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Slow start, undisciplined play dooms Avs as Kraken even series in overtime

Jesse Montano Avatar
April 25, 2023

The drama that surrounds a Game 4, in any round, of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is among the most exciting and intense moments of every series. No matter what, Game 4 always starts with one team trying to take a commanding lead in the Best-of-7, while the other is trying desperately to get the series back to even. 

That was what we had playing out in front of us tonight in Seattle as the puck dropped on the fourth game of the opening round between the Colorado Avalanche and Seattle Kraken.

After dominating much of Game 2, the Avalanche put themselves in the driver’s seat in the series and were looking to give themselves a chance to close things out when they returned home Wednesday night. 

In order to do that, they would need to combat the strong push that you knew was coming from the Kraken. Seattle was essentially playing for their lives tonight. 

After getting off to a decent start in Game 2, despite giving up the first goal, I was expecting the Avalanche to come out with their hair on fire. Ready to take control from the first shift and begin planting the seed of doubt in Seattle that they could actually hang with the Avs’ high-end talent. 

That’s the opposite of what happened. 

For the third time in four games, the Avs got boat-raced out of the gate. The Kraken were flying around, winning every loose puck, throwing pucks on from everywhere, and drawing penalties. A crowd that had a very apprehensive vibe when the game started, was immediately given reasons to get on their feet and make it a hostile environment. 

Matt Nieto got called for boarding just 72 seconds in, and while the penalty kill did its job and didn’t surrender a goal, that two minutes tilted the ice in a big way.

Less than a minute after Nieto exited the box and the game returned to 5-on-5, it was Will Borgen who hammered a one-timer from above the right circle and beat Alexandar Georgiev on the glove side. 

That goal energized the crowd and gave the Kraken players on the ice a big boost. Not like they needed it. 

Seattle continued to dominate play, and just come in waves shift after shift. Georgiev did what he could, making several big saves, but ultimately couldn’t hold the Kraken off by himself. 

The Avs were a minute into a power play of their own when Jared McCann sprung loose on a bit of a break, with only Cale Makar back to try and make a defensive play. 

Makar forced a low-percentage shot from McCann that Georgiev turned aside with his blocker and redirected up into the netting. 

Both Makar and McCann lost track of the puck when it popped up, neither of the players or the official realized the puck had hit the net initially. 

Unable to locate the puck, and fearing that McCann still had control of it, Makar absolutely leveled McCann into the wall. Makar can hit hard, and this one was no exception. 

It looked like the hit knocked McCann unconscious. He stayed down for several seconds and was unable to get up on his own. Losing his balance multiple times before being instructed to stay down and await medical attention. 

Initially, there was no call on the play. It wasn’t until after McCann stayed down on the ice did the officials get together to discuss if the play was worthy of a penalty. After consulting with each other for less than 30 seconds, the officials assessed a five-minute major for interference, pending a review. 

I’ll be honest. I didn’t like that call. Almost as much as I didn’t like the hit. 

The hit was hard, heavy and away from the play. McCann wasn’t braced for it at all. That said, it didn’t seem intentional, and I believe Makar genuinely thought McCann had the puck. 

On top of that, Makar didn’t hit him up high. Should it have been a penalty? Probably, yeah. But doling out a major penalty there felt like very retroactive penalty-calling to me, and you just can’t do that. 

It was a pretty quick review, and the officials eventually agreed… it was worthy of a two-minute minor, but not a major. 

Just past the halfway mark of the opening frame, the Seattle penalty expired, sending his team to the man-advantage. Seattle forward Daniel Sprong was able to capitalize on the power play and extend the Kraken lead to 2-0. It was a disaster of a start for the Avs.

Maybe “disaster” is the wrong word. The first period of Game 2 was a disaster. This was just flat-out not up to standard in all three zones. 

The rest of the period went by, and the Avs were far from “good”, but were able to stop the bleeding a bit and get to the intermission without further incident. 

It was obvious though, something had to give for the Avs. They couldn’t continue on that same trajectory in this game. 

The second period got underway, and while Colorado was still really struggling to generate anything meaningful in the offensive zone, they began to settle things down in their own end. 

I’ve said it several times so far in this series, but you have to give Seattle a lot of credit for the way that they’re defending. They have been in every passing and shooting lane for the last week. The Avs have to work extremely hard to get anything through. 

It took most of the period, but Colorado finally broke through when Mikko Rantanen finished off a nice passing play on an odd-man rush. 

Similarly to Game 3, I thought Mikko really struggled early on. He didn’t necessarily make any glaring errors, but he just wasn’t sharp. 

The great thing about a player of Rantanen’s caliber though is the fact that all he needs is one chance to turn his night, and the game, on its head.

That goal got the Avs some life, and made this a game again. You felt the Avs really start to push after that. It was the first time all night it really felt like they had momentum to build on. 

It eventually led to Will Borgen chasing Rantanen around the net and getting his free hand in around Mikko’s waist. Arm up, Borgen to the box, and the Avs with an opportunity to erase their slow start. 

After multiple good looks, a couple resets, and a little bit of over-passing, Mikko Rantanen walked into the slot and zipped one up over the shoulder of Philipp Grubauer. 

With less than a minute to go in the second period, suddenly we had a tie game. 

Each of the last two games were also tied heading into the final frame, and it was the calm and collected Avalanche that were able to come out on top. Something told me that Seattle was going to be more ready for this third period. Like I said at the start, they really needed to have this game. 

It was a tightly contested third. Physical on both sides, smart plays, and each goalie making a save or two when their team needed them to. 

For the most part though there wasn’t much that felt ultra-threatening from either side, as you could tell neither team wanted to be the ones to make a bad mistake that leads to a goal against. 

All 20 minutes ticked away, and this one was destined for overtime. A first for this series. 

Unfortunately for the Avs, it didn’t last long. At the 1:59 mark of the overtime period, Josh Manson got beat to the net by Jaden Schwartz and had to resort to pulling him down to avoid giving up a Grade-A scoring chance.

The Avs were able to kill off the first half of the penalty, but a flying puck bounced back out front and landed right on the stick of Kraken forward Jordan Eberle. He punched it back in and that was all she wrote. 

The Avs weren’t good enough tonight. I didn’t think they did enough to win. At the same time, they put themselves in position to steal a second game on the road. They couldn’t, and we’re heading back to Denver all even at two games a piece. 

The Avalanche have to find a way to start the game on time and get to their game quickly. Scoring the first goal for the first time would go a long way. With everything that they are dealing with in terms of players being available, they can’t afford to continue chasing every game. Let’s see if they can turn it around.  

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