Seattle Kraken Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 1

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 21: Evan Rodrigues #9 of the Colorado Avalanche looks to play the puck against the Seattle Kraken during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on January 21, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 21: Evan Rodrigues #9 of the Colorado Avalanche looks to play the puck against the Seattle Kraken during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on January 21, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

Seattle Kraken will play their first ever playoff game tonight. A statement that could sound like I am implying there has been some sort of long-term suffering from a struggling team and fanbase. This is not the case. This is the story of an epic turn around.

The team is only two years old and the focus should be the massive improvements from year one to year two. The bar was set high by the Vegas Golden Knights (making it to the Cup Finals their expansion season). This team was built from the net out, had smart free agent acquisitions, and drafted well.

This team has not mortgaged the future for instant success.

The future of the team is bright and so is the present.

In a time where being an expansion team has more benefits than a team that struggles annually (Arizona, Columbus), the ability to quickly establish a winning roster and culture on the back of the energy from a new fanbase has catapulted the Kraken into Stanley Cup contention.

Oh and the Western Conference is loaded with elite teams.

Personally, I think that all teams should be gifted a one time ‘reset’ option. The team pays a massive fee to the league and is allowed a one-time ‘expansion’ type draft. The ability to reset and build like an expansion franchise. Fun idea for the NHL to mull over.

Back to the playoffs…

The Kraken face the Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche. Sounds scary, I know. lol

As I sit in Colorado writing this, the energy in Denver is that of a team looking to defend their title. It’s electric, there is a buzz. There should be a buzz.

The fans in Colorado are as obnoxious as ever (seriously, Avalanche fans annoy the crap out of me. They are Avalanche fans, not hockey fans). Majority of the ‘fans’ here have the Avalanche sweeping the Kraken. I think they are in for a rude awakening.

In a pick-your-poison type of post season, this matchup is actually the best one for the Kraken. “But the Avs are Cup champs!” Hear me out. The Kraken have a winning record against the Avs. The team is 3-2-1 against Colorado all time.

So they are beatable. That’s a positive.

This is the playoffs, and the playoffs are a different beast. The entirety of each game feels like the final five minutes of regulation; each shift and each shot matter. Its win or go home. There is no tomorrow (ok, kind of dramatic but you get the idea).

Colorado has Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and (in my opinion) the second best player in the world in Cale Makar. Those three alone could carry the Avs to a Cup repeat. The Avalanche are an incredibly top heavy team with really one solid top line (MacKinnon, Rantanen and Evan Rodrigues). After that they thin out pretty quickly. That is not saying that they are not a good if not great team.

They are. Their superstars are three of the best players in the world. Easily all three could and should be ranked in the top 10.

The Kraken need to respect this team. They can score (10 players with double digit goals).

The Kraken are loaded with goal scorers as well. The team boats a roster that has 13 players with 13 or more goals. Of those 13, six had 20 or more goals. Jared McCann had 40.

Yep, 40. Avs fans need to take notice, McCann’s wrist shot reminds me of Joe Sakic’s (BOLD statement I know).

The Kraken are deep on the blue line with three solid lines. Vince Dunn and Adam Larsson are an elite pairing. Jaime Oleksiak and Will Borgen can shut down top lines (and score on occasion). Carson Soucy and Justin Schultz could be the starting pair for at least half of the teams in the league. The team’s scoring ability and depth on defense should favor them against a thin(er) Avs team. I don’t like the Avs 3rd and 4th lines against the Kraken.

I am predicting the Kraken win this series in 6 games.

Let’s have a look at tonight.

The Kraken win if…

Phillipp Grubauer channels his inner Patrick Roy and dominates the Avalanche. What better way to get revenge against your former team than by ending their reign as Cup champs? Seriously, goaltending wins championships. The Kraken will need Grubauer to be the best player on the ice tonight.

the team remembers what got them here. They have been resilient. Too many times this year the Kraken played from behind (sometimes massively) and came out with a win. Their ability to never fold under the pressure or feel too up or down has helped them mature into a championship caliber team. With the Avs ability to score, the team will need to stay level headed. This series is a marathon, not a race.

their special teams are on point. The Kraken power play ranked 21st in the league with 19.8% success. This number has to be better. The team needs to take advantage of the man advantage. The Kraken penalty kill was 76.7%, numbers that have to be better in this series.

x-factor players Daniel Sprong, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Yanni Gourde are incredible. If we hear their names a lot tonight, this bodes well for the Kraken.

The Avalanche win if…

Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen light up the scoresheet. They can single handedly beat  any team in the league. If they get hot, lookout.

Cale Maker is Cale Makar. What did Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog say after they won the Cup? “Find a Cale Makar somewhere“. Makar is the second best player in the world (next to Connor McDavid), if he does his thing, its game over tonight.

Alexandar Georgiev outplays Grubauer. Georgiev is a massive upgrade over the Avs goalie last season, Darcy Keumper, but the team lost a lot of their key pieces from the Cup team (Nazim Kadri and Andre Burakovsky to free agency, and Landeskog to injury). If Georgiev is on, he could slow down the Kraken offense.

A series is not won after the first game (unless you were the 2019 Tampa Bay Lightning against Columbus). With that being said, no team has an advantage in a series until they win a game on the road. Kraken need to get a road win tonight. Just one win.

Coaching and depth are going to be the x-factor in this series. The puck drops tonight at 7pm PT.

Fear the deep!