The Kraken’s American Hockey League affiliate features a head coach who won a Stanley Cup. Dan Bylsma conquered hockey’s highest mountain with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.
Right now he has his Coachella Valley Firebirds tied 1-1 with the Calgary Wranglers in the best-of-five Pacific Division final. There’s less games in the first three rounds of the AHL playoffs for travel and cost considerations and because the structure of the postseason has five rounds instead of four.
Should the Firebirds, the team that finished the regular season with the 2nd most points in the AHL (103), defeat the Calgary Flames affiliate that finished with the most points in the league (106), they’ll go on play the winner of the Central Division in the best-of-seven Western Conference final.
Game-3 is Monday night in Coachella Valley. Their game will overlap with the Kraken’s efforts in Dallas in Game-7.
The Firebirds prove just how much depth the Seattle Kraken organization possesses. They’ve made it this far despite a couple of injuries and the call-ups of a couple of players to the NHL level, including rookie forward Tye Kartye, who joined the big club’s playoff efforts following Jared McCann’s injury in Game-4 of Seattle’s opening series against the Colorado Avalanche.
“The guys are really helping me out and letting me play my game and be myself,” Kartye said after scoring his second playoff goal, “so just trying to help the team get some wins here.”
In his first pro season, Kartye tallied 57 points in 72 games for the Firebirds, good for 3rd most behind captain Max McCormick (67) and fellow forward Kole Lind (62).
Those two have continued their pace in the postseason. Lind leads all players in the Calder Cup playoffs with 15 points, McCormick is 2nd with 13, and two more Firebirds are tied for 3rd with ten, that being rookie defenseman Ryker Evans and winger Cameron Hughes. Forwards Jeremy McKenna and Alexander True both have nine. It doesn’t hurt that the Firebirds have played more games than the other leaders, but their proficient offense doesn’t hurt either.
The Firebirds have ten power play goals in 40 chances over ten playoff games. The penalty kill is 81.3% efficient.
Keep in mind, John Hayden and Andrew Poturalski are out with injuries while Jesper Froden is up with the Kraken as an extra player.
The Goalie Battle
It’s a dandy between Dustin Wolf of Calgary, the goalie of the year the last two seasons in the AHL and this past season’s league Most Valuable Player, and stalwart Joey Daccord for Coachella Valley, who made five appearances for the Kraken this season.
Daccord has a 2.11 goals against average and a .934 save percentage in the Calder Cup playoffs while Wolf, although he just turned age-22 last month, might make a run at an NHL gig next season. There would be plenty of contract, cap and personnel maneuvers to be made if that complicated story were to unfold.
The Wranglers, with the most points in the Pacific Division, actually received a bye out of the short first round of the playoffs. They then beat the Vancouver Canucks affiliate of the same name in Abbotsford, BC, 3-games-to-1 before squaring off with the Firebirds.
Coachella Valley took all three games to defeat the Tucson Roadrunners in round-1, then went the distance again in five games against the Colorado Eagles in the division semi’s. The Eagles are the farm team of the Avalanche, a team the Kraken were beating at the same time.
Because of the aforementioned travel, cost, and occasional building conflict issues, the final three games of this series, if necessary, will all be played at Coachella Valley’s Acrisure Arena. After Monday, Game-4 is slated for Wednesday night and if it comes to it, Game-5 on Friday night.
The Firebirds won Game-1 in Calgary 6-3 before losing the next match there 3-2.