In his first Stanley Cup Playoff game since once suiting up for the team he faced, Philipp Grubauer authored a masterful 34-save performance while Eeli Tolvanen, Alex Wennberg, and Morgan Geekie provided enough offense for the Seattle Kraken to make history and a win in their first Stanley Cup Playoff game in franchise history, 3-1 over the Colorado Avalanche before 18,138 fans at Ball Arena.
The Kraken seized a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Quarterfinal and mathematically, home ice advantage in the series which resumes on Thursday, 6:30pm PT (93.3 KJR-FM / Kraken Audio Network) at Ball Arena.
“Yeah, definitely a weird feeling coming back, but really familiar playing with those guys in a couple playoff series,” said Grubauer.
“There’s nothing better than playing against your old team in the playoffs.”
COMPLETE RADIO GAME HIGHLIGHTS
As the Kraken became the first team in NHL history to win their first ever playoff game against a defending Stanley Cup champion, it left the Avalanche, who won the Central Division this year, in a state of somber and stun.
Avalanche superstar and well-known fiery leader Nathan MacKinnon was asked what he thought of Grubauer on Thursday night.
“Nothing,” MacKinnon said.
End of answer.
Mikko Rantanen, set up by MacKinnon in the first period, had the only goal for the Avalanche, who were previously 16-1 in first round Stanley Cup Playoff games and dropped their first game one opener in four years. Calgary was last to beat them to open a first round series in 2019.
1. GRUBAUER WAS ALL THE KRAKEN COULD HAVE ASKED FOR. We saw the Philipp Grubauer that inhabited the net for the last two months, ending the season 9-3 in his 12 final decisions while routinely spiking his save percentage above a stellar .910 in those wins. He was calm, cool, poised, turned in array of routine saves, and nothing got past him on the final 27 shots on net which turned into a third period flurry of 14 after a signature point blank save against the rush, led by J.T. Compher and Valeri Nichuskin in the second period. Grubauer wasn’t under stress for much of the night, but effective when needed.
Goaltending that is routine of this nature will take the Kraken places they’ve never been before.
2. THE FOUNDATION WAS LAID ON THE GAME OPENING SHIFT. Laud and praise the Kraken for their depth scoring, Alex Wennberg’s masterful multi point night, and discipline to stay out of the box for all but two power play chances the Avalanche drew blanks on. The seed was planted on the opening face-off with Yanni Gourde’s line matched up against Nathan MacKinnon and dictating the first shift with strong offensive zone time. The Kraken weren’t going to be pushed around, they outshot Colorado 5-1 in the opening minutes, and manifested the early energy into the historic first playoff goal by Eeli Tolvanen. Gourde’s line meant business, and no surprise, given their centerman’s background with two Stanley Cups in Tampa Bay.
3. GAME TWO WILL BE EVEN HARDER. What the Kraken are dealing with is an Avalanche team, collectively, who have found a way to weather playoff storms and win a Cup together. MacKinnon, their fiery leader who bluntly declined any observations on Grubauer’s effort, is their engine who drives his teammates. Expect a furious response by the Avalanche in game two, sparked by a leader’s ferocity and Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar’s critical response to their game. It’s why game 1 was so important for the Kraken, guaranteed no worse than a 1-1 split in the two games at Denver, and mathematically with home ice advantage.
How the Kraken manage to handle with their own trademark poise will firmly dictate the direction of this series, which is one game away from a loud, noisy, raucous, and historic evening at Climate Pledge Arena.
KRAKEN LINEUP VS. COLORADO, GAME 1