Fann: Kraken with prime opportunity to turn casual fans into diehards in playoffs

Apr 19, 2023, 9:30 AM | Updated: 10:18 am

Seattle Kraken...

Kraken players celebrate after a goal against the Avalanche by Morgan Geekie on April 18, 2023. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

(Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

I’m a casual fan when it comes to hockey.

I have no problem admitting it, and there’s no point in suggesting otherwise. I never skated or played the game, and rarely would I turn on the NHL given Seattle didn’t have a team when I was growing up in Bothell.

Most of my knowledge of the game and its star players came from the NHL Hitz video game (which was incredible, by the way). Coincidentally, I remember always playing with Joe Sakic, Steve Blake, Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche.

My interest in professional hockey has skyrocketed since the Seattle Kraken’s inception, but it’s still dwarfed by my obsession with the Mariners. Surely someone reading this will be able to relate. Of course, having moved to Las Vegas prior to the Kraken’s inaugural season hasn’t helped. I’m still yet to attend a game at Climate Pledge Arena, though I have gone to several road games down here.

Beyond that is my rudimentary knowledge of the game. I understand the rules and the basics, but I’m lost once we get into the minutiae of building a third line, tactics of transitioning from defense to offense, etc.

What I do know is that going on the road and dominating the defending Stanley Cup champions is no small feat. That’s what happened Tuesday night when the Kraken trounced the Avalanche 3-1 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoff’s opening round.

Seattle Kraken storm into playoffs, stun Avalanche 3-1

Seattle’s stellar performance warrants everyone’s attention.

Nashville Predators castoff Eeli Tolvanen, who has been a revelation since arriving to Seattle on waivers in December, scored the first playoff goal in Kraken franchise history in the first period. Alex Wennberg and Morgan Geekie provided the other two goals.

Embattled goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who has largely disappointed since becoming a marquee name on the inaugural team in 2021, stood on his head all night in a sensational performance, saving 34 of 35 shot attempts (.971 save percentage) against his former team.

The Kraken played with the poise and fearlessness of a team knowing it belongs on this stage. Seattle was the more physical team, registering 40 hits to Colorado’s 29, and killed both of the Avalanche’s power play opportunities. The Avs also had more giveaways than the Kraken (12-9). The one bone to pick with Seattle’s performance was going 0 for 3 on the power play.

It’s worth mentioning, especially as a reminder to those who haven’t followed this team closely, that the Kraken have been impressive and worthy of such attention all season. After finishing second-to-last in the Western Conference in Year 1 (27-49-6 with 60 points), Seattle rebounded tremendously this season with a 46-28-8 record and 100 points.

The Kraken did so despite continued shaky play from Grubauer in net (17-14-4 with zero shutouts) and heavily relying on 33-year-old veteran Martin Jones, who exceeded expectations and posted a 27-13-3 record with three shutouts.

Seattle’s ability to score goals is rivaled by very few teams in the NHL. The Kraken found the back of the net 289 times during the regular season, which ranked second in the Western Conference and sixth across the league.

I mentioned Tolvanen above as a great story, and for good reason as he posted 16 goals in 48 games for Seattle. Jared McCann paced the Kraken as a 40-goal scorer and led the team with 70 total points. Matty Beniers is expected to win the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year) after posting 24 goals and 33 assists and earning NHL All-Star honors.

The moral of the story is that this Kraken team is (and has been) worthy of your attention, and they have a prime opportunity to continue to gain traction among casual fans like myself with a few more playoff wins against the defending champs.

Game 2 is Thursday night in Denver, with the franchise’s first-ever home playoff games coming in Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday at Climate Pledge Arena. Now that will be a raucous sight to behold.

More on the Seattle Kraken

3 Keys: What the Seattle Kraken need to do in playoff matchup vs Avs
Seattle Kraken Playoff Primer: Schedule, matchup, key players to watch
Rookie Matty Beniers grows into leader for Kraken
Kraken By The Numbers: Stats that explain why Seattle is playoff bound
Olczyk: What Seattle Kraken do well that is huge in playoff hockey
Seattle Kraken in Playoffs: Olczyk breaks down historic turnaround

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