It’s a different animal. When the Seattle Kraken begin the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, first round opponent to be determined, fans in the market who are unfamiliar with the intensity level will suddenly realize that regular season NHL hockey and Stanley Cup Playoff hockey are two very different things.
For fans, the nerves come with it. Prepare to chew your nails.
For players, it’s as much competitive fun as one can have, all while doling out and receiving physical and emotional punishment on a consistent basis. It’s energy and dedication and camaraderie all the time and it’s consistently the most exciting sport the world has ever known.
I’ve watched about 50 playoff seasons, many over the last 27 years in person, and the memories of the drama and excitement are endless.
Get there in person if you can. If not, that’s OK, you can yell and scream while watching your television.
That’s playoff hockey.
When asked to describe it postgame, Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol essentially alluded to the fact that it’s very difficult to describe.
It’s a whole ‘nother level.
“For me it took six years to finally get there, and once you get there, the game just elevates,” Kraken veteran forward Jordan Eberle said postgame Thursday night, “everyone ups their focus, everyone, and it’s just intense, every mistake it seems like ends up in the back of your net and vice versa. It’s why you play this game, to get to that point.”
For rookie Matty Beniers, the top first year scorer in the National Hockey League, he can only draw upon international competition and collegiate postseasons.
“Playoff hockey, at least in the NHL, I haven’t played it yet, but it’s going to be harder, faster, more physical, but I think we’ve got a team that plays the right way all of the time,” Beniers said after the Arizona win. “It’s how we got in this position, so I think if we keep doing a lot more of the same, we’ll be just fine in playoffs.”
Potential Kraken Opponents
So who will it be? Let’s take the possibilities in order, from higher to lower.
It’s not out of the question that the Kraken catch the Los Angeles Kings for 3rd place in the Pacific Division. Seattle has played one less game than Los Angeles, a potential two points, and presently sits four points behind them. LA has 100 points and three games to play, Seattle has 96 and four.
Should the Kraken catch up and take third place, they would likely be playing the Edmonton Oilers, presently the 2nd place team. Only problem there: the Oilers are only three points behind the 1st place Vegas Golden Knights with both teams having three games to play. Edmonton is on a six game win streak and if they keep this heater going to the end of the season, the Golden Knights would have to win two of their final games to hold on to first.
Should the Kraken stay where they are, the most likely scenario, in the Western Conference’s 1st wild card position, they would be playing the top seed from the Central Division. Right now, with just two points separating three teams, it’s impossible to say whether it will be the Colorado Avalanche (100 points), Dallas Stars (100) or the Minnesota Wild (98). The Avalanche have played one less game than the other two.
Likely plan on seeing the Kraken visiting one of those places.
The Central Division winner will have a lower point total than the Pacific Division winner. The latter therefore gets to play the lower seeded wild card team. Thus, as it stands, Vegas or Edmonton would be playing the Jets if the season ended today.
For Seattle to slip to that 2nd wild card position, the Winnipeg Jets would have to win all four of their final games and the Kraken would have to lose all four of theirs. So again, plan on the Kraken being the second wild card team.
Less than two weeks, that’s when the joy joy begins.