The Seattle Kraken’s Game-7 elimination of the Colorado Avalanche made history in a number of ways.
By beating the defending Stanley Cup champs 2-1 in Denver, the Kraken earned the first playoff series win in their two-season history. Seattle became the 10th expansion team to win their first-ever postseason series. A top-five team away from home during the regular season, the Kraken secured three more road wins in Games 1, 5, and 7.
What’s more, the Kraken became the first team to defeat the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the first round since the Vancouver Canucks eliminated the St. Louis Blues in 2020. No franchise had ever beaten the defending champs for their first ever series win.
Two goals by Oliver Bjorkstrand staked the Kraken to a 2-0 lead, making more history. Seattle is the first team to take a 1-0 lead in the first seven playoff games they played in a single postseason since the Avalanche did so to start the 2008 playoffs. Three Bjorkstrand shots hit the posts, or he could have made individual goal scoring history, too. He did become the 15th Kraken skater to score in the series.
Kraken Goalie Love
Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer stopped 33 of 34 shots. Among his many highlight-reel saves was moving from right post to left, lifting his blocker high to rob Evan Rodrigues on a knuckling shot in the 2nd period.
On the TNT broadcast, retired New York Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist was a fan. Speaking of Grubauer’s technique, King Henrik explained, “To me, he’s a great mix of old and new. He’s a butterfly goalie, but he stands up well.”
In contrast to many goalies who utilize a wide stance with their glove out, “He’s more together, his glove close to his body. Even when he moves side to side, he keeps his glove tight to his body. When you go side to side, you don’t want to reach, because it becomes a very hard (second) save when you have to react again. He’s so compact, like a square moving around.”
Lundqvist also praised Grubauer for not spending excessive time in the popular butterfly position. “Sometimes you have to be on your feet, to make sure you’re in a good position for that play in the slot or a rebound. He’s patient, and makes a lot of good reads because of that.”
Kraken Crunch Time
On occasion, of course, a goalie needs a save made on his behalf. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon blasted what appeared to be the tying goal 2:20 into the third period, but for the second time in the series, Seattle’s video gurus came to the rescue. They informed Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol that Artturi Lehkonen was offside on the left wing as the Avalanche entered the zone. The officials waved off the goal upon review.
Given a reprieve by the governor, Seattle nursed its 2-1 lead. Hakstol kept shifts short, partially a nod to Denver’s mile-high thin air.
Six minutes in, Bjorkstrand’s try for a hat trick deflected first off Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev’s mask, and then off the crossbar. With eight minutes left, Georgiev shut down Bjorkstrand again, as the winger tried to complete a Kraken 3-on-1 rush.
Defensive commitment by Seattle? You bet. They recorded 29 shot blocks, nearly three times the number for the reigning champs. Bjorkstrand, Seattle’s series-clinching hero, performed the final defensive effort, diving to knock a puck to center ice in the last 20 seconds. When the Kraken completed the upset, coach Hakstol allowed himself the briefest of smiles during a group hug with his coaches, then resumed his poker face.
Three playoff rounds remain, you know.
After the game, Grubauer summed up his physical state in two words to TNT: “Absolutely gassed.” The goalie praised both his former club and his current one. “It was a hell of a game. They came out with their best, and we were fighting back. Unbelievable team effort.”
Grubauer looked briefly back, then ahead to the upcoming 2nd round series against the Dallas Stars. “A lot of people had written us off. We proved them wrong. We grew together during the whole year. It’s not going to get easier. We’ve got to sacrifice the individual success for the team efforts. Off to the next one. Let’s go!”
— In case you missed it, earlier Sunday evening the Florida Panthers knocked off the Boston Bruins, the best NHL team during the regular season, in another Game-7 upset.