The Seattle Kraken have proven time and again that depth, work ethic and system can overcome the opposition’s superior talent. Not in Game-5 Thursday night, a 5-2 setback to the Dallas Stars.
The Kraken’s pesky forecheck bottled up the Stars for shifts at a time. They generally outplayed the Central Division champs. Always erudite radio analyst Daryl “Razor” Reaugh termed one Dallas power play, “Putrid.”
None of that mattered, because the Stars’ stars showed up.
Roope Hintz scored twice, and leads playoff scoring with 18 points. Jason Robertson collected three assists, ageless Joe Pavelski scored his 7th of the series, and Dallas took a 3-2 series lead.
The teams will reconvene at Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday afternoon, with the Kraken looking to force another Game-7.
The First Cut Is The Deepest
Coaches hate having to “chase the game.” That’s hockey-speak for falling behind, making teams alter their usual game-plan to try and catch up.
The Kraken made the Colorado Avalanche “chase the game” in round 1, scoring first in all seven games. In round 2, they also broke the ice in both victories over Dallas. Not coincidentally, the Stars have won all three games, including Thursday night, in which they got the first goal.
Dallas actually got the first two, 98 seconds apart, before the game was six minutes old. They got the third, too, and Seattle never could quite catch up.
Grubauer Not So Groovy
With the usual caveat that many factors out of their control can affect goalie performance, Philipp Grubauer may be slipping back closer to regular-season form.
As a reminder, Grubauer in the 2022-23 regular season won 17 games, losing 18 (4 in overtime). He sported a 2.85 GAA and .895 save percentage.
Grubauer has played best in Seattle against his former Avalanche teammates, and that continued in this year’s 1st round. He elevated his game, literally above expectations; according to Money Puck, he saved 2.9 goals above expected in the series.
After the Kraken eliminated Colorado in Game-7, coach Dave Hakstol repeatedly called Grubauer (33 saves in a 2-1 win), “The best player on the ice.” For the series, he produced a sparkling 2.44 GAA and .926 save percentage to oust the defending Cup champions.
In five games against Dallas, however, Grubauer’s goals-allowed by game are 4-4-2-5-4. He was pulled from Game-4, allowing five scores on 22 shots in two periods of play. In Game-5, he surrendered two Stars’ goals on the first three shots he faced, and three goals on the first six.
Two-Man Screens Aren’t Just For Basketball
Although Seattle registered fourteen 1st period shots, exactly zero qualified as high-danger chances. While the Kraken dominated zone time, they weren’t getting to the middle of the ice or crowding Jake Oettenger’s net.
Down 3-0 in the 2nd period, coach Hakstol was forced to activate his defense even more than usual.
Adam Larsson in particular made the move pay off. He first got the Kraken on the board with his second goal in two games. While he didn’t score or draw an assist on Seattle’s next goal, it wouldn’t have happened without him.
Reversing Seattle’s earlier absence, both Larsson and Yanni Gourde created mayhem at the top of the Dallas crease. That allowed Jared McCann’s wrister to slice the Stars’ lead to 3-2.
Seattle will have to spend an entire game Saturday afternoon occupying those “greasy areas” if they want to keep their season alive.
McCann Latest Member Of Kraken Playoff Goal Club
Besides closing the gap, the McCann goal was significant in other ways. The winger had never before notched a playoff goal, and it came in Jared’s second game back from an extended injury absence.
Coach Hakstol continued to ease McCann’s return. He started on Seattle’s 4th line in Game-5, alongside Tanev and Ryan Donato. Needing McCann’s offense, he was later mixed and matched with different linemates. Tanev and Gourde, for instance, got the assists on McCann’s tally.
That goal made McCann the 18th Kraken skater to score in the playoffs. Of players who dressed Thursday night, only Donato doesn’t yet have one.
TNT Makes Kraken Fans Explode
TNT, the game’s exclusive U.S. TV broadcaster, ended up doing many Kraken fans a favor – though it probably caused a lot of frustration at the time.
Because the earlier playoff game telecast between the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils went into overtime, TNT couldn’t show the start of the Stars-Kraken game.
ROOT Sports wasn’t an option for fans; like all regional hockey channels, they aren’t allowed to show games after round 1. TNT did direct fans looking for puck drop to sister station TruTV. But except for viewers who spend their evenings watching “Impractical Jokers” marathons, the rest likely had no idea how to find the channel.
The silver lining? By the time the Hurricanes eliminated the Devils and TNT began its Seattle-Dallas coverage, Kraken fans were spared seeing the two early Stars goals.
No-Go For Eddie O
The Kraken almost suffered a second loss on Thursday, and this one also had a TV connection. The “Daily Faceoff” podcast reported that ROOT Sports hockey analyst Eddie Olcyzk was a finalist to take over as Philadelphia Flyers president of hockey operations.
Olcyzk, who also works national games for TNT, didn’t get the gig. It went instead to fellow TNT broadcaster Keith Jones. When the Kraken play the Flyers next season, it’ll be especially interesting to listen to Eddie O’s commentary.