The Seattle Kraken shook the metaphorical gas can. They pounded on it, hoping to extract a few extra drops. They turned the ignition and pressed down on the accelerator, hoping for a spark.
It wasn’t to be. The Kraken, after a magical 14-game playoff run, had finally run out of fuel.
The Dallas Stars beat the Kraken 2-1 Monday night in Dallas to survive their second round series 4 games to 3. Dallas will meet the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final starting Friday.
No Quit In The Kraken
If any more proof was necessary – it wasn’t – that this Seattle squad wouldn’t quit, Oliver Bjorkstrand broke Jake Oettinger’s shutout with 19 seconds remaining. The Kraken even forced an offensive zone faceoff with nine seconds left. They even won that faceoff, and their hottest playoff goal scorer, Jordan Eberle, found himself alone at the bottom of the right wing circle.
But no pass arrived to Eberle’s twig, which he slammed onto the ice as the final horn sounded. The Kraken would experience another first, one they desperately hoped to avoid: the loser’s side of the handshake line.
When that chore was done, coach Dave Hakstol took one glance behind him as he exited the ice for the final time in the 2022-23 season. He and all his players know that time will pass, the sting will subside, and looking back on the season will bring smiles rather than pain.
Moments To Remember
A 100-point regular season. A 40-goal campaign for Jared McCann. A Calder-worthy effort from 20-year-old center Matty Beniers. A Jack Adams Award-worthy season for coach Hakstol. The emergence of defensemen Adam Larsson and Vince Dunn as a shutdown pair. A whirling dervish named Tye Kartye.
A stunning upset over the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. The first tastes of playoff hockey at raucous Climate Pledge Arena, not to mention at viewing parties, watering holes, and homes throughout Puget Sound.
On this Monday night at American Airlines Center, though, the Kraken had nothing left to give. Only once were they gifted more than a single off-day between playoff contests. The wear and tear of back-to-back 7 game series finally caught up.
Stars Had Power, Kraken A Blackout
Seattle and Dallas each had one power play in the first period, and the contrast couldn’t have been more stark. Let’s start by listing the Kraken’s scoring opportunities on their man advantage. Okay, we’re done, because there weren’t any. Seattle never did score a postseason power play goal on the road.
Dallas, in the words of TV analyst Daryl Reaugh, looked “over-caffeinated.” On their power play, the Kraken were hemmed in their zone for the entire two minutes. The Stars made an incredible 10 shot attempts. To Seattle’s credit, not one got through to goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Nine minutes into the game, Seattle had added nine blocked shots to their playoff-leading total.
But 4-on-5, 5-on-4, or 5-on-5, Seattle was forced to block shots because they could not gain, or retain, puck possession. Forward Yanni Gourde admitted after the game that his team “felt a little slow.”
Dallas really began imposing its will in the middle frame, worrying coach Hakstol.
“We’re feeding their transition too much, and that’s too high risk for us,” Hakstol said on the ESPN broadcast. That tends to happen when the spirit is willing, but the skating has become weak.
Grubauer Stands Tall
Keeping the Kraken afloat – almost single-handedly, was goalie Grubauer, who’s had more superb moments this postseason than in two Seattle regular seasons. Tested again and again by all the Dallas sharpshooters – Jamie Benn, Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Tyler Seguin, Miro Heiskanen – Grubauer stood taller than Reunion Tower.
Hintz and Wyatt Johnston would eventually solve him, but of all the Kraken who can hold their heads high, Grubauer’s should be highest.
The Kraken didn’t have a 3rd period push in them until it was too late. With five minutes remaining, they still hadn’t dented the scoreboard, and had registered a meager seven scoring chances.
Kraken General Manager Ron Francis and staff will now begin in earnest the work of bolstering the roster in anticipation of Season 3. But Eberle, in an understandably somber dressing room, hoped his team doesn’t completely forget what happened on the ice Monday night.
“You have to learn how to lose first, then you learn how to win. You grow, you remember how this feels. We have a foundation here. We want to keep building.”