This is it, folks! The Seattle Kraken are on the precipice of history with an opportunity to clinch their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. All they need to do is beat the lowly Coyotes–the same team they dispatched 8-1 just a few days ago–and they are officially in. 

We thought it was a great time to do a roundtable discussion on the season that has been for the Kraken, their chances in the playoffs, and more. 

Our own Curtis Isacke, John Barr, Josh Horton, and Darren Brown (that’s me!) put our heads together for some fun banter. 


How can the Kraken elevate their game for the playoffs? 

Darren Brown: A week ago, I would have said figuring out how to score on the power play, but the Kraken have been hot in that area recently, thanks in large part to Daniel Sprong, who is oozing confidence right now. Seattle has scored power-play goals in four straight games. 

So, instead, I’ll say get Andre Burakovsky back. It’s not so much that Burakovsky is an irreplaceable superstar, but the Kraken specifically don’t have the horses to effectively replace a top-six forward. Plus, the trickle down effect of not having him in the lineup has been immense. He did participate with the team on Monday for the first time since his injury on Feb. 7.

John Barr: I think getting Burakovsky back would be huge for the Kraken as well. But aside from that, the Kraken will need to continue to snuff out the shooting opportunities for the opponent. No matter how you measure it, the Kraken have been extremely stingy over the last seven games allowing season lows in shots against, Corsi against, and Fenwick against. Part of this might be due to the weakness of the opponents in this stretch, but if they can maintain this stingy defense, they can raise their level in the playoffs.

Josh Horton: A hot hand. The Kraken have excelled offensively this year by committee, but I think if someone set the playoffs on fire, it would be a massive advantage for Seattle. 

Will it be Jared McCann, who has bagged 37 goals this year? Or could it be wunderkind Matty Beniers? What about Jordan Eberle, a veteran with playoff experience? No matter who it is, I think getting a guy on a heater at the right time would be huge.

Curtis Isacke: Getting Burakovsky back will help, but the Kraken need to be brutally honest about what has and has not worked with their personnel groupings. 

For much of the season while Burakovsky was healthy, the team deployed Burakovsky, Alex Wennberg, and a third linemate (most frequently Jaden Schwartz) to matchup against the top lines from the competition. The results were not good enough offensively. The Burakovsky-Wennberg-Schwartz line created just 2.12 expected goals per sixty minutes of even-strength ice time, while conceding 2.37 expected goals. And the actual on-ice results were worse; the team scored five goals with those three on the ice at even strength and allowed 12 goals against. 

In contrast, the Beniers line and the Gourde line have dominated their matchups offensively and defensively, both in terms of goal differential and expected goal differential. Those lines have the defensive chops to hold up against stronger competition and have offensive tactics that could very well translate against top lines too.

I think the Beniers line should be trusted with the bulk of these tougher assignments during the run of play. The trio can finish on offense and stifles opponent shots. The Gourde line could then take defensive zone draws against top competition in crucial situations (due to Gourde’s superior production in the face-off circle). This would free up the Wennberg line to attack relatively weaker middle-six matchups and produce neutral or net-positive effects for the team. 

The Kraken will not succeed in the playoffs if they consistently lose the premiere matchups. I understand pacing Matty Beniers through the regular season, but now is the time to take the training wheels off that line to see what they can do.

Which team do the Kraken have the best chance of beating in the opening round?

JB: I think all potential teams the Kraken could face in round one are beatable, but Dallas might be the most vulnerable to getting knocked off by the Kraken. The Kraken were 1-1-1 against the Stars this season, and the overtime loss could have easily gone the Kraken’s way if it weren’t for a goal by Dallas in the waning minutes to force OT. The one thing Seattle has done in those three games against Dallas is score goals. I think Jake Oettinger is a great, young goalie, but he doesn’t have the Kraken’s number like Marc-Andre Fleury does in Minnesota. 

DB: You might be onto something with Dallas, John. Now that the Kraken have exorcized their demons and beaten that team, they do seem like a decent on-paper matchup. I obviously can’t agree with you here, though, so I’ll go in a different direction.

It is interesting to see three teams so incredibly close atop the Central Division standings at this point in the season. There are no truly dominant clubs in that division, which makes the crossover for the first round advantageous for the Kraken, as opposed to staying within the Pacific to face–most likely–Vegas. I’m uncomfortable saying this, but the way Seattle has matched up with Colorado this season may make them the preferred opponent. 

Worth noting, the Avalanche have been much better recently than they were early in the season and are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. So, they could be rolling at the right time, and this could end up being a terrible take. 

JH: All three aren’t particularly appealing and would be tough outs, but I’m going to say Minnesota, and for two reasons. Betting markets and analytical models seem to like the Wild the least of that trio – FanDuel Sportsbook has the Avs at 7-to-1 to win the cup, the Stars at 15-to-1, and the Wild at 20-to-1; Dom Luszczyszyn at The Athletic has the Wild at a three percent chance of winning the Stanley Cup – and their lineup seemingly lacks the firepower of the other options. 

CI: I come down on Josh’s side on this one. It seems like whistling past the graveyard to invite a matchup with Marc-Andre Fleury, and the Kraken are 1-2-0 against the Wild this season. But I can’t shake the feeling from the teams’ recent matchup in Minnesota that the Wild cannot catch the Kraken when Seattle brings its skating game. The breaks went Minnesota’s way that night, and Fleury dominated, but I liked a lot of what I saw from the boys in deep-sea blue. That matchup seems the most “winnable” of the three most realistic opponents, though I agree the team would have a puncher’s (goal scorer’s?) chance against Dallas as well. 

