Your Guide to the Kraken-Stars Game 7 Experience

The Need To Knows:

  • The Time: 5:00pm PT
  • The Place: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
  • Place to Watch: ESPN, SportsNet
  • Place to Listen: KJR 93.3fm
  • Opposing Viewpoint: Defending Big D

What happened last game?:

The Kraken, facing elimination, scored 6 goals to force a deciding game 7. If they win, they face the Vegas Golden Knights for the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final. If they lose, then Dallas moves on to face Vegas.

Game Preview:

The two teams have played each other six games in a row, and we know what the teams are at this point. Dallas is going to rely on heavy minutes by their all-world defenseman Miro Heiskanen, generate scoring chances with their top line of Robertson/Hintz/Pavelski, and get some scoring from their second and third lines.

Seattle came into this series with no real dominant line, but the Eberle/Beniers/Kartye line is emerging as one of the best in these playoffs (minimum 60 minutes), per Moneypuck.

The Beniers line is second in expected goals/60 created, and has been the top line in limiting expected goals/60.

This game is going to a game 7, but there haven’t been a lot of close games. Aside from game one where the Kraken won in overtime, the games have been lopsided, with the outcome of the game decided before the game officially ends. This is the mystery of playoff hockey: sometimes a team will have it, and sometimes they don’t, and it’s hard to know which team is going to show up for any given game. This happens to the best of teams; this isn’t just a Kraken issue.

The Kraken roll four quality lines and have been pressing their depth advantage this series, as they did last series against Colorado. This is particularly true on defense. The Stars have a dragon with Miro Heiskanen, but it’s a different pair of defensemen who have created a real issue for Dallas.

How Esa Lindell and Yani Hakenpää play will likely have a big impact on this game

Dallas coach Peter DeBoer likes using the pairing of Lindell and Hakenpää especially for defensive zone draws. They aren’t great at moving the puck, but fit into the mold of the slower, bigger, defensive defensemen.

Seattle, when they have brought the energy and intensity, have zeroed in on this defensive pairing and have eviscerated them, especially games 1 and 6. What tends to happen is that they try to get the puck out of their zone, but they just don’t have the speed or the puck movement abilities to consistently get it out, and Seattle is using that to camp out in the Stars zone.

Take the first goal from Saturday’s game. Lindell tries to break out of the defensive zone, but a bad pass by Hakenpää has the puck right back in the Dallas zone, where Lindell falls down and Yanni Gourde gets to the front of the net for the rebound goal:

In transition, the Kraken are taking advantage of their lack of foot speed. Watch Hakenpää #2 and Lindell #23 for Dallas, and how out of position they are by the end. The Gourde/Tolvanen/Bjorkstrand line turned them into a pretzel and they aren’t nimble or fast enough to keep up when Seattle is really pressing.

It is unclear if Dallas coach Pete DeBoer will change this pairing up for game 7. My guess would be no, but the last five minutes or so of game 6, he did pair them with different defensemen. Was that because the game was decided, or was he seeing if he liked a change for game 7?

Based on his press conference, it sounds like he’s staying with the plan. But take everything coaches say with a grain of salt.

Kraken power play: improved?

The Kraken’s power play has struggled, to say the least. In game 6 against Dallas however, the Kraken converted on one of their three power play chances, and the other two opportunities created dangerous chances even though they didn’t score.

Part of it is having Jared McCann back. Adding a 40-goal scorer to your lineup generally does help with offensive output. But what I noticed game 6 was the Kraken changed their power play strategy and they were a lot more decisive with quick puck movement. They tend to dump in the puck or chip in the puck and then use their numbers advantage to win the puck battle to free it along the boards, but it just hasn’t worked out. On Saturday I saw more controlled zone entries, and I don’t think Dallas was ready for that.

And part of it is Tye Kartye, who has just been sensational. The AHL rookie of the year (who went undrafted!) as an emergency callup after the McCann injury is playing extremely well. He has a great shot.

In this 5-on-5 goal, this looks like a soft goal by Oettinger and it is to some extent, but credit Kartye for looking like he’s going to pass, then turning his head to shoot at the last second:

Kartye’s inclusion on the power play adds another dangerous shooter, and that’s the kind of thing that drives power play success. What a revelation he’s been!

The goaltending

In addition to not getting great play in front of him to begin with, Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger has not looked like JAKE OETTINGER, which we saw in the playoffs in round one and especially last season. Considered one of the very best goalies in the NHL, his goals saved above expected per game (Moneypuck):

GameOettinger goals saved above expectedGrubauer goals saved above expected
Not a single quality start by Oettinger, who has allowed 21 goals on 156 shots for a .865 save percentage this series.

Oettinger has been chased from the net twice this series in just six games. In game 3, he had the worst save percentage of his NHL career (.706) when he allowed 5 goals on 17 shots before being pulled. In game 6, he allowed 4 goals on 18 shots and was pulled just 24:23 into the game, the shortest start of his career.

To say that Oettinger has not played up to expectations has been an understatement.

Philipp Grubauer, on the other hand, hasn’t been great every game this series but has been considerably better than Oettinger has been.

It’s possible Oettinger may be playing through some sort of injury because he’s usually so good. And public goal models aren’t perfect — I think some of the GSAx problems are really the result of poor defense in front of him, but we haven’t seen him turn into a dragon the way we have in previous playoff series.

The goal song

The networks and talking heads have fallen down on the job. This is an extremely important angle that I haven’t seen anyone else bring up yet:

This is a battle between two teams with elite goal songs.

The Stars play “Puck Off” written by local band Pantera as their goal song. The members of Pantera have been huge fans of the team for ages and even partied with the team when they won the Stanley Cup in 1999.

This checks all the boxes for a great goal song: it’s a local artist, it’s punchy, it’s original, and has fantastic crowd participation. I don’t love that they play it before games (a goal song should be just after a goal!) but when the song is that awesome, I understand wanting to find more situations to play it.

When The Athletic held their first-ever ranking of NHL goal songs($), I thought there was a good chance Dallas would win. It did not.

Seattle did.

Scary stats that the Kraken don’t care about and neither should you

You’ll probably hear during the broadcast that Jake Oettinger has never lost two playoff games in a row, or that Pete DeBoer’s record coaching game 7s is 6-0.

All that is true. Do you know what is also true? Jake Oettinger has never been pulled during a playoff game before this series — then it happened twice. Oettinger has never won a game 7 (okay, it’s just one game) and Seattle has never lost a game 7 (okay, it’s just one game).

None of that matters. If the takeaway is that DeBoer is a good coach who adjusts well, that was already established well before anyone got to a game 7. You know who is also a good coach who adjusts well? Dave Hakstol.

Take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ol’ days before you’ve actually left them.” -Andy Bernard

Friends, we are in the good ol’ days right now. We don’t know what’s going to happen. The future seems extremely bright for this franchise, but you just never know.

What we know is that this team is so much fun. They’ve already gotten way further than anyone realistically thought they would. The fact that they’re a game away from the Western Conference Final is incredible.

Playoff hockey is exhausting and stressful. The intensity is unlike anything else. This is the season that we will look back upon fondly. I urge you to take a moment amidst all the tenseness and anxiety to appreciate everything that they’ve done this year and this playoff run. And if it ends today, so be it. It can’t undo anything that’s happened. But when the Kraken are on their game, they can beat anyone. They’ve shown they can give anyone a series. And now they’ve forced another game 7 in a wide-open playoff field.

Just remember to breathe while it’s going on.