The Los Angeles Kings has the reputation of being a good away team. However, this season the Kings have been struggling on the road. Last night, they started off a five-game road trip with a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. This road trip could very well decide the faith of the Kings playoff bid.
Will they be able to force themselves into a wildcard spot or even take one of the top three places in the Pacific Division? Or will they be the first champions to miss the playoffs the following season since the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006-07?
This critical road trip got off to a good start as the Kings played a solid game against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night. Cory Schneider has been amazing in net for the Devils throughout the season, but he wasn’t able to fend off the offense of the Kings as they bombarded him with 16 shots in the first period and took a 2-0 lead after goals by Andrej Sekera and Tyler Toffoli. Scott Gomez pulled one back for the Devils in the second period before Anze Kopitar made it 3-1 early in the third.
The next four games for the Kings before they go home to California are tough meetings with the New York Rangers on Tuesday, then they take the bus over to Long Island and face the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on Thursday, then head north to Minnesota for a meeting with the Wild on Saturday before rounding of the trip with a game against Chicago on Monday.
These are all difficult games against teams that are all in a playoff spot, and all the teams have over 20 home wins this season. The Kings record on the road is only 13-14-7, and that’s a significant drop compared to last season when the team went 23-14-4 away from Staples Center. Only four teams had more away wins than the Kings last season, and this season the team isn’t even .500 on the road.
With the next seven out of the final 10 games of the regular season away from home, the Kings need to find a way to turn it around and start winning on the road. Their form has been better as of late, with four wins out of their last five away games. This needs to continue if they going to catch up to the Calgary Flames who are in third in the Pacific Division, two points ahead of the Kings. In the wild card standings, the Kings are five points behind the Minnesota Wild and four points behind the Winnipeg Jets. The Kings have a game in hand on all the three teams just mentioned, so the matchup against the Rangers on Tuesday could have huge implications.
Jonathan Quick will be the key in this final stretch of the regular season, and he has had a bit of an up and down season. He has played well as of lately and he will have to keep that going if the Kings are going to be able to force themselves into a playoff spot. Kopitar had a goal and two assists in the game against the Devils, and although it impossible to have that kind of production every night, he must become more consistent down the stretch and be that go-to guy that he has shown that he can be in the playoffs. A player with Kopitar’s talent should be a point-per-game player, and although Kopi has 57 points in 69 games, his 15 goals just isn’t enough.
Toffoli has 21 goals so far this season, but only one in the last five games. Sure, he’s only 22-years old, but he also must step up and become more consistent. Sekera finally got his first goal as a member of the Kings, hopefully he can find a way to contribute some more points on the power play.
With the roster that the Kings have, it would be the failure of the century if they missed out on the playoffs as reigning champions. But if they make it in, I know that they could go on and win the Stanley Cup again, as they’ve done it before.