1st Period: The “Rest” of the Story
For the first time in the postseason, the Seattle Kraken had the luxury of three days between games. Even Saturday’s practice was optional. A reinvigorated Kraken team came out physical for Game-3 at home against the Dallas Stars.
Now, hits aren’t always a meaningful statistic. After all, if you’re the team doing the hitting, you’re not the team possessing the puck. But early muscle displayed the increased intensity coach Dave Hakstol wanted out of his charges after Seattle was outplayed in Game-2.
Less than three minutes in, Carson Soucy laid the hit of the series on Mason Marchment, demolishing the Dallas forward into the side boards. Fourteen minutes in, the Kraken were averaging a hit per minute, while the Stars had registered just two. Meanwhile, blocked shots for the period were 10-4 Seattle, not counting defenseman Will Borgen’s perfectly timed dive, breaking up a centering pass on a Dallas 2-on-1.
Although the game remained scoreless after one, whatever fatigue contributed to the Kraken’s Game-2 doldrums clearly didn’t carry over to Sunday night.
Puck possession or not, there’s a theme. Seattle outhit Dallas 16-3 in the first period of Game-1, another Kraken victory.
2nd Period Takeaway: 1 Kraken Goalie, 1 Goalie Cracks
Maybe all of those 1st period hits really did tenderize the Stars, although it doesn’t fully explain why the most shellshocked was Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger, victimized for four goals in the first nine minutes of the 2nd period. This didn’t look at all like the Oettinger of 37 wins, 2.37 GAA, .919 save percentage in the regular season, the Oettinger who allowed three goals total in three victories to close out the Minnesota Wild in the 1st-round. (It did, however, resemble the Oettinger who allowed four goals to the Kraken in the first period of Game-1.)
Seattle scorched him for tallies from Jordan Eberle at 2:10, Alex Wennberg at 3:36, Soucy at 6:30, and Matty Beniers at 8:22. In that same stretch, Oettinger recorded exactly one save.
Soucy, by the way, became the 16th Kraken skater to score in the postseason. For this nautically-themed franchise, it truly has been all hands on deck.
Before the period ended, key in-season acquisition Eeli Tolvanen deposited loose change from the slot, and the Kraken skated to the dressing room with a 5-1 lead. Until facing Seattle, the Stars hadn’t allowed a four-goal period all year, regular season or playoffs. The Kraken have now done it twice in three second-round games.
However, the scoreboard only remained lopsided because Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer kept it that way. Dallas fired 17 – many of quality – second period shots on Grubauer, who only allowed one to get past him.
Roope Hintz, 37-goal scorer in the regular season, broke in alone, but couldn’t solve Grubauer. Jason Robertson, 46-goal scorer in the regular season, broke in alone, and Grubauer denied him. Grubauer’s puck tracking in the playoffs has been superior. Maybe his best save came on a floater that deflected high in the air behind him. An instant before the puck could fall and nestle in the twine, Grubauer’s blocker swiped it over the cage.
Grubauer followed with an excellent stick save on Jamie Benn while the Kraken were shorthanded. For good measure, Grubauer made a dirty glove save on a Hintz laser, plus a stop on a Robertson drive to the net, both in the last half-minute.
3rd Period Takeaway: No Place Like Home
Dallas coach Pete DeBoer mercifully pulled Oettinger to start the 3rd period, inserting backup Scott Wedgewood. Less mercifully, while shorthanded, Brandon Tanev fed Yanni Gourde who filled a yawning net to make it 6-1 Kraken. Least mercifully, the Climate Pledge Arena sellout began serenading Wedgewood with a mocking chant.
The home crowd is the real takeaway from a game that became a rout. One day earlier, Eberle admitted his club, 1-2 at home in the first round, needed to start feeding off the energy of the home fans.
“You have to be a good home team if you want to win the Cup. It’s just that simple,” Eberle said.
Stanley Cup games are almost always tense, blood-pressure-raising affairs. This laugher rewarded a lively gathering of fans that reacted to much more than just Kraken goals. They cheered on hits, booed on penalties, roared on puck battles won, and cheered some more when Seattle penalties expired. (The Kraken killed all three Stars power plays, running their amazing postseason success shorthanded to 23 of 26.)
One final crescendo began with 17 seconds remaining. As the clock ticked down, a deafening roar enveloped the Kraken, much like the players enveloped their winning goalie. The 7-2 final gives Seattle a 2-1 series lead, which they will look to extend at home at Tuesday night’s Game-4.
— Observing Hockey Etiquette: After on-ice hugs, goals are usually celebrated by a “train line” of fist bumps with teammates on the bench. But one of sport’s unwritten rules is, “Thou shalt not show up the opposition.” When the Kraken scored their final goal late in the game, a power play strike by Justin Schultz, only the fans celebrated.
The scene at the bench resembled any typical line change. Feigned indifference was itself a clue just how one-sided the proceedings had become.
— Cross-Sport Support: Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and several of his players were in attendance Sunday night. So was Seattle Mariners’ star Julio Rodriguez and several of his teammates. (In a bit of inter-city synergy, the M’s welcome Dallas-Ft. Worth’s MLB team, the Texas Rangers, for a series at T-Mobile Park beginning Monday evening.)
This seems an appropriate place to mention that the Kraken outhit the Stars for the game, 29-20. If the Mariners and Seahawks can produce an equally lopsided advantage in hits, Seattle sports fans will have a lot to cheer about in 2023.
— Puck Luck: Twice, deflected pucks ended up at the feet of coach DeBoer on the Dallas bench. The first time, he searched behind him in vain, looking to gift the puck to a fan in Stars’ gear. Eventually, he tossed it to a female Kraken fan. DeBoer worried less about the second puck, quickly tossing it aimlessly in the air, landing in the first row of seats.