NHL playoffs second round, Game 7 (Stars win series, 4-3)
Final | Stars 2, Kraken 1
5 p.m. | American Airlines Center | Dallas
TV: ESPN | Radio: 93.3 KJR FM
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NHL playoffs Kraken vs. Dallas Stars
Kraken’s offseason reluctantly begins for aging veterans, budding rookies after turnaround season
DALLAS — The season saw a mind-boggling turnaround, but the Kraken wanted more.
They’re loaded with Stanley Cup winners, but also veterans whose time to lift the chalice is dwindling. There’s nothing to do but try again.
On Monday, his 33rd birthday, forward Jordan Eberle reflected on his latest, too-short chance to get his name etched onto one of those silver rings.
“You just grow. You remember how this feels,” he said. “This is a tough league to win — it’s a tough trophy to win. We have the foundation and the group here. We just want to keep building.
“It took me seven years to get to the postseason. You don’t want to take it for granted. This is why you play in the NHL — you play to win the Stanley Cup.”
Game 7 loss can’t take away from Kraken team that ‘changed the landscape of hockey in Seattle’
DALLAS — There is no joy among the Kraken players now, but they shouldn’t be short on pride.
They might not have made any celebratory toasts Monday night, but they spent the past month as the toast of the town.
This fledgling franchise just gave Seattle a gift that spanned 14 games over this postseason, captivating the Emerald City in a way few saw coming before the playoffs began. Pain is understandable after that 2-1 defeat to Dallas in Game 7, but that improbable run was pure pleasure.
It’s wild to juxtapose the Kraken of the past few weeks against the Kraken of the previous three months. It’s even wilder to compare the playoff Kraken to the team that finished with the third-worst record in the NHL last season.
Full game story: Kraken’s postseason run ends with Game 7 loss to Stars
DALLAS — There were signs well before this magical Kraken playoff ride slowed agonizingly toward its halt in Monday night’s Game 7 that the train was perilously close to flying off the rails entirely.
The Kraken were running around in circles in their own end, relying on goalie Philipp Grubauer’s acrobatics to keep things scoreless, while failing to generate any sustained offense of their own. And that lack of offense would prove fatal in this eventual 2-1 loss to the Stars, particularly after a giveaway late in the second period enabled Roope Hintz to streak in alone and beat Grubauer to open the scoring.
That goal, despite all the prior efforts by Grubauer and the Kraken to avoid yielding one, would loom large at the second intermission. And despite all the efforts by the Kraken to generate pressure of their own against Stars netminder Jake Oettinger, they never truly tested a goalie who’d struggled in multiple series games and been pulled early twice.
Kraken empty net with less than 3 minutes left, down 2-0
Philipp Grubauer is on the bench as the Kraken send an extra attacker to try to cut into the Stars' lead with less than 3 minutes remaining in Game 7.
Agonizing: Oliver Bjorkstrand hits the post with Kraken needing a goal
Oliver Bjorkstrand just hit the post with 4:45 left to play and the Kraken trailing 2-0.
Kraken can't keep consistent possession in offensive zone, still trail 1-0
The Kraken are creating more pressure, but can't keep consistent possession of the puck in the offensive zone and still trail the Stars 1-0 with 9:04 remaining in the third period of Game 7.
Time is running out, and it's getting stressful.
Second-period observations: 20 more minutes to empty the tank
The Kraken must do more to generate some sustained offensive pressure in the Dallas end or this magical playoff run will be over in another 20 minutes. They trail 1-0 after two periods and only Philipp Grubauer has kept it from being 3-0 or 4-0. The Kraken had somehow held the Stars off the scoreboard despite play being largely lopsided in the home team’s favor, but that ended when Jamie Oleksiak gave the puck away at his blue line to Roope Hintz with four minutes to go in the period.
Grubauer had robbed Hintz moments earlier from point-blank range, but it was asking too much for him to do it twice in a row. Hintz streaked in alone down the right side and beat Grubauer with a 21-foot wrister to his blocker side.
Forget about the shot count, which is only 20-15 in favor of Dallas. This game has been completely one-sided in terms of sustained possession. The Kraken are running around in their end too much and that’s preventing them from carrying the puck up for their own offensive chances. Jake Oettinger has barely been tested as the two best Kraken chances all night were fired wide of the net by Alex Wennberg and Matty Beniers.
Without the Kraken driving the puck down low, or scoring a fluke goal, they will probably lose the game 1-0 or 2-0. We’ll see if they have anything left in the tank.
Jamie Oleksiak hits goalpost with Kraken's best chance yet
Jamie Oleksiak just had the Kraken's best chance of the game so far with a slap shot in front of the net, but hit the goalpost on Jake Oettinger's glove side.
Stars outshooting Kraken in second period so far, but still can't find the net
The more this game remains scoreless, the more the pressure is on Dallas.
The Stars are finding another bounty of chances early in this second period, outshooting the Kraken 5-0 through more than five minutes, but Seattle and Philipp Grubauer continue to make stops.
Ignore the 9-9 shot clock after one period. That scoreless opening frame was anything but evenly played as the Kraken held a 13-2 margin in blocked shots, which is the only thing keeping them from being down by a goal or two. Matty Beniers had the period’s best scoring chance for the visitors, but his wrist shot from the slot went high and wide in the closing minutes.
