Tale of the Tape: Can the Kraken win an uphill battle?

Tale of the tape artwork

With the Kraken set to take on the Avs, Seattle has quite a battle ahead of them.

According to…well, most outlets who track that sort of thing, the Kraken are in for one hell of a ride. The Athletic doesn’t care for how the Kraken stack up, DailyFaceoff isn’t super bullish on the Squids, it’s just looking like everyone’s more than giving the Kraken a pat on the back for showing up.

Let’s take a look inside their abilities and see what shakes out!

Two team’s strengths from the eye test:

For the Avalanche, it’s clear that their GM Chris MacFarland probably deserves to be held in better esteem than he is, because he’s put together an unbelievable roster. Guys like Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Val Nichushkin, Artturi Lehkonen…It’s a long list of players who have been absolute dynamite for the Maroon and Blue this year and last, and they’re looking to continue that magic. Even if they’re beat up in ways most teams would’ve probably tapped out on the season for, they are formidable.

Meanwhile in the blue corner, the Kraken were able to get some incredible performances out of their defense and offense this year. They did this by going all-in on the improvement of the depth as well as the addition of players like Matty Beniers. This allowed a team that admittedly still struggled with some net-front (and in some cases, netminder) defense to thrive in the Pacific Division with career years from plenty of their newly acquired talents, such as Eeli Tolvanen. Combined with a strong system of defense that created dynamite transition chances, the Kraken are no longer a team you can just push around.

But in the absence of past-playoff data, we must go to the regular season to see how these teams matched up.

In-Season, the Seattle had the Avs Number:

In the meetups between these two teams over the last season…The Kraken have mostly been the better team in their three matchups this year.

Graphs provided by Evolving-Hockey.com
Graphs provided by Evolving-Hockey.com
Graphs provided by Evolving-Hockey.com

The Kraken controlled play against the Avs two of the three games played and impressed by finding a way to limit the effectiveness of Colorado’s strong core every game, even in defeat.

The Star Players

This will be unquestionably where the Avs have an edge in the game. It’s a fair point to make against between the two teams! The Kraken are still in many ways building up for what will come in the next five-six years, whereas the Avs are still very much a team in their prime. After all, guys like Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Devon Toews, and Mikko Rantanan on their own exceptional. But together, they pulled a team that many assumed likely to take a major step back and brought them right back into being the Central Division regular season champs.

But one of the things this hinges on is that their depth ends up following suit, and they’re going to need to.

Because for all of those stars, they will be down a couple of them coming into this upcoming series.

No Captain, Cale Makar’s up in the air, no Helm, no Manson.

That means guys like Jack Johnson, who is a bit of a steep drop from Manson and Makar, are now taking 2nd pairing minutes.

The Kraken meanwhile, will only be down Andre Burakovsky. Losing Burakovsky for nearly two whole rounds hurts badly, don’t get me wrong…but all the other big names: Dunn, McCann, Beniers, Gourde, Tanev…they’re all healthy. The Kraken need their stars, but also their found money players like Daniel Sprong and Eeli Tolvanen, to make things as hard for the Avs as humanly possible.

Power Play Woes.

The first thing, and arguably the biggest need of the team going into these playoffs is power play scoring.

A major difference in the overall success of the Kraken and the Avs is in their man-advantage success. Colorado is near the top of the league in power play success with a 24.5% rate of getting a goal while the Squids are 21st, with a measely 19.8%. The Kraken get their chances, but they need to cash in on these opportunities, because the Avs absolutely will. Further, their penalty kill has suffered quite a bit, being around the same level by the end of the year, and they now face one of the most dynamic power plays in the league. Hakstol and company has their work cut out for them in making sure this group can weather the storm.

The big other thing that the Kraken need if they want to go out and shock the world I’m afraid…is Goaltending.

The Elephant in the Room.

While the gamebreakers versus depth contributors argument could be had over and over, there is one area of play that the Kraken…lag considerably. The same thing that doomed them last year has a very nasty chance of being their doom this year as well; goaltending. To be fair, Seattle’s goaltending has improved and we should give plaudits in this direction; though anything would be an improvement over last year. The problem is that for all the work Grubauer and Jones did to get this point, they’re both still well below league average, and even up to the end of the season the Kraken were flip-flopping back and forth on their starts. The Avs didn’t have to worry about this, and therefor were able to find a real rhythm by focusing more on what the skaters were about (partially because they kept breaking them).

The Kraken don’t just need good goaltending for Grubauer or Jones. They need great goaltending for Grubauer or Jones. Anything else will spell a quick series for the Squids.

I believe that the Playoffs make it clear what you’ve always been, just more of it. Maybe even who you always were. It’s beautiful and terrifying, but it always finds the truth in the end.

The truth in this case, is that Seattle may have a tough time.

But they will not be helpless. They will make this a hard fight.

Seattle could cause the Avs a lot of trouble.

But we’ll have to find out on Tuesday evening.