Colorado Avalanche, Seattle Kraken

Kraken Game Day; Juggling Seattle’s Chances To Win

Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol hasn’t had to juggle lines much at all, other than the obvious insertion of rookie Tye Kartye into the line-up after winger Jared McCann’s injury in Game-4.

There are specific situations when things might get mixed up; adding a second center to a line for an important D-zone draw at a crucial part of the game, or mixing and matching a D-pair for a particular match-up moment, but for the most part the Seattle Kraken roll their four lines and continue to get contributions throughout.

“We’ve continued to play within our own framework,” Hakstol said Friday after the Kraken morning skate. “We’ve been pretty comfortable with who we are, what we are, we’ve continued to meet the different moments in the series, and those are all just necessities. That comes from the leadership in our dressing room, guys being mentally in the right spot, and just being ready to go out and execute and do the job.”

Hot Kraken Line

Although he missed a game in the series for the birth of his daughter, forward Morgan Geekie has gelled well with Jaden Schwartz and center Alexander Wennberg to his left. The threesome has accounted for five of the Kraken’s 15 goals in the series.

“In terms of lines, it’s a pretty new line,” Hakstol pointed out Friday. “If you look at number of minutes played it’s something we went to in the 2nd game in Nashville (March 25th), so that’s pretty recent. They don’t have a lot of miles on them as a line, but they have been able to grow in terms of their chemistry and we want to continue to see that grow. They’re obviously a big part.”

While the Kraken have enjoyed having 13 different goal scorers in the series, the Avalanche have had only eight, including two defenseman. As we pointed out prior to the morning skates, the Colorado goal scoring is top heavy, with star winger Mikko Rantanen accounting for five of the club’s 14 goals and superstar center Nathan MacKinnon accounting for three.

Seattle Hockey Insider asked Colorado head coach Jared Bednar if there would be a temptation to juggle lines a little sooner than usual if things weren’t going his way, especially in the must-win environment of Game-6.

“I fight that urge sometimes, but I also have a lot of trust in our players based on what they’ve done,” Bednar said Friday morning. “So the juggling, last game even, it’s nothing that we haven’t been accustomed to doing through the second half of the year, guys playing together. We had Mikko playing away from Mac (MacKinnon), we bumped them back together at times, we’ve had (J.T.) Compher on that line, so has (Artturi) Lehkonen, so has “E-Rod” (Evan Rodrigues), so they’ve all kind of done that through the course of the season. It’s worked out for us at times and it hasn’t worked out other times.”

Note that every player he mentioned are top-six forwards in the line-up. None of the bottom-six have tallied a goal in the series.

Colorado’s 3rd-line center Lars Eller stepped up and had a huge postseason in 2018 in helping the Washington Capitals win a Stanley Cup, with seven goals and 18 points in 24 games played. This season he never seemed to adjust to the trade from DC that occurred just ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline in March. He’s practically stat-free in this five games series thus far.

So often in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs the hero comes from a team’s depth, a third or fourth line player who lights the lamp at a spectacular time. The Avalanche will likely need that to happen Friday night if they’re to win, while the Kraken can have confidence that it might just simply happen again.

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.