Which team would not be a good first-round matchup for the Kraken? 

DB: Of the three options, Minnesota, Colorado, and Dallas, I do think the Wild might be the toughest option. To John’s point earlier, Fleury does have Seattle’s number, and there are some big, tough customers on that club that I worry could push the Kraken around. That said, I wouldn’t be terrified of this matchup either, especially considering Minnesota’s penchant for early playoff exits.

With my deep Minnesota roots, that would also be a tough matchup for me to stomach emotionally…

JH: Count me out on facing the Avs in the first round, even with the track record against Colorado. I know they aren’t playing at the same level as their Stanley Cup version last season, but you would have to think that playing relatively close to that level is well within the range of outcomes. 

JB: Edmonton. The Oilers are hot right now, but this matchup is becoming less and less likely as the Kraken look firmly planted in the first wild card position. The Kraken beat the Oilers earlier in the season, but the last two matchups have not looked very competitive, with Edmonton outscoring the Kraken 11-6 with two wins. 

CI: I’m with you, John. An improbable (though mathematically possible) matchup with the Edmonton Oilers is the matchup that I would project as most problematic. The Kraken rely on their defensive structure to reign in their opponents’ transition game and push shot chances to the outside. But all too often that structure has crumbled in face of Edmonton’s elite offensive skill. Among the three more likely Central Division playoff teams, Colorado is the most threatening now that they are getting (slightly) healthier. That said, it is also the matchup that I most would like to see.

How deep can the Kraken go in the postseason? 

DB: With Seattle’s success on the road, I can see the boys pulling off an upset in the first round, especially if they close out the regular season on a roll. While they do have a nice, balanced attack, I don’t see them as Stanley Cup contenders yet. It would be borderline shocking to me to see them advance past the second round. 

JB: It is easy to look at the last four Stanley Cup champions and say the Kraken don’t fit the mold. That is definitely a fair comparison, but I’ve also always said that anything can happen in the playoffs. If you go back the last six Stanley Cup Finals, there are a handful of darkhorse teams that at least made it to the Final:

2016 San Jose – 3rd in the Pacific
2017 Nashville – Wild Card team
2019 St. Louis – 3rd in the Central
2021 Montreal – 4th in the North
2022 Tampa Bay – 3rd in the Atlantic

The odds are low, but they are low for all the teams due to the nature of the Stanley Cup playoffs. To answer the question literally, they can make it to the Stanley Cup Final. I do think the Kraken match up better with the Central teams, so it will be an advantage for them to be crossing over in the first round. I think they can win a round or two, and after that, luck will need to play a more significant part in their success.

JH: It’s the NHL. They can win the whole damn thing if they catch lightning in a bottle. 

I think the most realistic option is a first-round exit, but I don’t think a second-round or Western Conference Final appearance is far fetched. Especially with the Kraken likely playing the Central Division, which head-to-head appears to be the weakest route on paper, it’s in the realm of possibility. 

CI: It is a cliché that the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the hardest, but there is some logic to it; after the marathon regular season, 16 playoff teams all hit a higher, unsustainable gear at the same time and take it out on their first-round opponents. Seattle’s competition will play faster and could neutralize the team’s speed edge, while also upping the physical play on its relatively small forward group. 

The team has never been able to overcome scoring problems through brute force at the net front, and this certainly won’t change in the postseason. Instead, the Kraken have survived so far on the strength of their perimeter finishing talent, but those goals may be harder to come by in the playoffs with more disciplined structure and gap control from opponents. Anything is possible in the chase for the Stanley Cup, but this year feels like a five-to-six-game run for the boys from the Pacific Northwest.

Which team wins the Stanley Cup? 

DB: Boston is the obvious favorite, but something in my bones reminds me the team you expect to win the Stanley Cup almost never does. So, I’ll go with the club that seems like the second-most obvious favorite, the Carolina Hurricanes. I like the balance in their lineup, and Rod the Bod knows the right buttons to push. They’ve been too good for too long to not win one with their current group. 

JH: My pragmatic brain says it’s the Bruins. My wallet hopes it’s the Oilers – that 15-to-1 bet to win the Stanley Cup is aging pretty nicely right now – and my gut is saying the same. It’s time for Connor McDavid to finally play, and win, a Stanley Cup Final. 

CI: In my preseason post with Darren, I think I predicted the Colorado Avalanche and the New York Rangers in the final. Since that prediction remains technically possible, I’ll stick with it. Nathan MacKinnon and Igor Shesterkin are pretty decent players to gamble on, I guess. That said, my “hometown” heartstrings are telling me Boston.

DB: Ew. That last line almost made me throw up.

JB: Edmonton. I am not confident in this selection, but the Presidents’ Trophy winner rarely wins the Stanley Cup, so I needed to pick someone other than Boston. It seems like just about anyone can come out of the Eastern Conference and by the time that team makes it to the Stanley Cup Final, they will have been beaten to a pulp going through the Eastern Conference octagon. On the flip side, Edmonton seems to have the easiest path to the Stanley Cup Final.

Will the Kraken clinch their first playoff berth Thursday?

JH: Yes.

CI: Yes.

JB: Yes.

DB: Hell yes.

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