That one might stick with us for a while. Few in the hockey world expected the Kraken to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in their barn Friday, but Seattle did just that and came away with an impressive 3-2 win.
The Kraken really deserved the victory, too, getting the better of the play in almost every statistical category. It was a real team win, from the goaltender(s) out.
Here are our Three Takeaways from an exciting 3-2 Kraken win over the Avalanche.
Takeaway #1: Stay cool, man! It’s Karson Kuhlman!
You have to love when a grinder ends up the hero. That’s what happened Friday, as Karson Kuhlman skated into a perfectly placed high flip from Jaden Schwartz, then fought off all 233 pounds of Kraken Expansion Draft selection Kurtis MacDermid and snuck the puck between the pads of Pavel Francouz.
“I think it starts with a good wall play there,” Kuhlman said. “Schwartzy makes a good play, puts the puck to space, let me skate into it… I saw a little opening and was able to put it in the net.”
Schwartz had a great game too and has continued to be an important piece for the Kraken since returning from the various maladies that cut his 2021-22 season short. He scored a power-play goal in the second period after a great setup by Jared McCann and Jordan Eberle on a slick high-low-high play.
On Kuhlman’s game winner, Schwartz said, “We just needed to change and I knew he was fresh. Just looked up quickly and he had a lot of speed, so just tried to get it somewhere in his area, and he made a heck of an individual play there.”
It really was an impressive play by Kuhlman, who said MacDermid was “draped all over” him, but he battled through and got enough of a shot away to beat Francouz.
It was a heck of a game by both Kuhlman and Schwartz, who ultimately connected to give Seattle the win.
Takeaway #2: Grubauer plays great, exits with an injury
Philipp Grubauer was a big reason Seattle had a chance to win this one. The Kraken remarkably outshot Colorado 38-20 and had 58.6 percent of the expected goals for, but Grubauer was a big factor. He looked dialed in from pre-game warmups, and he stood tall against several point-blank shots in the first period.
“I thought Grubi was outstanding, right from that first shift,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “They had a couple opportunities the first couple of shifts, and he was rock solid. Looked really calm, really confident, and that feeds through the rest of the group as well.”
His best save of the night came on an early partial breakaway by Alex Newhook, when Newhook dangled through Seattle’s defense and appeared to have Grubauer dead to rights. The German gentleman was moving to his right, and Newhook deked back the other way. Somehow, Grubauer stopped his momentum and flared out his left pad to get his toe on the puck and keep the Avalanche off the board in the opening frame.
The lone Avalanche goal of the second period was a backdoor tap-in for Evan Rodrigues after Valeri Nichushkin threaded the needle under Jamie Oleksiak’s stick. The second goal against was painful both literally and figuratively. With Seattle on the power play in the third period, Andre Burakovsky lost the puck along the wall in the offensive zone. The Avs went down three-on-one, and Bowen Byram finished to level the game at 2-2.
You can see in the video, Grubauer immediately seized up. He stayed down for a moment, then went to the bench to talk to the medical staff. He did stay in the game initially, but Martin Jones came in at the next whistle and finished out the game. Ironically, Jones earned credit for the win as the goalie of record, his 200th career win, despite stopping just one (!!) shot.
Jones played 9:43, so the fact that he faced just one shot is a testament to how well Seattle was playing defensively, especially in the closing minutes of the game.
Hakstol did not have an update on Grubauer after the game, but we do not think the injury is terribly serious. We will see if he is able to dress in Chicago Sunday.
Takeaway #3: Bend but don’t break
The win wasn’t entirely flawless. We talked in Takeaway #1 about Seattle conceding a short-handed tying goal, but to its credit, the team didn’t allow that to be a backbreaker. Instead, the Kraken stuck with it and found a way to earn the two points it deserved.
“That’s a little bit of a benchmark right there,” Hakstol said. “We played a real good hockey game. We made a mistake, and that can rattle you, especially in this building when momentum gets rolling. But we didn’t [get rattled]. We just went right back to work, and the next couple shifts were solid shifts.”
Having watched a lot of Kraken hockey, it really felt to us like the defending Stanley Cup champions were about to find a game winner after they got the equalizer. Seattle flipped the script, though, and came away with an impressive victory.
That’s a big-time win. Are the Seattle Kraken on the way up?