The good news? Well, the Kraken got the good Philipp Grubauer tonight. He’s been well-positioned and highly alert, which served him well on a disastrous-looking Kraken power play. Dallas had the best scoring chances while down a man and fired successive shots Grubauer’s way. The second one was the toughest — a quick backhander right along the ice. But Grubauer was ready.
Also, those with good memories lasting more than a week or two might remember the Kraken being thoroughly outplayed the opening period of Game 7 in Colorado. But they kept it scoreless there as well, scored a fluke goal in the second period by Oliver Bjorkstrand off an Avalanche forward and never looked back. They might need their video-review crew at some point again in this Game 7 because we’re probably not going to see a lot of goals.
Current Kraken players have faced off against each other in a Game 7 five times
According to Kraken PR, there have been five instances in which two current Kraken players have faced off against each other in a Game 7.
*Justin Schultz’s Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer with the Washington Capitals, second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pittsburgh shut out the Capitals 2-0.
*Burakovsky and Grubauer’s Capitals in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals against Yanni Gourde’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Washington won that one, 4-0.
*Grubauer’s Colorado Avalanche vs. Martin Jones and Joonas Donskoi of the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Sharks won 3-2.
*Jamie Oleksiak’s Stars against Burakovsky’s Avalanche in Game 7 of the second round in 2020, which the Stars won 5-4.
*Jordan Eberle, then with the New York Islanders, and Gourde’s Lightning faced off in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals. Tampa Bay won 1-0.
Kraken need to be careful in transition, Stars go on power play
The Kraken had a chance right off the opening faceoff as Jaden Schwartz went barreling into the Dallas zone on the forecheck, came up with the puck and centered it right out front to Alex Wennberg – who snapped it wide from 22 feet out. Since then, it’s primarily been Dallas with the pressure.
The Kraken have to be careful because they’ve again gotten caught on transition in the neutral zone, leading to a couple of odd-man rushes by the Stars. There have also been some ill-fated Kraken clearance attempts that resulted in sustained Stars’ pressure. The shots are still 4-3 in favor of the Kraken about seven minutes in but that’s because of a lot of shot blocking by Seattle. Kraken need to tidy up. Eeli Tolvanen just took a penalty but saved a goal by cross-checking Jamie Benn to the ice with the puck loose in the crease.
Stars go off goalpost as both teams find early chances in first four minutes of Game 7
Both teams have gotten a few chances in the first four minutes of Game 7, but Miro Heiskanen just hit the top goalpost as the Stars have been pressuring Philipp Grubauer, who has a huge early save.
‘Nothing better’ than Game 7 hockey as Kraken face off against Stars
DALLAS — Kraken forward Jaden Schwartz and defenseman Vince Dunn headed into Monday night’s biggest playoff contest in Kraken history sporting a combined record of 8-0 in previous Game 7 matchups.
Both played for the St. Louis Blues when they won the 2019 Stanley Cup, prevailing over Boston in a 4-1 road triumph. Dunn, who is now 3-0 in decisive matchups after beating Colorado in the opening round at Denver, also defeated Dallas in double overtime at home in Game 7 to win that year’s second round.
“This is my third one in an opponent’s building so I think I’m pretty familiar with how the atmosphere is,” Dunn said after Monday’s morning skate before facing the Stars in yet another second-round Game 7, this one on the road at American Airlines Center. “It’s usually not in your favor so the noise is going to be brought for them tonight. And we need to try to take that away from them as much as we can.”
Key for Kraken to force decisive Game 7? Pretend Game 6 was a road game
DALLAS — There will be no faking this latest do-or-die road trip for the Kraken quite the way they did their most recent one.
The Kraken are known for road prowess and heading into Monday night’s Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal series at American Airlines Center against the Stars, the ability to produce their best performance away from home will again be paramount toward advancing further. But that wasn’t the case in order to make it to this decisive matchup, when a critical Game 6 victory at Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday was secured only after the Kraken stayed in a downtown Seattle hotel the prior night to simulate a road trip.
“For whatever reason we seem to do better on the road, so we thought we’d do this for the one game,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said Sunday. “It was very important that we win that game, and so we figured we’d do everything we could to make that happen.”
Three thoughts on the Kraken’s Game 6 victory against the Stars
Here are three thoughts from the Kraken’s 6-3 win against the Stars in Game 6 on Saturday night in Seattle.
Do the Kraken have another Game 7 victory in them?
Geoff Baker: I don’t see why they wouldn’t. They’ve won two of their last four in Dallas the past seven weeks. They just beat the Stars rather convincingly at home and frankly, have enough veteran guys that can appreciate this moment. I’ve said before, it might take years for the Kraken to get this close to playing for a conference title again. They must seize this moment and play as if it’s their final shot at something big in their careers. And I do think Yanni Gourde, Jordan Eberle, Jamie Oleksiak, Adam Larsson, Philipp Grubauer and Justin Schultz are smart enough and old enough to have figured that part out.
I wrote at the trade deadline this team was capable of taking a run at the regular-season Western Conference title, so it’s not as if this opportunity appeared out of thin air. The Kraken are playing to the level they are capable of. Not all playoff teams figure out how to do that while balancing their energy level. And the Kraken still have another level to reach. They’ve yet to beat Dallas in consecutive playoff games. They’ll need to do that now. The difference this time? There’s nothing left to conserve energy for if they don’t win. My guess is they drain the tank Monday and worry about the refuel once in Las Vegas or Edmonton.
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