There are different ways to make the playoffs, but the Seattle Kraken did it the best way.
In front of an enthusiastic sellout crowd at Climate Pledge Arena, the Kraken defeated the Arizona Coyotes, 4-2, to clinch a playoff berth in the team’s second year of existence.
Just around the time the puck dropped in Seattle, the Nashville Predators defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-0. A loss by the Predators would have garnered the Kraken a playoff berth, but Seattle made the playoffs the old-fashioned way- they earned it. As the clock wound down to the final seconds, the 17,000 plus exploded in jubilation.
The Kraken led 3-0 early in the second period but when Barrett Hayton scored at the 12 minute mark, Arizona’s hopes of playing spoiler were still alive. But fittingly, Matty Beniers, in some ways the face of the franchise and the first player Seattle every selected in the amateur draft, scored at 3:37 of the third period. That goal appeared to take the starch out of the Coyote attack, and it seemed inevitable that the Kraken were about to earn a playoff berth.
Jordan Eberle assisted on the goal. One of the leaders of the Kraken squad, Eberle hit Beniers with a stretch pass and the 20-year-old scored on a breakaway. The line of Eberle, Beniers and Jared McCann was immense. Eberle assisted on McCann’s goal in the closing minute of the first and then added a tally of his own in the second period. That line accumulated eight points in the game with Eberle being named the number one star, McCann, number two, and Beniers was the number-three star. All three players were a +2 in the game.
“Our record wasn’t as bad as what it seemed last year,” said Eberle. “We were a better team than that, maybe not a playoff team. We believed in this group, that if we played the way we knew we could and with the depth that we have, and the speed that we have, that we could have success.”
“I don’t believe there’s a lot of people outside of this dressing room that believed we would be able to get across the finish line and become a playoff team,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol. “This group felt that, knew that, believed in it, and pushed through that finish line. And I don’t believe they’re done yet. We’re not just going to be satisfied with getting in (the playoffs).”
The Kraken improve to 43-26-8 while the Coyotes, playing their last road game of the season, fall to 27-38-13. Seattle defeated Arizona, 8-1, Monday night. While the Kraken clinch a playoff berth, Nashville and the Calgary Flames can still catch the Winnipeg Jets for the final Western Conference playoff berth (the Flames and Jets are currently tied in points, but Winnipeg has a game in hand). The Predators could still tie the Kraken in points if they win all their remaining games and Seattle loses its final four games, but the Kraken would still go to the playoffs thanks to a 2-0-1 regular season record against Nashville.
For the Kraken, all of their best players came through. McCann opened the scoring in the final minute of the first period. Off the rebound of his own shot, Eberle made a nifty pass to McCann, who rifled home his 38th goal of the season.
Vince Dunn, who’s been Seattle’s best offensive player, along with McCann, since the beginning of the year drilled a shot that trickled through the legs of Arizona netminder Karel Vejmela in the opening minute of the second period. Once the puck got past Vejmela, Arizona defenseman Patrick Nemeth knocked the puck into his own net. Originally, Yanni Gourde and Eeli Tolvanen were credited with assists on the play, but they were taken away, presumably because the puck went off Nemeth.
Beniers, who Eberle calls a `cerebral player,’ made a clever play on the third Kraken goal. Beniers leaned on an Arizona player, riding him into his teammate who had the puck. McCann swooped in to take the puck away, centering a pass to Eberle who was wide open in front of the net.
Goalie Philip Grubauer, one of seven Kraken who’ve played on a Stanley Cup winner, was solid in net, turning aside 27 of 29 shots. One of Arizona’s goals was pretty meaningless, as Laurent Dauphin (not meaningless to him, it was Dauphin’s first goal of the season) tipped home a shot with 40 seconds remaining.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s hard to put into words, the excitement, the growth, the steps we’ve taken and the way we’ve come together,” said Jaden Schwartz, one of the Kraken’s four alternate captains along with Eberle, Gourde and Adam Larsson “Everyone’s just really fired up that we’re in in the playoffs. It’s a dream come true for us, and to be able to do in our second year is pretty special’
“This group believed in it and pushed through that finish line, and I don’t believe they’re done yet,” said Hakstol. “Points are still valuable to us in terms of positioning and how you’re feeling going into the playoffs. We’ll find out who (we play) and then go to work. That’s just what the group does. Go to work.”
The Kraken host the Chicago Blackhawks, another team well out of the playoffs, on Saturday night. Seattle plays Arizona yet again on Monday night in Glendale and conclude the regular season with home-and-home games with the Pacific Division leading, Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights are one of the teams who Seattle could conceivably meet in the playoffs.
- Morgan Geekie, one of the Kraken players on the ice when time expired, scooped up the puck, so the Kraken will have a memento of the victory. Speaking of mementos, no one could ever accuse the Kraken marketing department of not being on the ball (or puck). Fans leaving the arena were given placards reading Stanley Cup playoffs on one side (including a picture of the actual Stanley Cup) and `Let’s Go Kraken’ on the other side.
- For the second consecutive game, the Kraken and Coyotes had a spirited third period. The final 20 minutes featured fights between Seattle’s Brandon Tanev and Arizona’s Milos Keleman and the Kraken’s Will Borgen and the Coyotes’ Liam O’Brien. In both cases, the Arizona players received 17 minutes in penalties and the Seattle players only five. Keleman received a misconduct when his jersey was pulled over his head in the fight with Tanev. The NHL instituted a rule several years ago, that a player who didn’t have his jersey tied down in a fight would receive a misconduct penalty. Back in the `80’s and `90’s, players who fought a lot would wear `loose’ jerseys for more mobility.
- Kraken TV announcers John Forslund, Ed Olczyk and J.T. Brown didn’t get to call the historic contest as ESPN+ televised the game. However, whenever the Kraken win a home game, Forslund’s iconic call, `that’s Kraken hockey, baby’ is played over the public address system.
- The Coyotes played their final road game of the season and are now 0-7-2 in their last nine games.
- Arizona’s Matias Maccelli is second in points among rookies behind the Kraken’s Matty Beniers.
S- Jared McCann (Jordan Eberle, Matty Beniers) 19:36.
S- Vince Dunn (unassisted) :28. S- Eberle (McCann) 5:32. A- Barrett Hayton (Matias Maccelli, Lawson Crouse) 12:00.
S- Beniers (Eberle, McCann) 3:37. A- Laurent Dauphin (Clayton Keller) 19:20.
Shots on Goal- Arizona 29, Seattle 33.
Penalty Minutes- Arizona 40, Seattle 16.
Referees- Brian Pochmara, Ghislain Hebert. Linesmen- Kiel Murchison, Devin Berg
Three Stars- 1. Jordan Eberle 2. Jared McCann 3. Matty Beniers
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