Kraken not fazed in playoff debut, defeat Avalanche in Game 1

DENVER — When the Seattle Kraken unveiled their brand, they didn’t unveil the sea monster at the center of it. You never actually see the Kraken, just a tentacle, a red eye. It’s a mystery. It rises from the deep, catches you by surprise and drags you under to your demise.

So it went Tuesday when the Kraken debuted in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in their second season as an NHL expansion team. They took down the Colorado Avalanche, the defending Stanley Cup champions, in a 3-1 victory at Ball Arena in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round.

The Kraken were unintimidated by the Avalanche, who swept the St. Louis Blues in the first round in 2021, swept the Nashville Predators in the first round in 2022, opened their previous six series with wins in Game 1 and finished the regular season on a 31-7-4 tear.

“Proud of those guys,” Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer said. “We played a full 60 minutes. Everybody chipped in, and that’s the way it needs to be in the playoffs. We can’t have any passengers. Yeah, great win for the organization, but it’s only Game 1.”

Video: Kraken earn 1st playoff win in franchise history

Game 2 will be at Ball Arena on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN360, FX-CA, TVAS, ALT, ROOT-NW). At worst for Seattle, the best-of-7 series will be tied when the Kraken play their first home playoff game in Game 3 before what is sure to be a raucous crowd at Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday.

“Every single game in the playoffs is big, and getting the first one out of the way, it’s huge for our confidence in our group,” Kraken center Yanni Gourde said. “But at the end of the day, it’s only one game, and a couple days from now, we’ve got to do the same thing over and start in a fresh game and have a similar effort.”

This was no fluke. It is repeatable for Seattle.

“Absolutely,” Kraken center Alex Wennberg said. “The belief in the team is that we can play really, really hard, and right now you can see the team effort right here.”

The Avalanche’s advantage is elite talent, but the Kraken have speed, depth and structure. The Kraken led the NHL in goals at 5-on-5 (209) and had 13 players score at least 13 goals in the regular season.

Colorado got one goal from its first line when center Nathan MacKinnon whipped a pass down low for forward Mikko Rantanen, who redirected it into the net. But that was it.

“Obviously, they can make something happen out of nothing,” said Grubauer, who played for the Avalanche from 2018-21. “I think — I’m speaking for my teammates here — when those guys are on the ice, we’ve got to be aware of where they are. They can be super sneaky. They’re super skilled. Yeah, it was a great goal by them, but after that, we shut them down.”

Seattle got two goals from its second line, courtesy of Wennberg and forward Morgan Geekie, and one from its third, thanks to forward Eeli Tolvanen.


[RELATED: Complete Avalanche vs. Kraken series coverage]


The Avalanche were supposed to have the advantage in net, but while Alexandar Georgiev made 27 saves in his first NHL playoff start, Grubauer made 34. That helped the Kraken go 2-for-2 against the Avalanche’s power play, which ranked sixth in the regular season (24.5 percent).

“He did a great job today,” Wennberg said. “Obviously, he made some big saves for us to keep us in the game, and that’s what we need right now, so we’re really happy about him.”

Some of this is on the Avalanche.

They gave the Kraken their first playoff goal, a 1-0 lead and a shot of confidence at 3:26 of the first period, when defenseman Devon Toews gave away the puck behind the net, allowing Tolvanen to score on his own rebound. Toews is a veteran expected to be dependable in this type of situation.

When Wennberg gave the Kraken a 2-1 lead at 1:20 of the second period, it was after a breakdown in the neutral zone and a sloppy line change, and Georgiev would have wanted it back.

Maybe this was a wake-up call for Colorado. It needs to be.

The Western Conference is wide open. Each of the lower seeds has taken a 1-0 lead in its first-round series. Seattle had 100 points in the regular season and has plenty of playoff experience, including seven players who have won the Cup.

“You have to expect to play your best hockey,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We weren’t at our best tonight. That wasn’t our best game, wasn’t even close, and if we want to win, we’ll have to be much better for Game 2.”