With their collective backs up against the boards and an aggressive cephalopod-like Kraken team bearing down on them in hopes of squeezing the life out of the Stanley Cup Champions, the Colorado Avalanche valiantly tried, yet failed fell the beast, and sent its carcass into the dark depths of Seattle’s Puget Sound in a 2-1 loss in Game 7. Seattle took the series 4-3 with the win and moves on to face the Dallas Stars.
Before the first puck dropped, the depleted, yet, single-minded Avalanche, summoned the services of their missed Captain, Gabe Landeskog to help catalyze the already rambunctious audience to rise and roar.
Wearing shorts and an Avs’ t-shirt, he lifted an oversized sign near the glass in the far corner, in an attempt to edge on the sold-out crowd to generate maximum playoff noise, exclamation point.
In turn, the Burgundy and Blue skaters respond to their fandom’s cheers, chants, and positive vibes. They leveraged it the entire game. The passionate audience never backed off, from the start of the winner-takes-all showdown, until the final horn sounded in downtown Denver’s ice palace.
Both sides came out loose. Avalanche head coach Bednar opened with Nathan McKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Artturi Lehkonen up top. But the trio of Lars Eller, Evan Rodrigues, and JT Compher played like there would be no tomorrow throughout the game.
Within five minutes Colorado took the upper hand and appeared to be in the driver’s seat while going on the attack. Together the six peppered Seattle’s net with 18 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, while Cale Makar was flying all over the ice. They were downright dominant, gritty, and physical. Alexandar Georgiev stopped 10 that came at him.
However, on the other end of the ice, veteran Philipp Gubauer was having his best game of this feisty series. He repelled wave after wave of offensive efforts. He frustrated both the Avs and the fans to no avail by not letting the put slip or flash past him to keep it scoreless.
The emotional atmosphere was quickly quenched soon after the second period commenced. Oliver Bjorkstrand broke the nil-nil game with just over three minutes into the second period. He lifted the puck toward the Avs' goal. It deflected off of Alex Newhook, then bounced over the shoulder of Georgiev
Minutes later, Oliver Bjorkstrand turned on his after-burners and flew down the right side of the rink with the puck in genuine breakaway fashion. As he rushed a well-positioned Georgiev. He unleashed a rocket that found the side of the net. Two-nil Seattle.
How about the @SeattleKraken‼️— NHL (@NHL) May 1, 2023
They're up 2-0 against the defending #StanleyCup champs in #Game7!
: @NHL_On_TNT ➡️ https://t.co/oaJG9t2rS3 #NHLonTNT
: @Sportsnet ➡️ https://t.co/c0FJF23gPj pic.twitter.com/wCetlodyLd
Then the Avs finally busted through the glass ceiling during a late-in-the-period powerplay opportunity.
A determined Nathan McKinnon took matters into his own and scored on a laser shot that cruised past Grubauer who appeared out of position by being too far out from his net. The ice-cold puck sailed past the goaltender’s glove side and the arena reverberated with the sound of joy.
For the overjoyed McKinnon, the goal was his 100th career point in postseason play and just the first in a game seven.
The youngster is the sixth fastest player in the League to achieve the milestone. In doing so, he joins Avs icons Joe Sakic (177) and Peter Forsberg (153) as the only team players to achieve 100-plus playoff points.
Kudos to Grubauer again for outright stifling the blitzing Avs. Yet the error cost him another period of shutout defense. 2-1 Seattle and into the changing rooms the exhausted teams shuffled.
Colorado came out onto the huffing and puffing. Down by only one, McKinnon stepped up again and blasted what appeared to be his second goal for the evening. However, Seattle’s coaching staff swiftly protested. After a quick review by the referees, the goal was reversed. Instant replay proved that Lehkonen was the perpetrator by being offside. The home team kept trying, however, the mighty Kraken team would not yield.
The Kraken become the first franchise in NHL history to earn its first-ever series win against a reigning Stanley Cup champion.
“I think they are about as highly competitive as any team we played,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said during his post-match presser conference. “They are deep and every line is the same.” He added, “They are playing the way they were taught how to play and Grubauer was incredible in this series,” Bednar said. “They make it hard on you to create chances. They are a 100-point team. They are a good team.”
In going down in defeat, the Avalanche has now lost its past six games sevens.
For those who lived for a tense NHL game seven playoff match, this game was just what they ordered up, whether here in person, watching on TV, or tuning in via an AM-FM radio. Game seven was entertaining, if not, a sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat nerve-racking affair.
The Avalanche close out a trying season on a painful tone. So many of their accomplished playoff players were sidelined. Nagging injuries, suspensions, absences, lack of positional depth, and finishing when they were up by one man, cost the entire team the opportunity to defend the championship status that they earned on June 26, 2022.
Deflated fans applauded the team’s play for several minutes after the two teams shook hands and exchanged pleasantries for their all-out efforts. Colorado played very hard and shot the lights out of the home arena.
From in front of his locker, Mikko Rantanen reflected on the team’s full-on attempt to slip past the Kraken. He summed it up in a mere twelve seconds:
They should have won. However, their former teammate, Grubauer, played up and closed out the Avs season.
Bednar shared his perspectives not only of the edgy game, the entire season, and the near-term future.
The Avs will lick their wounds, heal and regenerate over the next few months. They will now turnover Ball Arena to the sky-high NBA Denver Nuggets who did advance into round two in their attempt to win the NBA crown for the Centennial State.
Meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest, Kraken fans are raising the roofs in their favorite saloons...
Sadly, no more Avs games until October. But still plenty of offseason woes and answers to come.