The Need to Knows
The Time: 7:00 pm PT / 10:00 pm ET
The Place: Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, WA
Where to watch: ROOT NW, ALT, TBS
Where to listen: KJR 93.3 FM
Know Your Enemy
If you’ve watched the past two games — or any of the three matches these two teams had during the regular season — you are probably familiar with the Avalanche by now. If not, let me briefly recap for you exactly who the Kraken are up against this round.
The Avalanche are the defending Stanley Cup champions, but they still have a lot to prove in these playoffs. Throughout the year, this team has been battling through major injuries. Their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, hasn’t played a game all season and is ruled out for the entirety of the playoffs. They also lost a lot of crucial players that got them to that Stanley Cup in the first place, like André Burakovsky.
However, they’re still a dominant force on the ice. Nathan MacKinnon is a top-five forward in the league and when he kicks it into another gear, he can fully take over a game. Cale Makar is the reigning Norris Trophy winner for best defenseman in the league, and while early opinions indicate he might not repeat this year, he’s still in conversation as one of the best. Mikko Rantanen put up 55 goals to help him reach 105 points on the season, career highs in both categories.
They are not a team to take lightly.
The Kraken return back to Seattle for the next two playoff games, and they bring with them a 1-1 series split. While taking Game 2 as well would have been even more ideal, the playoffs are a much different beast than the regular season when it comes to having home-ice advantage. The Kraken have been road warriors this season, but the goal for any playoff team on the road is to split the two away games.
Game 1 may have marked the first playoff game in franchise history, but Game 3 is the first time Climate Pledge Arena gets to host playoff hockey. I expect the building to be loud. It’s what the Seattle fanbase is known for. There’s a reason the Seahawks refer to their fans as the “12th man” — or as Jordan Eberle mistakenly called it, the “13th man.” The Beast Quake isn’t legendary just because of what Marshawn Lynch did, but because the roar of the fans registered as seismic activity.
The Kraken already understand how important the Seattle fanbase is. They retired the number 32 in honor of the 32,000 fans who put down season ticket deposits to bring the Kraken to life. Players have mentioned time and time again in media availabilities exactly what’s been so special about playing at Climate Pledge Arena.
They haven’t experienced a Kraken playoff crowd yet. Everything is more intense in the playoffs, including the fans.
However, the Kraken won’t win Game 3 carried by the momentum of fans alone. There are a few things the Kraken either need to keep doing or do better going into this match.
The top line needs to start generating their share of offense. Now, the Kraken’s strength this season has always been its depth. There’s at least one 20-goal scorer on each of the Kraken’s four lines. The team doesn’t need to solely rely on the top line to succeed. However, one of the key disparities in this series is that the Avalanche have their own fair share of depth combined with star power. If MacKinnon bursts out to take over a game, who do the Kraken have to do the same? Is it 40-goal scorer Jared McCann? What about Matty Beniers and his 57-point rookie campaign? How about Eberle with his 64 games of playoff experience? So far, none of them are on the score sheet.
Somewhat relatedly, the Kraken’s power play needs to get going. Thankfully, the Avalanche also haven’t had a successful power play yet. In fact, Brandon Tanev scored shorthanded on them! However, my gut tells me Colorado will get their man-advantage going before Seattle does. Why? Again, it’s because of the difference of talent on those power play units. Penalties are called differently in the playoffs, but the Kraken need to work on making their power play opportunities count.
Philipp Grubauer needs to keep being lights-out in net. It’s a small sample size, but in these past two games, he has a .947 save percentage. He’s the primary reason the Kraken took Game 1, making multiple highlight-reel saves. Even in Game 2, Grubauer made 38 saves in spite of the loss. It should also be noted that this series is the lowest-scoring of the playoffs so far. Now, part of that is on the Kraken for not scoring more, but it also shows how the team has stopped the Avalanche from generating too much offense.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s going to be a night to remember for everyone involved.