Where Seattle Kraken must improve to fend off elimination vs Stars

May 12, 2023, 3:20 PM

Seattle Kraken...

Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Seattle Kraken battles the Dallas Stars on May 11, 2023. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

(Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken are officially in do-or-die mode as they enter Saturday’s Game 6 matchup with the Stars facing elimination as Dallas took a 3-2 series lead after winning Games 4 and 5.

Stars jump out early in 5-2 win, put Seattle Kraken on brink

The Kraken may be facing a win-or-go-home setting on Saturday, but NHL on TNT play-by-play man Alex Faust told Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy that it would be “foolish” to count out Seattle now.

During an interview on Friday, Faust shared his observations from the series, including adjustments he thinks the Kraken need to make in Game 6 in order to force a Game 7 back in Dallas.

“I like the way this Seattle team is structured over the long haul, but they’re facing difficult opposition, right?” Faust said. “It’s funny how expectations change when you win a couple games, and it’s like, ‘Man, maybe we could do this.’ And that’s not to say that this series is over by any means. I think Seattle has surprised enough folks and proved a lot of doubters wrong this season, so it would be foolish to to count them out even when their backs are against the wall in Game 6 on Saturday.”

Looking at Dallas, Faust thinks the Stars’ size has played a key role in this series.

“I think we knew coming into the series that (Dallas was) a heavier team and that was going to be something Seattle would have to contend with,” Faust said. “But what I don’t think was on everybody’s mind was the depth that Dallas possesses … And they’re fully healthy. They they got (Joe) Pavelski back after that first round series, and now (the Kraken are) looking at a team that can roll four lines and they have three strong pairs on defense. I think this heavy team is starting to wear down the Kraken a little bit.”

The Kraken made a strong push at the end of the year to clinch a playoff spot, and they needed seven games to advance past the Colorado Avalanche in the first round. Faust thinks those two factors coupled with the Stars’ size and physicality may have the Kraken “running out of gas a little bit.”

“It’ll wear you down,” he said.

What the Stars have done exceptionally well, Faust said, is also something the Kraken need to improve on in their own right, and that’s getting in the middle of the offensive zone in front of the net. That’s been a big reason why Pavelski has seven goals this series.

“In the playoffs, it’s a harder game. You love what Tye Kartye the rookie has done and we love how physical he’s been, but you’re looking at guys like (Jaden) Schwartz and (Jordan) Eberle to get to the inside a little bit more and it just hasn’t happened,” he said. ” … You look down the four lines that Seattle has and it’s hard to pick out OK, there’s this key net-front guy … So I think for Seattle, that’s the key difference is you need guys to get to the net front and they have just not been able to do that this series.”

The Kraken did a good job in their series against the Avalanche of getting through neutral ice. Dallas, Faust said, plays a more “structured” game, so that hasn’t been as easy this series. That resulted in the Kraken making a change that worked very well in Game 3, but hasn’t worked as well the last two games.

“In Game 3, they went to a strategy of ‘we’re going to stretch the ice, we’re going to have these long bomb passes,’ and they executed it brilliantly,” Faust said. “Dallas caught on to that and made some adjustments and made it a little bit harder to feed those outlet passes and feed those stretch passes. Their gaps at their own blue line have been a little bit tighter. So now it’s just this chess match of OK, how does Seattle then counter that again? What’s left in their toolbox to go to?”

That’s where getting “inside ice” is so key, Faust said. And he thinks the Kraken showed signs of that in Game 5, albeit a bit too late.

“I think you saw that in the second period of Game 5 with those great chances for Adam Larsson,” he said. “Even though (Jared) McCann’s goal glanced off a (defender’s) skate on its way in, it was Larsson who was setting a bit of a pick to create some of that space and nearly got a deflection for his second goal of the game. I think it’s just how do you how do you beat Dallas at a game that they’re pretty good at? And that’s what’s facing Seattle here as they stare down elimination going into Game 6.”

“I think the Seattle team still has another gasp in them yet, maybe a second and third wind,” Faust added later. “But they’re going to need it. This Dallas team is looking pretty strong to try and close them out.”

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