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Kraken vs Avalanche Series – Everything You Need to Know

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For the first time in NHL history, the Seattle Kraken will participate in the playoffs as they get set to face the Colorado Avalanche. After finishing the 2021-22 campaign with just 60 points, Seattle saw a 40-point increase this season finishing with 100 points and landing the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. In fact, their turnaround between their inaugural season and this year was historic, as it will go down in NHL history as the largest improvement in wins and points for a team from its first to its second season in NHL history. While the regular season was one that will not soon be forgotten by fans in Seattle, it is now time to shift gears and look ahead to Game 1 of the playoffs.

2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 Colorado Avalanche Seattle Kraken
Colorado Avalanche Seattle Kraken (The Hockey Writers)

Despite Colorado being the higher seed, finishing nine points higher than Seattle, the Kraken did win the season series, taking two of the three games, with their one loss coming via a shootout. During those three games, Seattle limited the Avalanches to five goals and blanked the NHL’s sixth-ranked power play, going a perfect six-for-six on the penalty kill. They also were able to keep Colorado’s big three off the scoresheet holding Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Maker to one goal and one assist combined. It is clear the Kraken had success against the reigning Stanley Cup champions in the regular season, but the playoffs are a whole different animal as Seattle looks to become the first team to beat Colorado in a playoff series since the Vegas Golden Knights did during the second round of the 2021 Postseason.

Avalanche to Watch

The Avalanche have some of the best high-end talent in the NHL, and the Kraken will need to continue to keep them in check if they want to win this series. As mentioned, MacKinnon, Makar and Rantanen were held to just two points combined over the three games, but the odds of the trio entering Game 4 with the same point total are very slim. These three combined for 282 points this season, so limiting their production will be crucial for Seattle in the series.

Related: 3 X-Factors for the Avalanche Heading Into the Playoffs

Outside of the big three, one name to watch from the forward group will be Valeri Nichushkin. The Russian winger scored 17 goals and had 47 points in 53 games this season and was one of the Avalanche’s best players during their Cup win last year. In 20 games, he finished with nine goals and 15 points, scoring two game-winners, including one in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he is a hard player to battle with, so this is where the size and physicality of the Kraken will be tested.

The other player to watch will be defenceman Bowen Byram. The 21-year-old defenseman has been injury prone throughout his career but, when healthy, can be one of the most dangerous players on the ice. A strong two-way defender with elite skating and puck-handling skills, he will be leaned upon heavily, especially if Makar is not at 100%. He is also looking for his first career playoff goal and will be motivated to get the monkey off his back and finally score in a postseason game.

Kraken Who Must Step Up

As for the Kraken, the player or players in this case who must step up are goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones. While it is unclear if Seattle will go with one starter or rotate the two, they both need to show that they can be relied upon to come up with a big save when needed. With the speed and firepower that Colorado possesses, whoever is in goal is going to face an avalanche (pun intended) of shots and high-danger chances and will need to steal a few games to pull off the upset.

Related: Kraken at 150: A Look Back at 150 Games for Seattle

Up front, rookie Matty Beniers is going to be relied upon heavily to guide this Kraken team to the second round. In 80 games this season, he finished with 24 goals and 57 points but only has two assists in four career games against the Avalanche. Yes, this is a lot to ask of a player who has yet to play 100 games in the NHL and is still just 20 years old, but he is a special player and should be able to rise to the occasion, no matter how big the stage is.

Lastly, Adam Larsson is going to be crucial to the Kraken’s success in the first round. The 6-foot-3 defender has been Seattle’s shutdown defenseman all season and will be tasked with shutting down Colorado’s high-flying offense. Expect him to be out on for the majority of penalty kills and in the most crucial defensive zone moments, as he will definitely see an increase from his 23:38 average ice time during the first round.

Key Players Missing From Both Teams

Coming into this series, both teams are missing key parts of their team, which could have a massive effect on the series. Starting with the Avalanche, captain Gabriel Landeskog will miss the entire postseason after not playing a game this entire season due to a knee injury. This is a massive loss for Colorado, as he recorded 11 goals and 22 points during their Stanley Cup championship run last season.

Related: Avalanche’s Landeskog to Miss Playoffs With Injury

As for the Kraken, they will be without the services of André Burakovsky, who will reportedly miss the first two rounds of the playoffs with a lower-body injury. A member of the Avalanche last season, the Austrian winger finished with eight points in 12 playoff games, with three of those points coming in the two Stanley Cup Final games he played in. His playmaking ability will be missed, as he was on pace for a career year this season with 39 points in 49 games prior to his injury.

