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Kraken vs. Avalanche: PREVIEW

The Need to Knows

The Time: 6:00 pm PT / 9:00 pm ET

The Place: Ball Arena, Denver, CO

Where to Watch: ROOT Northwest, ALT, ESPN+ & SN+

Place to Listen: KJR 93.3fm

Know Your Enemy

In 2021-22, the Colorado Avalanche handled the Seattle Kraken easily. No surprise as the team was destined to win the Stanley Cup. This season the series is currently a split, as Seattle took the first meeting back in October, but lost a close one on January 21st. There is a high likelihood that the path to a Western Conference championship goes through Denver so Sunday’s rubber match is an important one for the Kraken to prove to themselves that they can consistently beat the defending champs.

Forwards: It’s a long list. Nathan Mackinnon, arguably the second best player in the world, is backed up by stars like Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. The team added Lars Eller at the deadline, giving them center depth they’d been lacking since Nazim Kadri departed in the offseason. The enigmatic Valerie Nishushkin is day-to-day with an illness, but if he starts, he’s a secondary scoring threat beyond the top line. While Colorado isn’t blowing the doors off the conference in the regular season, they’re still the hands on favorite to come out of the West.

Defence: The Avalanche defense is also elite, when healthy. Cale Makar and Devon Toews make up the first pairing, but the second unit of Bowen Byram and Josh Manson is also dangerous. Manson is currently out with a lower body injury, a trend which has plagued the Avs all season. Veteran Eric Johnson is out until mid-March as well. The fact that Colorado sits third in their division in spite of all these injuries suggests that a healthy roster will be capable of another deep run.

Goaltending: If you’re thinking Colorado is weaker in net than last season given the departure of their starting netminder Darcy Kuemper, you’ll need to think again. Alexandar Georgiev inherited the number one role and his numbers are very close to Kuemper’s from last season. Georgiev started Saturday against the Dallas Stars though, letting in 5 before getting the hook, and with Pavel Francouz out with a lower body injury, the Kraken may luck out and face Keith Kincaid. The 33 year old has been an average NHL goaltender over his career, but rarely has he had such formidable defensemen in front of him.

Game Preview

Surprisingly, the recent contests with the Avalanche have neither been lopsided (all recent games decided by a single goal) nor have they been high event. The Kraken’s disciplined style appears to limit the Avalanche’s elite scoring, meaning our guys have a shot to win on any night.

Colorado has a top ten powerplay and a decent penalty kill. They score at 5-on-5 and prevent enough goals to be top ten in that category as well. But the good news is they’re on the second night of back to back games and potentially playing their 3rd string goalie. There aren’t many nights where the Avs are an easy out, but this just might be one of them.

On the Kraken side of things, the lack of deadline additions didn’t seem to affect them against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but this will be a sterner test. Jared McCann continues his hot season and Matty Beniers is maintaining the scoring gap he needs to remain the Calder Trophy favorite. If Philipp Grubauer can play at .920 or above, this game is Seattle’s for the taking.