For those who solely have a look at the place the Colorado Avalanche and Seattle Kraken completed their seasons, you may get the concept the whole lot kind of went as deliberate.
On Jan. 14, the Kraken boasted a report of 26-12-4, with a .667 factors share that ranked first in the entire Western Conference (and sixth general). In the meantime, the defending champion Avalanche ranked 18th in factors share (21-17-3, .549 p.c) and have been nonetheless in an ungainly spot the place a playoff berth was in severe doubt.
Regardless of being defending Stanley Cup champions, the Avalanche battled by way of accidents and inconsistencies earlier than they discovered their approach. Of their second 12 months of existence, you’d suppose the Kraken can be those enduring such struggles.
For the entire variations in star energy and expectations, there are fascinating similarities between these two groups. Just like the Avalanche changing into on the spot contenders after relocating to Colorado, the Kraken are spoiling locals with a fast climb to NHL relevance. Every crew additionally leans on analytics for team-building methods, and the Kraken have already plucked away some outstanding former Avs in Philipp Grubauer and Andre Burakovsky.
Make no mistake about it, although. The Avalanche determine to be heavy favorites over the grungy, beginner Kraken.
What have you ever achieved for me recently?
A number of high NHL groups completed the common season red-hot, and the Avalanche can stake a declare to being the most well liked of all of them. They received seven of their final eight video games and roared up the Central Division ranks with a 16-2-1 end. That mentioned, in addition they obtained some unlucky information that’s all too becoming with their rocky season updated, as Gabriel Landeskog received’t have the ability to return from lingering knee points.
After taking good care of weak competitors to the tune of a five-game successful streak (thus extracting themselves from considerations about squandering their first-ever playoff berth), the Kraken misplaced their last two video games of the season — each to the Vegas Golden Knights. Since March, they’ve principally received video games they need to win and misplaced when going through groups forward of them (though Seattle did beat Colorado 3-2 in OT on March 5).
The Kraken received two of their three head-to-head video games, limiting scoring with a 7-6 targets benefit in these matchups.
The Avalanche will win this sequence if …
Even when you imagine the likes of Vince Dunn and Jared McCann deserve extra kudos, there’s no denying that Colorado owns a large benefit in star energy. Nathan MacKinnon notched 69 assists on his method to 111 factors in 71 video games, giving him nearly as many helpers as Kraken main scorer Jared McCann had factors (70). Whereas MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen create havoc in all recreation conditions, that expertise edge may actually get out of hand if officers use their whistles and name penalties.
The Kraken will win this sequence if …
To chart a path to a giant upset, the Kraken would hope to Xerox the outcomes from these head-to-head video games. The dream can be to power this sequence to be low-event and low-scoring, to the purpose that a number of fortunate bounces may swing issues their approach. Look intently on the Kraken’s defensive warmth map sufficient at Hockey Viz, and also you may simply discuss your self into this scrappy crew really pulling off a giant upset.
Right here’s a speculation: Nathan MacKinnon’s dominant season slipped below the radar due to how insane Connor McDavid has been, and in addition as a result of accidents diluted his numbers a bit. Scoring 111 factors in 71 video games would translate to about 128 over a full season. MacKinnon’s 1.56 factors per recreation ranked third in 2022-23, only trailing the paces of Connor McDavid (an absurd 1.87) and Leon Draisaitl (1.60). Breaking down the robust defensive construction of the Kraken might be a pleasant approach for MacKinnon to remind those who he’s nonetheless a top-five participant within the NHL.
The Fernando Pisani Trophy (Unsung hero)
Sorting by way of the pile of errors Ron Hextall made throughout his bumbling run as Penguins GM, choosing depth-killing choices as an alternative of conserving Evan Rodrigues actually typifies that period of errors. He’s lengthy been an analytics darling who’s proven some potential to stand up within the lineup when accidents and alternatives dictate such strikes. Look at his career and also you’ll discover the kind of capturing share numbers that straddle the road between unhealthy luck and easily missing that additional of completion. Within the compressed setting of a playoff sequence and postseason normally, these bounces generally occur in fast succession, so don’t be shocked if informal followers find yourself asking, “Hey, the place did the Avs get this Rodrigues from?”
Avalanche in six video games.