1) Yes, the name of the game is “goalie”, and lately Kraken netminder Philipp Grubauer has come back down to earth. No, he hasn’t given up any softies, but he’s also not coming up with those difference-making saves. In any playoff series, particularly against a team with the veteran talent depth of the Dallas Stars, one needs a goalie to make at least a few extraordinary stops.
His analytics, goals-saved-above-expected and high-danger-save-percentage, have slipped since the start of the second round.
This isn’t a blame game, “Grooby’s” been fine, but fine isn’t good enough in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and any NHL coach will concur. It’s a simple fact.
Does he need to “stand on his head” in at least one of these next two (if necessary) games to advance? Maybe.
Jake Oettinger at the other end has had a couple of mini-meltdowns, but he’s bounced back nicely, as advertised. He didn’t see much work in Game-4 and was dialed in for Game-5.
2) Is the energy waning? We pose this as a question because it’s so difficult to predict results with the Kraken and it’s their work ethic that’s carried them this far. Maybe it’s just timing, but they’re not seeing the same effectiveness on the forecheck and in puck battles. It took two full periods before they got going in Game-4 and it took a full period to get going in Game-5.
60 minutes of unadulterated manic energy and focus to detail; that’s what will need to unfold for Seattle if the Kraken are to force a Game-7.
3) Have the Kraken met their match? The Stars are deeper and definitely healthier than the Colorado Avalanche this time around. Half of Colorado’s back-end was hobbled or coming off injury. The Kraken exploited the Johnson’s, Jack and Erik, and Josh Manson, the final key piece of the Cup winning puzzle last season, was a step behind.
Colorado played the entire season without its captain Gabriel Landeskog, just one example of the battered bodies up front and of the 400-plus man-games lost to injury.
Meanwhile, a healthy Stars line-up is lethal, especially with “pesky” Joe Pavelski and his seven postseason goals in the line-up. The understated adjective of the year by the way. The 38-year-old still has some of the best hands in the game around the net and his focus and craftiness are almost unmatched.
As Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn told Seattle Hockey Insider earlier this week:
“I think he’s just so smart away from the puck,” Dunn said of Pavelski. “I wouldn’t say he’s the quickest guy out there, but the way he finds areas to score, both secondary and primary ways, he’s someone I don’t really pay attention to and he sneaks up on you every time. I don’t think he’s talked about enough in this whole entire league, he doesn’t really get the recognition he should.”
Toss in Roope Hintz, the leading scorer (tied) in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, along with all-around stud captain Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Robertson, rookie phenom Wyatt Johnston, who’s living with and learning from the Pavelskis, Max Domi, who’s having an excellent postseason, and all-world D-man Miro Heiskanen, who Stars GM Jim Nill told us “changed the franchise”, and the Kraken have their hands full.
The talent of Stars depth is of a higher pedigree than that of Seattle’s at this point in time. Again, just a simple fact.
Health-wise at the moment, winger Mason Marchment is day-to-day. That’s it.
4) Special teams. The Seattle power play has suffered a power outage; 1-for-10 in the series against Dallas after going 3-for-21 against Colorado. We have pointed out that it’s more important to have an excellent penalty kill in the postseason as opposed to an excellent power play if you happen to have one or the other. The 2011 Boston Bruins, 2012 LA Kings, and 2013 Chicago Blackhawks are all perfect examples as Stanley Cup winners.
As great as the Kraken have been at 5-on-5 this season, with the most goals in the NHL at even strength, they could indeed survive the power play outage, but only if the playoff PK (killed 26 of 31) keeps cranking.
Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to click once in Game-6.
Kraken Still Alive
Psychologically, winning this game, getting on a plane for Dallas and winning another game can be daunting and that exhausting concept can lurk in the back of a team’s collective cranium. That’s why so often in the past decades we’ve watched this scenario end in six. It’s why winners of Game-5 in series tied 2-2 move on to the next round almost 80% of the time.
This is not writing off the Kraken, because obviously they’re still involved and alive to fight at least one more day.
They’re also on the correct path for continuing to build an even stronger roster off of what they’ve accomplished in year-two, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
It’s not time for off-season evaluation, it’s time to watch this team get after it at 4 pm pacific on Saturday from Climate Pledge Arena.