It's finally time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Colorado Avalanche begin their quest for a repeat with a first-round matchup with the Seattle Kraken. The Kraken went 2-0-1 against the Avalanche during the regular season. The first game of this much-anticipated series is set to take place tonight at Ball Arena in Denver, CO.
Fans of the Colorado Avalanche must feel good heading into this series and game one. The Avalanche have won six consecutive playoff series openers and are a whopping 16-1 in the last 17 first-round games. Add the fact that Colorado will welcome the return of Cale Makar, Josh Manson, Darren Helm, and Andrew Cogliano, and good netminding. You may have a different but equally effective recipe for Stanley Cup supremacy.
Speaking of netminding, all eyes will be on Alexandar Georgiev tonight, who will get his first playoff start in an Avalanche sweater and his third playoff appearance overall. Georgie must establish a rhythm early in round one, and it's equally crucial for Colorado's skaters to hold up their end defensively.
The Kraken might bring a deep team, but Colorado has a clear advantage in the star department. Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar must be at their best and take control of this series early and often.
Evan Rodrigues — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Valeri Nichushkin — J.T. Compher — Artturi Lehkonen
Alex Newhook — Lars Eller — Denis Malgin
Matt Nieto — Andrew Cogliano — Logan O'Connor
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Samuel Girard — Josh Manson
Bo Byram — Erik Johnson
Note: Darren Helm was also a full participant in yesterday's practice and appears to be a surprise option this postseason.
The Seattle Kraken have four lines that contribute offensively and a structure that emphasizes limiting opportunities. You aren't a thin team whenever you have a 20-goal scorer on your fourth line. Matty Beniers is as close to star caliber as the Kraken get, but they have made up for it with a forward group that can get scoring up and down the lineup. It could be argued that the Kraken are a deeper team than the Avalanche. Still, they will have to do their best defensively against the Avalanche especially considering their netminders can struggle when the puck gets to the net.
Seattle's defensive group might not pitch in as much as Colorado's on the scoresheet, but they are play drivers, as Ezra mentioned in this week's Mile High Hockey Lab episode. They will have their hands full with MacKinnon and Rantanen, who've both logged career-best seasons without captain Gabe Landeskog.
This is Seattle's first-ever playoff appearance, and with that comes a little buzz, so I imagine the Kraken play as if they have nothing to lose. That can make them even more dangerous. That's what makes game one so important. Who will send the first message?
Jared McCann — Matthew Beniers — Jordan Eberle
Jaden Schwartz — ALexander Wennberg — Morgan Geekie
Eeli Tolvanen — Yanni Gourde — Oliver Bjorkstrand
Jesper Froden — Ryan Donato — Brandon Tanev
Vince Dunn — Adam Larsson
Jamie Oleksiak — William Borgen
Carson Soucy — Justin Schultz
Note: The Kraken will be without former Avalanche Andre Burakovsky tonight and possibly for the entire first round.
For the Avalanche, Alexandar Georgiev will aim to squash the narrative of him still having to prove himself as a playoff goalie. He will finally get that opportunity; I say he makes the most of it. His coach and teammates are confident he can and will step up in the postseason.
Jared Bednar via @AltitudeSR on if he’s anxious to see Georgiev in the playoffs— Adrian Hernandez (@AdoHernandez27) April 18, 2023
“I have full confidence… you are what you repeatedly do… regardless of the scenario every time he’s been out he’s given us an opportunity…” #GoAvsGo
Familiar face Philipp Grubauer will be in the net for the Kraken. His save percentage and goals-against average aren't intimidating, but all bets are off given the context of facing his former teammates in the playoffs.