NHL Playoffs: Seattle Kraken have defending champs on the ropes

Apr 28, 2023, 10:08 AM

Seattle Kraken Philipp Grubauer Yanni Gourde...

Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer and forward Yanni Gourde defend against the Avalanche. (Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken have the defending champions on the ropes, and the best team in the NHL has another chance to move on to the second round of the playoffs.

All four first-round series resuming Friday night feature a Game 6 with potential elimination. The most surprising team on the brink is Colorado, down 3-2 to the Kraken with the series going back to Seattle.

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There are a pair of second chances in the East, with top-seeded Boston trying to put away Florida and Carolina looking to advance past the New York Islanders. Out West, Dallas is on the verge of knocking off Minnesota and moving on.

All eyes now are on the Avalanche, who are one loss away from being the first reigning Stanley Cup champion to lose to a team making its first playoff appearance in franchise history.

“With the culture we have here, belief is the biggest thing and that’s instilled from the top down, so that’s never going to go away,” veteran forward Andrew Cogliano said Thursday. “But I think we’re at a point now where action is much louder than words.”

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It’s time for action from the Bruins, too, after they missed their first chance to move past the Panthers, with an overtime loss Wednesday punctuated by uncharacteristic mistakes. As captain Patrice Bergeron said afterward, he and his teammates can’t give an opportunistic opponent “freebies” as they did in Game 5 at home.

Game 6 is on the road at Florida, and the Bruins still have the series lead looking to be the 10th Presidents’ Trophy winners in the past 11 years to win at least one series.

“I’m sure we’re going to come back with a real good, determined effort,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said. “I have a lot of confidence in our team.”

Confidence isn’t lacking for the Avalanche, either, especially after their Cup run a year ago. They’ll also get a boost with the return of 2022 playoff MVP Cale Makar from a one-game suspension.

But much like Boston, the pressure is on Colorado.

“They’re playing loose, they’re confident,” coach Jared Bednar said of the Kraken. “Obviously the guys in their room are like, ‘Yeah, we want to win,’ but expectations are on our team.”

Colorado Avalanche at Seattle Kraken

Seattle leads 3-2 (Game 6 at 7 p.m. on TNT)

The Kraken are trying to treat the moment just as if it’s any other situation. But players and coach Dave Hakstol know the gravity of the situation.

“We know what’s on the line, believe me,” Hakstol said. “We want to go home and play well and get the job done at home.”

The Kraken have put Nathan MacKinnon and the high-flying Avalanche on their heels by scoring first in all five games. The Avalanche would like to reverse that trend and send the series back to Denver for a Game 7 Sunday.

“We’ve got to have some desperation … and just find a way,” forward Mikko Rantanen said.

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