Kraken 1st Round Recap & 3 Standout Stars

The first Stanley Cup Playoff series in Seattle Kraken history has resulted in even more firsts for the Kraken. They earned their postseason first win, first home win, and first Game 7 win. Nothing is given in the playoffs, it’s earned. The Kraken drew the defending Stanley Cup champions in the first round and won 4-3. 

Philipp Grubauer Seattle Kraken
Philipp Grubauer and Jamie Oleksiak of the Seattle Kraken celebrate a win against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Kraken got out to some fast starts against the Colorado Avalanche and it helped them incredibly in their pursuit of victory. Not only that, but they also cemented themselves in NHL history, as only the second team to score first in every game of a best-of-seven series. Ironically, the team they joined is the 2004 Toronto Maple Leafs.

Round 1 is complete, and Round 2 is coming right up with no real break in between. I recapped the entire series against the Avalanche, so take a quick trip down (recent) memory lane before resetting and refocusing for the second round. 

Game 1: Kraken 3 – 1 Avalanche

The Kraken traveled to Ball Arena for Game 1 against the Avalanche. For a team that many people would think was playing with house money, myself included, they came out and showed the hockey world that they were here to win. 

Related: 3 Takeaways From Kraken’s 3-1 Game 1 Win Over Avalanche

For a team that was prone to giving up the first goal in the opening minutes of a game, they flipped the script and struck first. Eeli Tolvanen scored unassisted off a giveaway in the slot, collecting the rebound from his first shot and making no mistake with the second. Just 3:26 into the opening frame, it was 1-0 Kraken. 

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Naturally, the defending Stanley Cup champions were bound to respond, and they did just that. The goal came courtesy of someone whose name covered the scoresheets of this series, Mikko Rantanen. Despite the equalizer, the Avalanche wouldn’t find twine for the rest of the evening. The second period saw the Kraken strike early again, just 1:20 into the period courtesy of Alex Wennberg to make it 2-1. In the third period, Morgan Geekie scored 4:03 into the period to ice the game with a 3-1 final score, giving the Kraken their first playoff win in franchise history in their first playoff game.

Eeli Tolvanen Yanni Gourde Seattle Kraken
Eeli Tolvanen #20 of the Seattle Kraken celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal in the first period of Game 1 of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena (Photo by Ashley Potts/NHLI via Getty Images)

Philipp Grubauer was fantastic in this game. He saved 34-of-35 shots for a .971 save percentage (SV%). Three different Kraken lit the lamp, with six tallying at least one point. It was a good sign for a team, who finds success with its depth, that it seemingly carried over into the postseason. Even more importantly, they stole one from the Avalanche in their own building. That would be huge as the series continued. 

Game 2: Kraken 2 – 3 Avalanche

Game 2 was a heartbreaker for the Kraken despite getting off to a strong start. Just 2:40 into the first period, Justin Schultz scored his first of the series, followed by a Brandon Tanev shorthanded goal at 13:27. The Kraken were up 2-0 after the first period and looked like they were in a really good position to take full control of the series. The second period started and… that image faded from view before the 10-minute mark.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Kraken’s 3-2 Loss to the Avalanche in Game 2

The avalanche started as Artturi Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin, who eventually stepped away from the team, scored 48 seconds apart to tie the game at two heading into the final frame. All it took was one more goal for a team to win, and that came courtesy of Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews, who channeled some inspiration from his alma mater’s National Championship victory. He scored at 12:59 of the third period to give the Avalanche the lead and eventually the victory as the Kraken couldn’t knot things up, and allowed the Avs to complete the comeback.

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This was another really strong performance from Grubauer as he stopped 38-of-41 shots for a .927 SV%. The Kraken saw goals from two different players, and points from four in the loss.

Game 3: Kraken 4 – 6 Avalanche

Game 3 was the highest-scoring game in the series. There were at least three goals scored in each period, and featured both teams erasing a deficit to even the score heading into the third period. The Kraken opened the scoring at 6:08, another quick start, courtesy of Jaden Schwartz. The Avalanche would strike back almost 10 minutes later courtesy of a J.T. Compher shorthanded goal, and then followed by a Nathan MacKinnon tally to close the first period 2-1 Avalanche. 

Related: 3 Takeaways From Kraken’s 6-4 Loss to the Avalanche in Game 3

In the second period, the Avalanche kicked things off less than five minutes in courtesy of Cale Makar. Now at a 3-1 deficit, things looked grim for the Kraken. However, they started to bounce back. It started with a gorgeous goal by blue liner Jamie Oleksiak, and continued with Matty Beniers scoring the first postseason goal of his career. Heading into the locker room for the second intermission, this game was knotted up 3-3.

However, a really, really bad start for the Kraken in the third period sunk their chances of coming away with the victory. They fell back to old demons and allowed two goals in the first five minutes of the period; one to Rantanen and one to MacKinnon. Rantanen would add on an empty net goal, before Schwartz added a power-play marker with 40 seconds left, but it was too little too late for the Kraken as they dropped their first home playoff game in franchise history 6-4. 

They then trailed the Avalanche in the series 2-1, having dropped two in a row to the defending champs. However, that late, garbage-time power-play goal may have sparked something inside the team because the power play came in handy in Game 4. Grubauer finished with 28-of-33 saves for a .848 SV%.

Game 4: Kraken 3 – Avalanche 2 (OT)

The Kraken managed to defend home ice in their second attempt to secure their franchise-first home playoff win, as they took down the Avalanche 3-2 in overtime. Another game, another fast start for the team. Will Borgen scored just under four minutes into the game, followed by a Daniel Sprong power-play goal just after the halfway mark of the period. It looks like that late power-play goal in Game 3 (or my calling out the power play) may have sparked something. 

