It took the full seven games, but the Seattle Kraken advanced to the second round of the playoffs in their playoff debut as a franchise. Playing against the second-seed and defending champion Colorado Avalanche, they certainly had a challenge ahead of them, but they passed it with flying colors.
Phillip Grubauer, primary goalie for this inaugural era of Kraken hockey, was a member of the Avalanche up until he signed with Seattle in 2021. Against his former team, he put up quality performance after quality performance, allowing two goals or fewer in all four Kraken wins.
The Kraken fortunately jumped out to a game-one victory on the road. Grubauer allowed one goal by 26-year-old Mikko Rantanen in the first period, but he was otherwise perfect. The Kraken scored three goals in support of him, including the first career playoff goal by center Morgan Geekie.
Unfortunately, the Kraken would drop the next two and fall into a 2-1 series deficit in Grubauer’s worst stretch of the playoffs, allowing eight goals over the two games (the final remaining goal came in an empty net as Seattle played from behind late in game number three). Lost in the chaos was rookie sensation Matthew Beniers, who scored his first career playoff goal in the third period of game three.
Momentum slowed to a crawl, and that intensified in game four. Jared McCann scored a team-high 70 points in the regular season, including 40 goals. After a failed breakaway where his shot careened off the goal and went out of play, he was hit from behind by Colorado defenseman Cale Makar. Makar was only assessed a two-minute penalty, but would later serve a suspension in game five while McCann missed the rest of the series due to injury.
This did little to dissuade the Kraken, as seven-year veteran wing Daniel Sprong and defenseman William Borgen would net their first career playoff goals, accompanied by Jordan Eberle en route to a 3-2 OT victory to tie the series up.
Again on the road for game five, they continued to press their opponents. After a scoreless first period, the Kraken would score two goals in the second, including a go-ahead goal by forward Tye Kartye in his NHL debut. Becoming just the eighth player in NHL history to score their first goal in their career debut in the playoffs (a list that features Makar), Yanni Gourde scored an insurance goal in the third period, putting the Kraken on match point.
The Avalanche forced a game seven in convincing fashion, despite Justin Dunn scoring the first goal of the game for Seattle. From there, it was all Colorado as they scored four unanswered goals en route to a 4-1 victory.
After a scoreless first period in game seven and with tensions never having been higher, it was Oliver Bjorkstrand who took control. The eight-year veteran wing had six career playoff goals with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and was quick to add two more in the second period. While Colorado would strike back with 30 seconds on the clock, the Kraken still held a single-goal advantage heading into the third. Facing an extended time on defense due to the Avalanche employing an empty net, Grubauer had to put on the performance of a lifetime, which he did. He ended the game with 33 saves in 34 shot attempts, allowing the Kraken to take a 2-1 game victory and advance to the second round of the series.
Seattle has guaranteed themselves a postseason to be happy with, having taken down the defending champions. In a playoff atmosphere that seems crowded with teams that fail to deliver in that pivotal game seven, the Kraken will be able to stand tall thanks to their performance this year.