Seattle Kraken, Eeli Tolvanen

Kraken Foe: Can Avalanche Fix What Was Broken

Rest assured the Seattle Kraken will see a somewhat different Colorado Avalanche team for Game-2. Av’s head coach Jared Bednar doesn’t feel as though his team’s shortcomings in the 3-1 loss to the Kraken in Game-1 were difficult to identify.

Part of it may have been a let down after the two-week-long heater the team went on to reach the top of the Central Division on the final night of the regular season. They went 7-0-and-1 to close things out to win the division.

Bednar spoke after the Avalanche’s optional skate at its practice rink on Wednesday morning.

“Execution is not just this pass or that pass and it’s open and you don’t see it,” he said. “That could be a focus thing. Even though there were some areas in that regard that we weren’t good, we had some open looks and some passes to be made and we just outright missed the pass. We probably passed it out of the offensive zone a handful of times when we should have had good looks at the net and probably created quality scoring chances.”

Bednar pointed out that there’s usually a certain level of predictability to the Avalanche’s game as it relates to speed and puck support and Tuesday night they didn’t see it. He includes credit to the Kraken as part of the reason.

“We gotta remember the other team has something to say about it too,” Bednar added. “So they’ll break up plays that you’re trying to make when you get to the good areas of the ice, and to me we just didn’t get to the good areas of the ice quick enough last night.”

Kraken Forecheck

The Kraken won foot races all over the ice and they particularly made it hard on the Avalanche defensemen, two of whom hadn’t played for a period of time.

Reigning Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best D-man Cale Makar had been in and out of the line-up since late January, missing most of February and then again sitting out again towards the end of the season. His most recent previous game to Tuesday night was April 1st.

That said, if his timing was off a bit defensively, he didn’t show it in terms of physical limitations elsewhere on the ice. Near the end of the 1st period he had a stunning extended shift when he first pulled off an other-worldly spin-o-rama while carrying the puck into the Kraken zone, only to finish the effort by burying Seattle forward Oliver Bjorkstrand with a hit on his way to the bench.

Big Josh Manson was a different story. Twice called for penalties in the first period, one for hooking, one for holding, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound, 31-year-old righty was a step behind, having not played an NHL game since March 1st.

Also, Erik Johnson was a late replacement for Jack Johnson along the blueline. Erik, another big body and age-35, missed large swaths of February and March due to injury, while Jack, no slouch at 6-foot-1 and 227-pounds, apparently wasn’t ready to go.

Or as Bednar put it, “decisions are made based on who we feel can help us best on that particular night based on their recent past. It’s that simple, really for every player.”

So the 36-year-old sat after warming up. He’s considered “day-to-day”.

Seattle Taking Advantage

There is no pity party, or as coaches often say when injuries occur to their clubs, “no one’s going to feel sorry for us.”

There are reasons for problems, not excuses.

D-corps being dinged up or simply discombobulated present an opportunity for the opposition.

In the case of the Kraken, it meant taking advantage of their forecheck and cycle play in the offensive zone. Two of the Kraken goals were generated from pressure and plays behind the Avalanche net.

Seattle Hockey Insider rounded out the questions for Bednar with that very topic.

“I thought they got to too many pucks first when we should have been first back, number one,” Bednar explained, “and then we talked about the quickness and getting to the right areas of the ice, they also got their second man there a lot quicker than our second man. If they win the race you can’t get the first touch to get in and out, if they get their second man in there they’re gonna have the advantage in the battle quicker than we did.

“To me, you’re always trying to get down on to pucks in your own zone first and third, and we didn’t do it last night,” he concluded. “We weren’t offering enough first and we certainly weren’t offering enough third.”

The Kraken have defeated the Avalanche during all three visits to Ball Arena in 2022-’23. After a day off on Wednesday Seattle will try to make it 4-and-0 on Thursday night.

— What the Kraken are looking to improve —

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar

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.