Brock & Salk: Kraken and their depth outplayed defending champs

May 1, 2023, 9:49 AM | Updated: 11:01 am

Seattle Kraken playoffs...

The Seattle Kraken celebrate the first goal by Oliver Bjorkstrand against the Colorado Avalanche on April 30, 2023. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Year 1 for the Seattle Kraken was a disaster as they finished with the third-worst record in the NHL. But they turned that around in a major way in Year 2, finishing the 2022-23 season as a 100-point team and making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Seattle then kicked off its first-ever playoff run with a bang, taking down the defending champion Avalanche in seven games, including winning three on the road in Denver.

Seattle Kraken hang on in Game 7 to eliminate defending champion Avs

“You know how long it had been since the (Toronto) Maple Leafs had won a playoff series? Nineteen years. You know how long it took the Kraken? All of two,” Mike Salk said during Monday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports. “What an incredible series. They win Game 7 yesterday. That was about as tense as it gets.”

The Kraken took a 3-2 series lead but fell in Seattle in Game 6, forcing the series back to Colorado on Sunday. But the Kraken jumped out to a 2-0 lead and held on, winning the do-or-die game to advance to the second round, where they’ll take on the Dallas Stars.

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer was stellar yet again for Seattle, saving 33 of 34 shots against his old team. On the other end of the ice, winger Oliver Bjorkstrand scored not once but twice, including this breakaway snipe, which was ultimately the game-winner:

“He was probably the best player on the ice yesterday,” Salk said.

Game 7 marked the first time in the series that Bjorkstrand found the back of the net, but his line along with center Yanni Gourde and fellow winger Eeli Tolvanen was massive for the Kraken. That trio was the go-to line to match up with the Avs’ star-powered first line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Artturi Lehkonen, and when that trio was on the ice for Colorado, that typically meant the top defense pairing of Cale Makar and Devon Toews were playing as well.

“That group collectively drew a lot of real tough minutes against great players,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said after Sunday’s win. “The best thing I can say is they did the job. That’s the best compliment I can pay them.”

“He’s right,” Salk said. “That trio, to me, were as important to this series victory as anybody.”

Brock Huard, Salk’s co-host, noted that the Kraken have relied on depth all season long, running as deep a four-line team as any in the NHL. The Kraken were also without top scorer Jared McCann after he was knocked out of the series in Game 4 due to a hit by Makar.

“It was just the depth,” Huard said. “And you could feel it, man, when McKinnon and Makar came on the ice, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, just please weather the storm.’ I mean, their top line and their stars and their star power is better than yours, but your depth was better than theirs and over seven games, you outlasted them and did it in their building, beating the defending champs three times on their home ice.”

Salk thinks, simply put, the Kraken were the better team over the seven-game series and deserved to come out on top.

“I mean, they really outplayed them in all four games in their building … They played better hockey than the Avs did throughout the entirety of the series,” he said. “… Next up is Dallas. Very, very good team that’s been a tough matchup for them in the past. So they will get going here this week.”

Listen to the conversation in Need to Know, the second segment of the podcast below from Monday’s Brock and Salk.

Moving on: Seattle Kraken beat Avs in Game 7 to make more history

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