Predictions From THW’s Kraken Team

Ryan Paton

First of all, congratulations to the Seattle Kraken as they defied expectations and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their reward? The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche. No doubt, this is a very tough task that is ahead of them. The Kraken are, as expected, the underdogs, but I do think they will give the Avalanche a bit of a push; not enough of a push to win the series, but enough of one to make the Avalanche work. A couple of things going for the Kraken right away are one, they can score. The Kraken were tied for fourth in the NHL with a 3.52 goals-per-game average (GPG) and in goals scored with 289. When the team gets on one of those rolls, they can play with the best of them.

They will need Beniers, Jordan Eberle, and Vince Dunn to not just be good but great. The concern is defensively and in goal. The Avalanche are a fast, seasoned club and can get their opponent on their heels very quickly. Because of this, the Kraken will have their challenges. One of those challenges will be in goal. Head coach Dave Hakstol went back and forth between Grubauer and Jones down the stretch, which is indicative of someone who isn’t sure who is the true number one. Whoever gets the call in Game 1 will have a short leash. Couple that with Burakovsky being out, and the Kraken are shorthanded even before the series has begun. The Avalanche will prove to be too much for the Kraken in this series, but even if that comes to fruition, they have everything to be proud of in what has been a remarkable campaign.

Brian Finlayson

The Kraken were dealt a tough hand in Round 1, facing the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche. That said, I don’t think this series will be as lopsided as some are saying. The Kraken have spent the entire season scoring at an unreal rate and often use this to cover up deficiencies. If they can find a way to produce at a rate near their regular season numbers, they have a shot at catching the Avalanche off guard. However, the Avalanche won the Central Division for a reason and are now near full health as the playoffs approach. The skill of the Avalanche, combined with the Kraken’s goaltending questions and defensive lapses, could ultimately be what makes this series too much for the Kraken to handle. While the season has been a wonderful ride to this point, it just seems almost too daunting to overcome the Avalanche. I think the Kraken ride their offensive firepower for a couple of wins and keep the games close throughout, but I think the Avalanche will defeat the Kraken in six games. The season may end up being cut short by a formidable opponent, but what a season it has been. I can’t wait to see how things shake out.

Sean Raggio

The Kraken are Stanley Cup Playoff-bound! And their first opponent is… the defending Stanley Cup champions. Talk about a tough draw. That said, this isn’t the same Avalanche team we saw lift the Cup in 2022. There’s a new starting goaltender in Alexandar Georgiev, who’s almost doubled his preview career high in games played and has only played in two Stanley Cup Playoff games. In addition, the Avs will be without their captain Gabriel Landeskog. The Kraken, however, have pulled off a complete 180 from where they were a year ago. They may not have the star power, though I’d make a case for a few rising stars, but they’re a very deep team.

They are good at limiting the number of shots their goaltenders face (second in the NHL with 27 shots against per game), but that’s where my x-factor in this series lies: goaltending. I think you could make an argument for either side to have a goaltending edge (inexperience vs. statistics), but the Kraken will undoubtedly find themselves needing a save, and I’m not sure if they’ll get it. Seattle has shown fight all year long. I think that if they’re going to win this series, it’ll happen in six games. If the Avalanche take it, I’m thinking five games. The Kraken need to strike early; they can’t be playing catch-up the whole series. Players to watch for the Kraken are Beniers, Jared McCann, and Dunn. Can they translate their regular season success into the playoffs?

Adam Kierszenblat

This postseason is going to be exciting not just for the on-ice play but also to see how the city of Seattle reacts to its NHL team being in the playoffs. If the atmosphere is anything like a Seattle Seahawks game, everyone seated in that arena may need to get their hearing tested after the final whistle blows. That atmosphere should work in the Kraken’s favor as the players will be able to feed off it and pull off at least one win at home. At the same time, though, this could easily turn into a series where the majority of the wins happen on the road, as both Seattle and Colorado had better road records this season. While the Avalanche will most likely take the series, expect Seattle to go down swinging and force a Game 7. This is a scrappy group and one that many are underestimating going into the postseason.

Kraken Have the Potential to Upset the Avs

Despite the Avalanche being the favorite heading into the series, there is a vibe around this Kraken team that makes them hard to bet against. Yes, they have had their ups and downs this season, but they are a big, physical team that is built for playoff hockey. A wild card team beating a division champion is not uncommon; just look at the 2019 Playoffs, where all four wild card teams found a way to win their series. Seattle has the pieces to pull off the upset; now it is just a question of whether or not they can rise to the challenge.



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