(Seattle Hockey Insider will be in Denver providing Seattle Kraken coverage for the 1st-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs)
While prepping for the Seattle Kraken adventure that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s fun to buzz around and see what other media folks are saying about matters.
In the case of the Denver media, let’s just say they’re extremely confident. As they should be.
Defending Stanley Cup champions carry a certain swagger. It doesn’t hurt to have an absolute manic competitor in superstar center Nathan MacKinnon, who scored seven game winning goals over the team’s final 15 victories. MacKinnon had a hat trick, including the game winner, and an assist in the 4-3 season finale win over the Nashville Predators to put the Avalanche on top of the Central Division. His 111 points were a career high and 5th most in the league.
Two defensemen, rugged, versatile Josh Manson and reigning Norris Trophy winner and the fastest blueliner in NHL history to reach 200 career points, Cale Makar, both return from injury for Game-1.
If you’ve never watched Makar, he’s all-world. The Kraken will want to get in his grille, if they can catch him.
Tenacious veteran forward Andrew Cogliano returns to the line-up as well.
They have superstar power, they have confidence, and the Avalanche were one of the two hottest NHL teams over the final month of the season. The locals are also encouraged by their club’s match-up in goal.
“No chance, not gonna happen,” is something the Kraken have heard before. They were completely written off this season as it related to making the playoffs.
They hope erroneous prognostication history repeats itself.
The Kraken know they beat the Avalanche twice this season, going 2-0-and-1 head-to-head, which just happened to be the best record of any NHL club against Colorado.
Seattle knows they can roll four lines, a complication for any opponent, and a quality that Colorado doesn’t possess. The Kraken shared the league lead in 10-goal scorers (13), 20-goal scorers (6) and led the NHL in the number of 20-point scorers (18).
Most of the Kraken’s success this season was predicated on hard work and the ability to score 5-on-5. They outscored opponents in that even strength situation 209 to 161. The same speed and tenacity the club exhibited on the forecheck during the regular season will be on display in the playoffs.
Opening on the road shouldn’t be a problem in and of itself. The 2nd-year club had the 6th most victories away from home in the NHL and featured two road warriors in particular. Twenty-three of Jared McCann’s 40 goals came as a visitor while rookie Matty Beniers racked up 16 of his 24 goals and 31 of his 57 points away from Climate Pledge Arena.
Although the pressure is at a different level, the Kraken fared very well in nip-and-tuck affairs. They finished the 2022-’23 campaign with a record of 16-7-and-8 in one-goal hockey games.
Rocky Mountain High?
Being the major daily in Denver, we focus on the predictions made in the Denver Post. Kraken fans will find them entertaining. Here’s a quick glance:
Avalanche beat writer Bennett Durando picks the club he covers to win in five games, as does sports reporter Parker Gabriel. Sports columnist Sean Keeler gives the Kraken a bit more credit, predicting Colorado in six, while columnist Mark Kiszla takes a cocky approach to a whole ‘nother level. He suggests it’ll be so one-sided, the Avalanche will win the series “in 3”.
Deputy sports editor Matt Schubert keeps it real with his sweep suggestion; Avalanche in four.
Caveat number-1: Yes, the Avalanche have a 10-game winning streak in round-1 games and they’ve gone 16-and-2 in their last 18 first-rounders, but those results have absolutely nothing to do with this year’s match-up.
Caveat number-2: Once the puck drops, one can always expect the unexpected. Who knew the Los Angeles Kings would come from down two goals in the third period, scoring with 17-seconds remaining in regulation, to win in overtime on Monday night in Edmonton against the Oilers.
Who knew the Minnesota Wild would stun the Stars in Dallas in double-overtime on night one.
The greatest thing about the Stanley Cup Playoffs: You just never know.