Related: 5 Takeaways From The Kraken’s First Ever Home Playoff Win

In the second period, Rantanen took over for the Avalanche, as he’d done all series long. He scored two goals, including a power-play goal with just 50 seconds remaining in regulation, to tie the game up and send it to overtime. Rantanen had Grubauer’s number in this series, despite how well he performed overall. 

There’s bound to be heroics when it comes to a Stanley Cup run. For the Kraken, a seasoned veteran stepped up and into the spotlight. It wasn’t the first time he scored a big goal in a big game, and it only took him three minutes to get it done in this one. It was Jordan Eberle who lit the lamp to send the Kraken back to Ball Arena for Game 5 with the series tied at two games apiece. The kicker? It was on the power play.

Grubauer saved 20-of-22 shots and finished with a .909 SV%. Schultz was in the middle of a four-game point streak, and Sprong registered a goal and an assist in just 10:28 time on ice (TOI). Taking a series split back to Colorado, Game 5 was set to be a huge one.

To add some context, the Avalanche would be playing without Makar in this one, and the Kraken without Jared McCann. Makar was suspended one game for an interference penalty on McCann after the whistle that removed him from both the game and the rest of the series. The Kraken took a series split to their opponent’s rink without their 40-goal scorer. How did they fare?

Game 5: Kraken 3 – 2 Avalanche

The Kraken continued their trend of scoring first, now five games in a row, with Geekie kicking things off 6:35 into the second period. However, just 1:20 later, MacKinnon found the back of the net to even things up. MacKinnon’s goal set the stage for Tye Kartye in his first NHL game to score his first NHL goal, which he did just 2:04 after MacKinnon’s. Talk about an exciting stretch of hockey!

The Kraken would strike first in the third period as well, just 1:40 into the period courtesy of Yanni Gourde, who really had a strong series for Seattle. The Avalanche would get one back with under four minutes to go in regulation from Evan Rodrigues, but the Kraken were able to weather the storm and take a 3-2 victory, and a 3-2 series lead, back to Climate Pledge Arena for Game 6.  

Related: 5 Takeaways From Kraken’s 3-2 Win Over Avalanche in Game 5

Grubauer had another stellar performance in net, stopping 26-of-28 shots for a .929 SV%. Nine different Kraken registered a point in the contest, and Gourde led all Kraken forwards in ice time with 22:14 TOI. Could the Kraken close it out in front of their home fans?

Game 6: Kraken 1 – 4 Avalanche

No, no they could not. This game gave me the feel of a regular season game at some points. Vince Dunn opened the scoring for the Kraken 15:48 into the first period, his first point of the playoffs, but after that, it was all Avalanche. Rantanen found the back of the net with 20 seconds left in the first period, as he’s done so many times throughout the series.

Related: 4 Takeaways From Kraken’s 4-1 Loss to the Avalanche in Game 6

The Kraken couldn’t fight their way back into this one. At 7:21 of the second period, Erik Johnson scored, followed by Lehkonen at 16:57 to take a commanding 3-1 lead. Nothing would change in the third period as the Kraken just couldn’t solve Alexandar Georgiev, who made 22 saves on 23 shots for a .957 SV%. They lost 4-1, due to a Lehkonen empty-net goal, to send the series back to Ball Arena, and the first Game 7 in Kraken history.

Alexandar Georgiev Colorado Avalanche
Alexandar Georgiev, Colorado Avalanche goaltender (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Despite the loss, Grubauer still played very well for the Kraken. He stopped 35-of-38 shots for a .921 SV%. The Kraken had some things to work with following the loss, such as their penalty kill and Grubauer’s performance. Now, it’s do or die

Game 7: Kraken 2 – 1 Avalanche

The Kraken entered their first Game 7 in franchise history and left having created a memory that Kraken fans will long remember. They weathered the storm as they’d done all series long. Despite being outshot 16-6 in the first period, the game remained scoreless. That all changed in the second period.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Kraken’s 2-1 Game 7 Win Over the Avalanche

The Kraken were still outshot in the second period, but this time it was closer at 12-11. The second frame is where all the scoring happened. It starts with Oliver Bjorkstrand scoring his first of the playoffs just 3:24 into the period; yet another fast start to a period for the Kraken. He then followed it up with his second almost four minutes later and just like that, the Kraken were leading 2-0 less than eight minutes into the second period. The Avalanche would answer back, with who else but Rantanen scoring his seventh of the series to solidify his goal-per-game status.

Oliver Bjorkstrand Seattle Kraken
Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Seattle Kraken celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period of Game 7 of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by Ashley Potts/NHLI via Getty Images)

The third period was desperation time for the Avalanche, trailing by a goal. Yet, despite out-chancing the Kraken, they were outshot 10-6. MacKinnon did find the back of the net early in the third period, but it was ruled offside and the goal was erased. Grubauer bent, but didn’t break. He then proceeded to slam the door shut and solidify the victory and his place in Kraken lore. 

Kraken Stars

  1. Philipp Grubauer
  2. Yanni Gourde
  3. Oliver Bjorkstrand

Each of these players contributed in a significant way to the Kraken’s opening series win. At this point, I don’t think I need to go into any more detail about Grubauer; just a masterful performance. I will anyway though; he finished the series 4-3 with a 2.44 goals-against average (GAA) and .926 SV%, blowing away his regular season numbers. Gourde led the team in scoring with a goal and six points and was noticeable every time he was on the ice. Bjorkstrand simply sent the Kraken to Round 2 with his two-goal performance in Game 7 and finished the series with four points.

The Kraken continue to make history as they now head to Round 2 to take on the Dallas Stars. They’ll be on the road, as they were in Round 1, and heading down to American Airlines Center. Game 1 is set for May 2 at 9:30 PM ET.