The Seattle Kraken became the second team in the NHL's expansion boom of the 1990's to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff berth in their second season, defeating the Arizona Coyotes, 4-2 before a boisterous sellout crowd on Thursday at Climate Pledge Arena.
Only the Vegas Golden Knights previously had the honor. This time, on a team built with offensive depth, a re-worked lineup, and a rookie sensation in Matty Beniers, the Kraken joined the rarified air. Their top line of Beniers, Jared McCann, and Jordan Eberle combined for eight points for the win, while Philipp Grubauer - looking primed for the playoffs - was sharp with a 27-save effort.
The Kraken have four games to go and a first round opponent and schedule is still to be determined.
Eberle, Beniers, Jared McCann, and Vince Dunn all scored for the Kraken, who pierced Arizona's Karel Vejmelka for four goals on 33 shots.
1. This is a culmination for a test of patience. Granted, the Kraken are only a second year franchise. But their season ticket holders, viewers, listeners, and general fans have been around this game for years (let’s start with the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips). Many of them have been waiting for NHL hockey to come for years and could only begin to daydream of what the Stanley Cup Playoffs would sound like in a place that’s synonymous for crowd volume as Seattle. They sold their message at local practice rinks, WHL games, city council meetings, and more. They wanted an NHL team they could live and die with and go through peaks and valleys together as one.
It's real, and it’s here. Year two of the Kraken was more than a season of growth – it’s a gift. And it has a story that’s still being written. The Kraken are ahead of schedule, slaying many prognostications that – at best – had them missing the playoffs (but not by much). The season at 82 games is one patience test. And getting through a seven-game road trip gauntlet at 7-0 and managing the testy emotional waters of losing leading scorer Andre Burakovsky reaped the ultimate reward: a ticket punched to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
2. Matty Beniers is making the Calder Trophy race looking more and more like he’s your winner: It’s understandable that the noise gets bigger for candidates like Wyatt Johnston in Dallas and Matias Maccielli in Arizona. But after getting through a 13-game goal scoring drought, Beniers has found his second wind, now with seven points in the last seven games.
The most important one he had: a breakaway goal, proverbial dagger in hand, to put away the Coyotes and any doubts of a playoff clinch. Off he went to bury his 23rd goal of the season on Karel Vejmelka. Game, set, match.
That’s what game breakers do: make game breaking plays in big games. Beniers, who anchored an 8-point night for his line with Jared McCann and Jordan Eberle, elevated his case for the Calder Trophy to screaming “give it to me now” proportions.
3. The buzz in the building: You could tell, if arriving early, it carried an extra surge. Maybe it was unlike we’ve ever felt. The tone was similar to the historic home opener of two seasons ago, but back then with a difference of curiosity and anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve. This had tension of “big leverage game” proportions, where hard reality carried significant weight if the Kraken were to lose – not the end of the world, but one less game to get it done, plus still mathematically dealing with Calgary and Nashville teams that simply refused to lose.
The energy almost blew the roof off the arena when Yanni Gourde nearly scored in the opening shift, and visibly dictated a wound up set of Kraken that misfired on several looks in the opening minutes. Once the Kraken gained the lead on Jared McCann’s first period goal, assurance set in, and fueled a countdown that led to the moment many will never forget.
But if you noticed, there was no extra exerted energy in the celebration when the teams were nearly clearing the ice – with present body language suggesting satisfaction, but hunger with more work to be done in the postseason.
And you can only bet, it’ll be even louder then.
The Kraken are back to close out a brief two-game homestand on Saturday, 7pm PT (93.3. KJR-FM / Kraken Audio Network) vs. Chicago in the season series finale.
KRAKEN LINEUP VS ARIZONA, 4/6:
KJR PROGRAMMING UPDATE: Broadcasting live all day from Kraken Community Iceplex and 32 Bar and Grill in Seattle, Sports Radio 93.3 KJR-FM will be celebrating the playoff berth clinch with you and a generous invitation! Live coverage throughout the day offers visitors an up close experience with 93.3 KJR-FM hosts, and guests can enjoy complimentary pastries and specials on mimosas and bloody marys from 6-11am.
More information is available at 32 Bar and Grill's official website.