There would be no end to the season on Saturday. Not in front of a crowd that was arguably the loudest ever, for NHL hockey in Seattle.
Eeli Tolvanen and Jordan Eberle cranked up the volume in their games with individual three point efforts, while the Kraken tapped into trademark depth again with 11 players hitting the scoresheet with a goal or assist in a 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars in game six of the Western Conference Semifinal, before a sellout crowd on Saturday afternoon at Climate Pledge Arena.
The Kraken have now forced a winner-take-all game seven, one win away from magically moving onto the Western Conference Final and facing either Edmonton or Vegas.
Philipp Grubauer made 20 saves for the win in net, vastly outdueling Jake Oettinger, pulled for the second time in this series with four goals allowed on 18 shots. Scott Wedgewood took over with nine saves, and the Kraken never trailed the entire day.
1. Appreciation: veterans. If there were New York Islanders fans watching this game, they’d remember performances like this one out of Jordan Eberle, with a pair of goals and a three point game. If there were Tampa Bay fans watching this game, they’d remember something like this one out of Yanni Gourde, a second star effort with seven hits, 10-of-19 in the face-off circle and a key breakup on a third period penalty kill. Adam Larsson, akin to what Edmonton fans may remember, logged a game high 24:26 of ice time on the Kraken side and blocked three shots. Experience matters, and it made a tremendous impact to keep the season alive.
2. Never count out youth who are figuring it out. Head coach Dave Hakstol said it himself after the win, accounting for performances like Eeli Tolvanen, Matty Beniers and Tye Kartye put out:
“Just keep playing fellas, keep playing,” said Hakstol.
“They’re playing their tails off; they’re playing with a lot of confidence.”
The 24-year old Tolvanen isn’t a rookie. Beniers and Kartye are rookies. But all three were either out of the picture or barely getting their feet wet with the organization one year ago, and now played a pivotal role to force game seven. Tolvanen continues to perform as the waiver wire pickup of the year with a three point game and first star effort, while Beniers has taken his game to the next level in the postseason – a sign of emergence from the likely Calder Trophy winner – with six points in the last six playoff games. Since the first game of this series, Kartye has hit anything that moves, and aside from his four hits, delivered the knockout blow on Jake Oettinger for a 4-1 lead with a snap shot at the left circle.
“That goal from Karts, looking at Ebs on the other side, I love it,” said Yanni Gourde.
“You can see the confidence this kid has had in his game since he got to the ‘national’.”
3. Elimination games: the Kraken are nails. For the second time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Kraken showed remarkable poise in the face of elimination and came out with a victory. In Colorado, it was Philipp Grubauer and Oliver Bjorkstrand’s virtuoso performances that lifted the Kraken into round two.
This time at home, it was a pair of first period goals and a lead after 20 minutes that allowed the Kraken to build their game, convert 1-of-3 on the power play, and keep Dallas chasing them for the entire day.
“Game seven – you’re giving yourself a chance. We’re excited about the challenge and do it one more time,” said Gourde.
“We’ve got to think about the first few shifts, and not look too far ahead.”
The Kraken are 2-0 when facing elimination. They have seven Cup winners on their roster, including two (Vince Dunn, Jaden Schwartz) with the St. Louis Blues when they knocked out Dallas in seven games, four years ago. The total game seven record on the Kraken roster:
You have to admire the chances for a team that not many thoughts would even play hockey at this time of year. And in the heat of May, where the weather is warming and inviting for Seattle residents to wear shorts, they are one win away from firing the Stars into the summer heat.
KRAKEN LINEUP, GAME 6 VS. DALLAS: 5/13