ESPN’s Clark: How Kraken made it this far without big stars

May 15, 2023, 11:22 AM | Updated: 8:16 pm

Seattle Kraken Vince Dunn Adam Larsson...

Vince Dunn celebrates a goal with Kraken teammate Adam Larsson on April 6, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars, who the Seattle Kraken have duked it out with for a full seven-game Western Conference semifinal series, are full of stars.

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The Stars have a 100-point scorer in Jason Robertson, one of the best defensemen in the NHL in Miro Heiskanen, a seemingly ageless veteran leader in Joe Pavelski, and a prototypical 6-foot-5 goalie in Jake Oettinger.

The Kraken, meanwhile, don’t have that same kind of name recognition, and yet here they are with the opportunity to move onto the conference finals as long as they upset the Stars on Monday night in Dallas.

How did the Seattle Kraken get this far?

ESPN national NHL writer Ryan S. Clark, who previously covered the Kraken as a beat writer for The Athletic last season, joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Monday morning and broke down what has enabled head coach Dave Hakstol’s team to make it so far in just its second season.

While Dallas is star-studded, the Kraken have turned themselves into a well-oiled machine.

“When you look at the way each of those lines and defensive pairings are constructed, there’s a reliance on everyone – like, all three players in that line complement one another, the defensive pairings complement one another,” Clark said.

To explain, he pointed to defensemen Vince Dunn and Adam Larsson, who Seattle pairs together.

“Adam Larsson is your typical, stay-at-home 6-foot-3 defenseman that has more puck-moving ability than he’s given credit for,” Clark said, “whereas if you look at Vince Dunn, Vince Dunn is a puck mover, but Vince Dunn is a puck mover who needed (more playing) time compared to what he was getting in St. Louis and even last year when when Mark Giordano was with the Kraken. … He talked about some of the things he did in the offseason, and now what you’ve seen is this all-around defenseman who can literally play top-two minutes that execs were saying, ‘Look, Vince Dunn has turned into a top two defenseman and people need to start talking about that.'”

That teamwork shines throughout the Seattle Kraken roster, as does their work ethic.

“When you look at the actual structure of this team, it’s this five-player forecheck, and we hear coaches talk about it all the time – playing a five-player defensive unit – and what that means is everyone contributes,” Clark said. “No one is really out of place, everyone knows each other’s assignments, but with the way the Kraken do things, the simplest way to explain it is, if the other team has the puck, the Kraken are coming at you. If they’re not first to the puck, they’re second or third to the puck. If there’s not one player there, there’s two or three there, and they do it in a way to where even when you try to pass, they’re either going to force you into a turnover or there’s going to be someone right there waiting to meet your teammate and attempt to go steal the puck.”

That’s why the Kraken have already won one Game 7 on the road in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and could make it two on Monday night.

“When you can get that sort of commitment and buy-in, just think about it in the sense of a series of moving parts like a machine,” Clark said, “and when one of those parts is going, all the other parts go and it’s what leads to goals. It’s what leads to scoring chances, but furthermore, it’s what leads to them not giving up those goals and scoring chances when other teams are in the Kraken’s end.”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with Clark in the middle segment of the podcast below.

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