Cale Makar could only watch as the Seattle Kraken suffocated his Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the first-round series. Makar was serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit on Jared McCann in Game 4, and Colorado struggled to find answers without him on the ice.
In the first period of the Kraken’s Game 4 win over the Avs, Makar delivered a late hit to Seattle forward Jared McCann, who left the game and did not return. After reviewing the play following the game, the NHL Department of Player Safety suspended the star blueliner for Game 5.
Makar is arguably the best defenseman in the world. The 24-year-old star has a Norris Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup to back up that claim. With Makar out of the lineup, Colorado was much more vulnerable, and Seattle took advantage of that.
The Kraken have controlled play when Makar isn’t on the ice, and that was the case for all three periods in Game 5. Seattle completely stifled Colorado for a 3-2 win in Ball Arena, and now the Avalanche are one loss away from going home in the first round.
The good news for the Avs is that Makar was only suspended for one game, and he will be back for a do-or-die Game 6. Expect the well-rested Makar to see a lot of playing time, because there is a stark difference in Colorado’s five-on-five numbers when Makar is on the ice.
As evidenced in that table above, the Avalanche’s depth defensemen have struggled this series, and Samuel Girard, Erik Johnson, and Josh Manson couldn’t quite pick up the slack in Game 5. The Kraken forecheck gave the Colorado defensemen some problems, and that resulted in the Avs generating just 28 shots on goal.
The Kraken have the edge in this series when it comes to roster depth. They have a few different lines that can be effective, and their entire defensive corps has impressed through the first five games. Colorado has the advantage at the top of the lineup, and Makar is a big part of that. Seattle doesn’t quite have anyone who can match Makar when he is at his best.
That’s exactly what the Avalanche will need from him in Game 6, which will be in front of a hostile crowd at Climate Pledge Arena. The reigning Stanley Cup champions will face elimination on Friday night, and Makar has the chance to atone for his big Game 4 mistake by forcing a decisive Game 7.