The Kraken were back in action on Monday night after an excruciatingly long 8 days off and personally, I missed this. They went down to Colorado to face the Avalanche, winners of their last 11 in Denver and arguably the best team in the NHL. Meanwhile, due to the extra breaks in their schedule, Seattle was fast approaching a calendar month since their last victory — a 3-1 win over the Sharks.
Philipp Grubauer got the start in his first trip back to Colorado since leaving in free agency, and he showed up in his old Avs pads just for old times sake. Colorado was without captain Gabriel Landeskog, who was placed in Covid protocol earlier that morning. Ultimately, it didn’t end in Seattle’s favor, but there was a lot to like about this performance from the Kraken.
This one started off fast with both teams trading chances. Seattle had a few early but it was Colorado who would get on the board first. A pile of bodies heading towards Grubauer did enough to allow Nicolas Aube-Kubel to bury a wrister and give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead just 6 minutes into the game. Once again, Seattle started the game playing catch-up.
Fortunately, catch up they did! Jared McCann drew a penalty in the offensive zone just a few minutes later, and on Seattle’s first power play of the night it was Marcus Johansson converting to tie this one up.
This one was just a beautiful passing sequence that you can’t draw up any better. McCann with the one touch pass followed by an Eberle shot-pass that found Johansson and just like that the Kraken were back in the game, which the shot count stated they deserved to be. By the end of the first, Seattle had the edge in shots on goal, 10-9, and an even bigger edge in high-danger chances at 4-1, per Natural Stat Trick.
The Kraken picked back up where they left off in the second, matching Colorado shot for shot. The extended time off sure didn’t appear to have a negative effect on this team. It paid off less than 5 minutes in when McCann found the puck on his stick after a sloppy giveaway in the Avalanche zone and threw one at the net from a really tough angle, and the seeing-eye shot somehow found twine. Kraken lead 2-1!
The Avalanche kicked things into a higher gear once they were down a goal, but Grubauer stood strong in this period. Colorado would finish the period with a significant advantage in expected goals (1.1 – 0.5) but Grubauer did more than enough to keep Seattle in this one. He also got a little extra help with some strong backchecking by all the forwards, but especially with this play by Yanni Gourde. Then, 10 minutes after McCann gave Seattle their first lead of the night, Colin Blackwell extended it with a deflection of a Jamie Oleksiak wrister, and the Kraken took a 3-1 lead.
The Avalanche cut into the lead before the period was done after an unfortunate bounce off of a skate. (Spoiler alert: this wouldn’t be the last skate goal of the night). The period ended 3-2, and the Kraken were 20 minutes away from a huge upset victory.
The final period started with strong pressure from Colorado, but again it was Philipp Grubauer coming up big with save after save. This man wanted nothing more than to beat his old team, in his old barn.
That might be his best save of the year, and I don’t know when we’ll see a better one. Grubauer continued his strong play, but eventually it wasn’t enough, and Devon Toews tied the game with an assist from every hockey fan’s three favorite words: Distinct. Kicking. Motion.
I’m not going to sit here and say bad refereeing is the reason the Kraken lost. There’s a lot that happens across a game, and one call going another direction changes everything else that follows. But come on, if that’s not a kick I don’t know how you can ever call anything a kick.
Anyway, the Kraken responded quite well initially, generating chances of their own, but could not manage to sneak another go-ahead goal in on this Avalanche team. Then, 3 minutes after tying the game, it was Nazim Kadri with a wrist shot on an odd-man rush that gave Colorado a 4-3 lead.
Seattle threw everything they had at Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz. Grubauer got pulled for the extra attacker with about 2 minutes to play, and Seattle did manage to keep it in the Colorado zone for a good chunk of that final two minutes. But it wasn’t meant to be, and Seattle got sent off with their sixth straight loss.
The Kraken hit the ice again this Wednesday against the Dallas Stars at 5:30pm Pacific, and if they play as strong as they did in the first two periods of this one, they’ll have a great shot to break out of this slump.