Seattle Kraken, Philipp Grubauer

Kraken Skate, Plan For Playoff Departure

The more things change, the more the Kraken want to keep things the same.

That’s the message from Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. Hockey players are creatures of habit and whenever possible the ideal situation involves keeping routines the same.

That was thrown off a little bit when the Colorado Avalanche won the Central Division by beating the Nashville Predators on Friday night. It moved Seattle’s Monday game against the Dallas Stars to instead being a Tuesday game against the Avalanche.

“Having a sharp focus and a real even-keel mentality,” Hakstol said after practice Saturday. “You don’t change who you are at this time of year, you either have the inner confidence to go into these playoff series and have the focus to go out and perform well, or you don’t. You build that through the year and now, as you get to this time of year, you just clear the decks, simplify things, and be ready for that first drop of the puck.”

The skate at the Kraken Community Iceplex saw two absences. Veteran defenseman Justin Schultz took a simple maintenance day while forward Daniel Sprong is considered day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

Sprong played a total of 14:01, three-and-a-half minutes on the power play, and had four shots-on-goal in the season finale at Climate Pledge Arena on Thursday night against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Kraken Vs. Avalanche

Seven different Seattle Kraken players have hoisted the Stanley Cup. Injured and unavailable Andre Burakovsky won it last season with Colorado; the active former winners include Yanni Gourde (Tampa Bay Lightning 2020, 2021), Justin Schultz (Pittsburgh Penguins 2016, 2017), Philipp Grubauer (Washington Capitals 2018), Martin Jones (Los Angeles Kings 2014), Vince Dunn (St Louis Blues 2019), and Jaden Schwartz (St. Louis Blues 2019).

“We’ve talked about it, just how much more things matter in the playoffs,” Kraken rookie forward Matty Beniers said. ” The little things that you might do in the regular season, (when) you do in the playoffs, blocking a shot is not just blocking a shot, it’s showing your teammates you’re committed, showing that you’re all in, 100%. Everything means a little bit more, so that’s why you’ve gotta be detailed and care about what you’re doing.”

Seattle hops into the playoff fire against the team that knows the feeling better than anyone. The Avalanche may have experienced a little “Stanley Cup hangover” last fall, before suffering through a slew of injuries that included losing their captain Gabriel Landeskog for the entire regular season and playoffs to a knee injury.

Despite the setbacks, Colorado powered through to eventually win their division.

“They’re a hell of a team, obviously, if you judge things by the second half of the year,” Hakstol pointed out. “They’ve been the best team out west during the second half of the year for sure, they’ve done it through some trying times, different challenges. They’re a team with star power and depth, specialty teams and goaltending have been excellent, especially through that stretch in the second half. We’ve got a task at hand.”

The Kraken finished the regular season 2-0-and-1 against the Avalanche. It means nothing. The only thing that matters now is focusing on working towards the ultimate prize, one that projected starting Kraken goalie Phillip Grubauer helped the Capitals win in 2018.

“Hoist the Cup, lifting that thing,” Grubauer said Saturday. “Going through a season and battling with the guys on the ice and having fun and just finally lifting the trophy is a dream come true and it’s why we all play, and why fans are supporting us all year. Without them we wouldn’t be here, so we also want to do it for them and for the city.”

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.