The Los Angeles Kings have put themselves in a hole after two straight losses. The team is on the outside looking in, but will they be able to get a run going and force themselves into a playoff position? Let’s put on our thinkers hats and look into the crystal ball. Here’s what some of the staff at TSS have to say about the Kings and their playoff outlook.
Cat Silverman: If they make it, I won’t be like WHOA, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? But I’ve been anticipating a playoff miss all year. Jaime thinks I’m crazy, but their offense was a bit too stagnant to make up for losing Slava Voynov. I don’t think they addressed that in time.
Jaime Eisner: I do believe the Los Angeles Kings will make the playoffs and will be able to defend their Stanley Cup Championship. While the team has not played the type of hockey indicative of a team with two Stanley Cups in the past three seasons, the Winnipeg Jets are in reach. Even the Calgary Flames can be caught and the two teams play each other. The Kings will find a way to sneak into the playoffs, and when they do, their ability to possess the puck and suppress shots gives them a major edge in postseason play.
Christopher Hair: If there is one NHL team I would not bet against, it is the Kings. They won their first Cup as the 8th seed and came back from 3-0 down in the opening series of their second Cup run. The run to that Cup last year may have taken a lot of them. But Calgary is young and the Jets aren’t a team with much playoff experience. Neither of those teams knows what it takes to win in that scenario. The Kings do. I won’t count them out until they are buried in the cold, cold ground.
Bob Mand: By almost any metric, LA is among the best teams in the NHL (5-on-5 goal differential, shot differential, shots-attempted differential) and it’s simply on the basis of their bad luck… specifically in one-goal games (fourth worst in in the League in point percentage) and shootouts (at 4-7, tied for the worst record in the league)… that they sit on the outside looking in.
At this point, with so few games to go, it’s basically a coin-flip whether or not they make the postseason – but if they miss it would be an injustice – as the Kings are clearly superior to both teams they trail for the final wild card spot in the West (Calgary and Winnipeg) … and we would rightly hear an even louder cacophony of voices clamoring for an end to the skills-competition minigame (aka the shootout) as a direct result.
Sean Tierney: The LA Kings have been flirting with disaster for a while. Heck, even Yahoo has gotten in on the looming demise of the defending Stanley Cup champs:
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) March 31, 2015
And yet, who feels comfortable counting out a team that has such a strong recent history of clutching victory from the jaws of defeat?
Here’s everything you need to know…
– the Kings have the experience of long playoff runs in recent history
– the Kings play amazing, structured hockey focused on puck possession
– Jonathan Quick is the type of goalie who can go totally J.S. Gigure during the playoffs, transforming into a single-handed series-winning machine.
Never bet against LA. And feel just a little bit of pity for the team that draws this ornery bunch in the first round.
Zach Hopkins: Although the Los Angeles Kings are currently on the outside looking in, I fully expect that they will be one of the Western Conference’s eight participants in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when the season comes to an end. Besides having a game in hand on both the Jets (who will likely lose Dustin Byfuglien for a few games) and Flames, they have a roster made up of playoff-tested guys who know what it takes to make the dance and go on an unthinkable run.
You are only as good as your goalie in the playoffs and Jonathan Quick has done a magnificent job in net while leading the Kings to two of the past three championships. Additionally, the Kings could be in a position to control their own destiny based on a schedule that sees them play Edmonton twice, Colorado, Vancouver, San Jose and Calgary.The reigning champs have proven that it doesn’t matter what seed you are or how you got there. What matters is knowing what to do IF you get in and having the confidence to believe that you are unbeatable in a seven game series.
Luke Lapinski: I’m not counting LA out until they’re officially eliminated – and even then, I’d be a little nervous about them. This is the time of year the Kings live for. When they won the Cup in 2012, they snuck in as the No. 8 seed. Even last year, they were essentially the No. 6. They’ve been here before, they play their best hockey with their backs to the wall and their schedule down the stretch has just the right mix of games against clubs they’re directly competing with for a playoff spot and teams that are already out of it with little to play for.
The other thing to remember with LA is the core group of players who won it all in 2012 and 2014 are still in place. This isn’t a bunch of new guys that just happen to be wearing the same jerseys as a team that hoisted the Cup a few years ago. These exact players are the ones who did it. And they just need to run down Winnipeg or Calgary – both extremely inexperienced clubs – to get in. The Kings know it’s a marathon, not a sprint. They’re basically the San Antonio Spurs of hockey. And while I don’t necessarily expect them to win the whole thing this year, I’ve just assumed they’d grind their way in during the final week of the season all along. Why would that change now?
Sebastian Noren: I’m of the opinion that they will manage to get into the playoffs. It might be at the expense of the Winnipeg Jets as the last wild card team (Kings are two points behind the Jets with a game in hand), or they will overtake Calgary for the third spot in the Pacific Division (Kings are three points behind the Flames with a game in hand). When looking at the remaining schedule for the Kings, they have the Oilers and the Avalanche at home, two teams that really doesn’t have anything to play for. Then team heads up north on a little Canadian road trip to take on the Canucks, Oilers and the Flames befogging closing out the regular season at home to the San Jose Sharks.
These are all winnable games, but it’s imperative that they win the games against the Canucks and the Flames as they are both ahead of the Kings in the standings. It could all come down to the last games against the Sharks, and I bet that Sharks fans would love the opportunity for their team to be the one to ruin the Kings playoff dreams.
With so much on the line, each game takes on a magnitude of epic proportions and the Kings have the talent and the experience to get this done. With players like Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick, it’s surprising that the team is even in this position, even if you take into account what happened with Voynov. Several of these players are two-time Stanley Cup winners and although I didn’t think that they would win the Pacific Division, I sure as hell didn’t have them outside the playoffs with six games to go.
If they would miss out on the playoffs it would be the failure of the century (I know the century isn’t that old, but you get my point). The last time a defending Stanley Cup champion failed to make the playoffs the season following the cup win was the Carolina Hurricanes back in 2006/2007 and before that you have to go back all the way to the 1930s when the Chicago Black Hawks failed to make it to the playoffs the season after a cup win. The Kings have it in their own hands, and now is the time to show that they are the reigning Stanley Cup champions.