Kraken players and fans celebrate a goal as Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger looks on during the second period of Game 3 of a second-round playoff series Sunday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Kraken players and fans celebrate a goal as Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger looks on during the second period of Game 3 of a second-round playoff series Sunday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Commentary: Kraken’s Game 3 rout serves as playoff declaration

Seattle not only belongs with the best teams in the league, but should be as feared as any other team remaining in the playoffs.

  • By Matt Calkins The Seattle Times
  • Monday, May 8, 2023 9:52pm
  • SportsKraken

By Matt Calkins / The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — This ain’t no fairy tale. This is the Kraken kickin’ tail.

Don’t talk about pixie dust like Seattle has Tinkerbell on its side. The only bells involved are the opponents getting theirs rung.

Cinderella? No. You’re watching the stepsisters out there — bullying and bruising these so called “favorites” the sportsbooks picked to roll over this fledgling franchise.

The Kraken’s 7-2 win over Dallas in Game 3 on Sunday night might have prompted a celebration from their fans — but what it really was a declaration. Or in the players’ minds, a confirmation: they not only belong with the best teams in the league, but should be as feared as any other team remaining in these playoffs.

Look at the Kraken’s postseason résumé: They began by knocking out the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche in seven games in the first round. And this wasn’t a Colorado team hung over from reaching the NHL summit the previous June, but one that won the Central Division with 109 points.

Seattle outclassed the champs throughout the series and won two of the final three games without leading scorer Jared McCann, who was injured in Game 4.

But in retrospect, that seemingly seismic series win served as a foreshock to what has since occurred against the Stars — who tallied 108 points in the regular season (Seattle had 100).

The Kraken, of course, scored four goals in the first period in Game 1 vs. Dallas, making standout goalie Jake Oettinger look like an AHL call-up. Yes, the Stars evened the series two days later in Texas, but Sunday the Kraken scored five goals on Oettinger in the second period, setting off horns that could be heard throughout North America.

This has all come sans McCann. But when you’re among the deepest teams in hockey, the loss of a player does not foreshadow the loss of a game.

“We might not have the biggest names like a lot of teams, but we play like a real team,” said Kraken center Matty Beniers, who was one of seven goal-scorers for Seattle. “We’ve been doing it all year. That’s a big part of our success, is everyone contributing.”

You need a little good fortune at the highest level of team sport. And the home team got just that at the start of the second when a shot on goal from Kraken left winger Tye Kartye ricocheted off Dallas defenseman Miro Heiskanen’s head, setting up a Jordan Eberle goal to put Seattle up 1-0. But that lucky break led to the Kraken breaking the game open, as four Kraken goals — including three in less than seven minutes — ensued in the period.

There was Alex Wennberg’s wrist shot three minutes and 36 seconds into the frame. There was Carson Soucy following with a wrist shot of his own three minutes later. Beniers, the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) favorite, got in on the action with 11:38 remaining in the second, and after Dallas finally got on the board, Eeli Tolvanen put Seattle up 5-1 with an unassisted goal with 39 seconds remaining.

The onslaught prompted Stars coach Pete DeBoer to pull Oettinger out of the game. Didn’t make much of a difference. Seattle still found the back of the net twice in the third en route to its five-goal win.

It would have made sense to have little faith in the Kraken heading into the playoffs. Not just because they were a second-year team that finished with the seventh-best record in the Western Conference, but because it had been three months since they’d beaten a playoff team in regulation.

When this fact was brought to coach Dave Hakstol’s attention before the postseason began, he dismissed its significance entirely. And the players, it seems, dismissed anyone who doubted them.

“From Day One everyone has kind of counted us out. We’re no stranger to it. We’re used to it,” Eberle said. “I think the biggest thing is, if you have a belief system in here, it doesn’t matter what the outside noise says.”

Which probably means that if the new “outside noise” is that the Kraken are Stanley Cup-bound, they should ignore that, too. Hakstol rightfully downplayed the final score Sunday, recognizing the result as a victory and nothing more.

But anyone paying attention knows what this team is capable of now — especially with goalie Philipp Grubauer playing some of the best hockey of his career.

Underdogs no more. More like undertakers.

The world isn’t sleeping on the Kraken now. They’re busy leaving their foes sleepless.

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