Kraken earn first playoff series win, knock out defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche

There will be a new Stanley Cup champion in 2023.

The Seattle Kraken defeated the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 in Game 7 of their first-round series, knocking out the defending champs and securing the second-year franchise's first playoff series victory in the process.

Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice in a four-minute span in the second period to give the Kraken a 2-0 lead, and Seattle held on from there. Mikko Rantanen scored a power-play goal late in the second to cut the deficit in half but Colorado could get no closer. (Nathan MacKinnon scored in the third period to make it 2-2 but the play was ruled offside after review.)

Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer was brilliant against his former team, stopping 33 of 34 shots (.971 save percentage). His counterpart, Colorado's Alexandar Georgiev, stopped 25 of 27 shots (a .926 save percentage).

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Here's what went wrong for the Avalanche as they became the first defending champions to lose in the first round since the Blues fell to the Vancouver Canucks in the Edmonton bubble in 2020:

The Avalanche weren't as deep as last year

Seattle Kraken right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand (22) celebrates one of his two goals in the second period.

Captain Gabriel Landeskog hasn't played all season because of injury. Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky left in free agency because the Avalanche couldn't afford them under the salary cap. Those three combined for 80 regular-season goals and another 21 in the playoffs last year. Forward Valeri Nichushkin has missed five games. No. 1 defenseman Cale Makar missed a Game 5 loss because of a suspension. Andrew Cogliano missed Game 7 with a fractured neck and Josh Manson also missed time.

Avalanche didn't have balanced scoring; the Kraken did

Rantanen (seven goals) and Nathan MacKinnon (three) did their part, but no one other than Artturi Lehkonen (three) had more than one goal and only six have scored that much. The Kraken have 15 different goal scorers. That doesn't include Jared McCann, who had 40 goals in the regular season. When he was hurt in Game 4, Tye Kartye made his NHL debut and scored.

Avs had to play from behind

The Kraken scored first in every game of the series. As much firepower as the Avalanche have, that is not a formula for success.

Kraken's Philipp Grubauer fared well against his former team

Grubauer had largely struggled since joining the Kraken as a free agent in 2021 (.891 regular-season save percentage in two seasons) following three years with the Avalanche, but he was solid this series and outright excellent in Game 7. He especially stood on his head in the first period as the Avalanche made a big push and gave his team a chance to win. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kraken win Game 7, knock out defending NHL champion Avalanche