Today the Seattle Kraken travelled to the Mile High City for their first ever game at Ball Arena. Two familiar faces returned for their first game against the Colorado Avalanche in front of the Avs faithful since going to the Kraken this offseason, Joonas Donskoi and Philip Grubauer.
About four minutes into the game the Avalanche paid tribute to former Avs Joonas Donskoi and Philip Grubauer, who both went to Seattle this past offseason, Donskoi being selected by the Kraken in the Expansion Draft and Grubauer signing a six year deal with Seattle in Free Agency. The video tribute of the two’s best moments in burgundy and blue was met with a loud applause from the crowd, which both players reciprocated, and one final “Gruuuu” chant before play resumed.
A few minutes after the tribute the scoring began. On the tail end of a rough shift that was spent almost entirely in the Avalanche zone the new third line of Logan O’ Connor - Alex Newhook - Nicholas Aube-Kubel found themselves on a quick 3 on 2 rush. Alex Newhook fed O’ Connor through a Seattle defenders stick and pushed the dmen back to give space for O’ Connor and Aube-Kubel. O’ Connor took the space he was given and fed a nice pass back to the middle to Aube-Kubel who fired the puck past former Avalanche Philip Grubauer to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead.
Less than three minutes later Nazem Kadri took a debatably soft interference call on the forecheck which sent out Colorado’s struggling penalty kill unit for the first time in the game. The Avalanche got a fortunate bounce early on the PK when the Kraken sent the puck back to their zone off of the face off but spent the rest of the penalty in their zone. About a minute into their power play Seattle scored the equalizer on a Marcus Johansson tip from directly in front of Pavel Francouz. Erik Johnson left Johansson wide open and Jared McCann found him for the easy goal to tie the game 1-1.
In the final half of the period the Avalanche controlled play but were trying to do way too much rather than shooting the puck on the opportunities they had, so they left the first period still tied 1-1 with the Kraken.
The second period went much worse for the Avalanche than the first, which is saying something because the first period was a sloppy mess for Colorado.
Nazem Kadri drew his second penalty of the game, which the Avalanche performed extremely poorly on, similar to the first penalty he drew which is why I didn’t mention it. This one was much more worth mentioning because it would cost the Avalanche.
Minutes later the Kraken would take their first lead of the game on a poor angle shot from Jared McCann, which would be his second point of the game. This play developed due to a miscommunication between Francouz and Cale Makar. Makar, probably used to the hyper-active puck player that is Darcy Kuemper, expected Francouz to make a play on the puck off of the Kraken dump in. Makar slowed down and McCann beat him to the puck and threw it on net. The puck somehow found its way in and the Avalanche found themselves behind for the fifth game in a row since returning from the extended holiday break.
For the next ten minutes the game was very messy on both sides, but given the Kraken hadn’t played a game in nine days leading up to this matchup the sloppiness was pretty inexcusable for the Avalanche. They had a few opportunities but struggled to get things on net or sustain consistent pressure in the Seattle zone.
They would again pay the price for not being able to finish offensively when the Kraken would get another deflection goal from no more than a few feet in front of Francouz. Colin Blackwell got his stick on a nice shot from Jamie Oleksiak, which would go off Blackwell’s stick and bounce directly up over Grubauer. Again the Avalanche’s poor net front coverage cost them a goal, this time due to Nathan MacKinnon not being able to recognize Sam Girard was out of position in time to tie up Blackwell. The Avalanche found themselves down 3-1 with six minutes remaining in the middle frame.
Colorado pushed back and got a lucky bounce that one could argue was pretty well deserved but given how they had played up to this point it’s hard to say if it was, but either way they got it. Similar to the team’s first goal the third line, with Andre Burakovsky taking Logan O’ Connor’s spot on the line, was stuck in their own zone for a decent amount of time until Burakovsky took the puck up the bench side boards and fired a shot at Grubauer’s far pad as Aube-Kubel crashed the net. Kubel was racing to the net and beat his man to put the rebound opportunity on net. Grubauer again made the save but it went directly into his own defenders skate and in to cut the Kraken’s lead to one. This gave the Avs a bit more momentum as they ended the period down 3-2 rather than 3-1.
The Avalanche needed to have another big third period if they wanted a chance at coming back to win yet again, and it took them a bit but they did just that.
Less then a minute into the period the Avalanche had a power play which would end up being their only decent performance with the extra man all game, but still finish with the same result as the previous to thanks to a great cross crease glove save by Grubauer on Kadri for another reaction similar to this one from Saturday.
I can't get over Kadri's reaction to the Campbell Souperman save pic.twitter.com/EIMkZPnXR7— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
Despite the Avalanche failing to convert on their extra man opportunity they continued to push and eventually it paid off, thanks again to another fortunate bounce off a skate. This time it was the skate of Devon Toews after Cale Makar rang the iron past Grubauer’s right pad. Makar’s shot ricocheted directly at Toews, who read the play perfectly and pinched down to a get a potential rebound from Makar’s shot, and off his skate with about as much speed as the initial shot from the point. With eight minutes remaining in regulation the Avalanche had finally found the tying goal they were looking for all period.
The Kraken had a bit of a push back but the Avalanche shut them down with a little help from an Erik Johnson slide block, that actually worked this time, which denied the Kraken of a goal that would break the tie.
Colorado quickly rushed up the ice with five minutes remaining in the game led by Nazem Kadri, who had both Andre Burakovsky and Logan O’ Connor on the rush with him. Kadri skated the puck along the boards and cut slightly in before he got to the goal line. After attempting to beat Grubauer over his blocker side should all game Kadri finally did to give the Avalanche the lead they had for all of three and a half minutes in the first period. Colorado would hold onto this lead thanks to a big glove save from Pavel Francouz and get their fifth win in a row and twelfth in a row at Ball Arena.
Overall the first half of the game was sloppy for the Avalanche, and it showed how missing someone such as Gabe Landeskog can have such a massive impact on the team’s chemistry. However as the game wore on the team realized they were simply better than Seattle and came away with the two points to prove it.
The best players of the game were a mix of expected and unexpected. Nathan MacKinnon played an amazing game, despite the constant linemate turmoil he faced. MacKinnon was pushing the play all game and was really testing Seattle’s defense by taking it to their throats every time he got up the ice, but unfortunately not getting rewarded for it. Although he tattooed the post for what seemed like the seventieth time this season.
Nicholas Aube-Kubel had his second great performance in as many games, but this time he got rewarded for it on the stat sheet, picking up two big goals. Despite the goals not being masterpieces Aube-Kubel did the right things to deserve them. Throughout the entire game he was a menace on the forecheck, a big reason why he’s such a valuable addition to this team’s bottom six.
The final standout player of the game was the man between the pipes for the Avalanche, Pavel Francouz. Francouz was making his first start at home since the 2019-20 season and outside of the soft second goal he played a great game. When the Avs were struggling most Francouz stood tall and made some big saves. I thought his positioning was much more solid than we’ve seen in previous games, it wasn’t perfect but it seemed like he was less chaotic in the crease. Although the box score won’t show it Frankie played a very good game and picked up his second win in a row for the Avalanche, performing well to help the team complete a comeback each time.
The Avalanche defeated the Kraken in their first ever meeting at Ball Arena, and only trip to Denver this season by a score of 4-3. Tomorrow Colorado travels to play the Nashville Predators in what will hopefully be a better judge of the two team’s talents than the last time the two played in December. Puck drop is at 6:00 p.m. MT.