Following the Kraken’s 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in Game-1 of their opening series in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol said at least a half-dozen times in some way, shape, or form that his team “needed to be better.”
Fair enough, there’s always room for improvement, but in the one area that ultimately dictates a lot of outcomes, the Kraken were dominant. That would be work ethic.
“That’s a part of who we are as a team,” Hakstol said Tuesday night. “Some of that is just working in the trenches. We’re not the biggest team in those situations, but we have to play quick, we have to know where the puck is going, we have to be ahead of it a little bit.”
“That’s a huge part,” Kraken defenseman Will Borgen said Wednesday morning, “but it’s also the details, our coaches prepare us for that before the game. I think at the end of the day the team with the better game plan and the better effort is gonna come out on top.”
A rare allusion to the effectiveness of the coaching staff’s efforts. Particularly in a newer NHL market where the depth of the game’s X’s and O’s remain untouched in most fan conversations, one might need to be reminded that the diligence of the preparation and the in-game adjustments are just as important as the hard work put in by the skaters.
Don’t expect Hakstol to be shining a light on himself anytime soon.
Kraken Penalty Kill
Cliche’s get worn out in hockey for a reason. It’s because they’re true. You’ll often hear about the keys to playoff success being goaltending and special teams. Those two go hand-in-hand when you consider that “your goalie has to be your bet penalty killer.”
Philipp Grubauer was just that in Game-1 for the Kraken.
“He was loose, he was calm, he was very focused,” Hakstol said. “He did a nice job 5-on-5, got us through the two PK’s in the 2nd period. That’s his job, he did his job and he did it well last night.”
The Avalanche went 0-for-2 on the power play. The adjustments the coaches have made in the penalty kill over the last two months, personnel-wise and with a couple systematic changes, have paid huge dividends. The club owns an 88% kill rate over the final month of the season and a perfect 2-for-2 to start the playoffs.
The Avalanche were sloppy in Game-1 and they often lost puck battles. They will practice Wednesday and we’ll visit with them next. Rest assured, the defending champs will be playing with more desperation and energy against the Kraken in Game-2.