DALLAS — The season saw a stunning turnaround, but the Kraken wanted more.
They are filled with Stanley Cup winners, but also veterans whose time to raise the chalice is running out. There is nothing else to do but try again.
On Monday, his 33rd birthday, forward Jordan Eberle reflected on his last, all-too-short chance to have his name engraved on one of those silver rings.
“You’re just growing. You remember how it feels,” he said. “It’s a tough league to win – it’s a tough trophy to win. We have the foundation and the squad here. We just want to keep building.
“It took me seven years to get to the playoffs. You don’t want to take it for granted. That’s why you play in the NHL — you play to win the Stanley Cup. »
Eberle assistant captain Adam Larsson, another veteran who hasn’t won a title, blocked six shots in Monday’s Game 7 that could have threatened the Kraken’s chance to advance. Two more snuck in by Philipp Grubauer (26 saves) though, and that was enough. The Kraken fell, 2-1, at the American Airlines Center.
“We were one win away from having the opportunity to be one of the last four teams to play,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “So you see that pain in guys, especially veterans who really understand how hard it is to get here.”
There was pain, but also a lot to look forward to.
“I love this group,” center Yanni Gourde said. “I think there is something here.”
There are decisions to be made this summer and fall. Does playoff call-up Tye Kartye, who replaced Jared McCann while injured and retained the 40-goal scoring spot even after returning to the roster, earn a spot permanent with the team next season? Did fourth overall pick Shane Wright, whose debut with Kraken never take off?
Will Matty Beniers grow into the top center role he’s taken on and the captaincy he seems pointed to? Will Grubauer rely on the second half of the season, and in particular his performance in the playoffs?
There’s the question of what to do with unrestricted free agents Ryan Donato, held scoreless in this postseason, and defenseman Carson Soucy. They have a glut of goaltenders right now, with UFA standby Martin Jones, a healthy Chris Driedger and minor league stalwart Joey Daccord, who has played well for Seattle in emergencies this season. .
They can work the numbers, if they want, on restricted free agents Morgan Geekie, Daniel Sprong, Will Borgen and especially defenseman Vince Dunn, who is coming off a breakout regular season but featured a more postseason. calme.
And fresh off a turnaround season that saw Hakstol Award finalists Jack Adams named NHL Coach of the Year, Seattle’s coaching staff may be in demand for other positions. Assistant coach Jay Leach was reportedly considered one of the favorites for the Boston Bruins head coaching vacancy last summer and was interviewed about it.
Together, they all crafted a style that worked, with a band made from found materials, as well as off-season DIY results.
“I kind of had a feeling about this group, really back in training camp,” Hakstol said. “There was a different feeling. We knew there was something there. We weren’t sure exactly how or when we might reunite as a group, but absolutely, have we grown in the last month? One hundred percent.”
Even if, and despite, the lack of belief elsewhere, according to Eberle.
“Since day one, everybody’s kind of written us off…they don’t expect us to make the playoffs, don’t expect us to beat Colorado,” he said. declared. “And I’m sure no one expected us to get to seven (games) here.”
The desperation was there Monday night for the Kraken, who blocked six shots on a power play in the first period. The Stars actually got more shots on the net on the shorthanded than on the power play. They forced Grubauer into two shorthanded saves and recorded none with the man advantage.
The Stars had the better chances at even strength, but the Kraken held them off the board for nearly 36 minutes of Game 7 before Jamie Oleksiak’s attempt to collect the puck on his blue line turned into a back pass for the former Stars teammate. Roop Hintz. Hintz crossed the offensive zone before Borgen could panic on the ice, and covered it over Grubauer, who had been steadfast until then – he swept that away, saying, “That’s my job.”
It took artistic hands to beat him the second time around. Midway through the third period, Wyatt Johnston fired a masterful shot over Grubauer and under the crossbar to make it 2-0.
“They were relentless until tonight’s buzzer. Hats off to them,” Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said. “A really impressive season and effort from this group. They gave it to us.
Oliver Bjorkstrand finished with all three goals in Game 7 for the Kraken, scoring with Grubauer pulled out for the extra striker and 17.6 seconds left before elimination. He came shortly after for Seattle.
“I’m really proud of this group and the way we’ve played all season and the playoffs,” Grubauer said. “It’s a hard pill to swallow, for sure, in Game 7.”