years, and quite possibly generations to come. We’re not going down without a fight.
Game Six on home ice this Saturday. We move.