LOS ANGELES — As the Los Angeles Kings hit the road on a five-game road trip that will be critical to their playoff hopes, it’s time, once again, to take a closer look at what they will need to do the rest of the way in order to secure a playoff berth.
The last two times Frozen Royalty has done the math to project the point total the Kings would need in order to qualify for post-season play (January 28 and March 9), 97 points was the result of all that number-crunching.
After action through March 22, a new projection has determined that 97 points is still the number the Kings need to reach.
As noted in the other stories here on Frozen Royalty about these projections, the method for determining the needed points is based on all teams maintaining their current pace, which is obviously flawed, because things could easily change down the road for any team. However, this method has been remarkably accurate over the years and has proven to be very reliable.
While the projection for the Kings has not changed, what has changed is that the Vancouver Canucks, Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets have picked up the pace since March 9, and are now projected to reach higher point totals than a couple of weeks ago. In fact, Minnesota is now projected to reach 99 points, while Vancouver is expected to earn 100 points. The Jets should reach the 98-point plateau.
One team that hasn’t increased their pace—they’ve maintained what they were doing back on March 9—is the Calgary Flames, who are on pace to finish with 96 points.
That means the Kings would have to hit the 99-point mark if they can’t secure third place in the Pacific Division. To reach that mark, the Kings would need to go 8-2-1 the rest of the way, requiring them to win just slightly more than 77 percent of their remaining games.
Passing the Flames for third place in the division would be less challenging. To do that, the Kings would have to earn a 7-3-1 mark in their remaining eleven games. The Kings would have to win just over 68 percent of their remaining games.
For any team, winning 68 percent of their games, let alone 77 percent, is very tough to do, and it’s not something the Kings have done all season long. From that perspective, to say that things don’t look promising for the Kings’ playoff hopes might be understating their predicament. That said, earning a 7-3-1 record is not impossible, and if the Kings play well, it is certainly achievable.
Still, 68 percent is a big, big mountain to climb, and if the other teams continue to improve their pace, the Kings will be a virtual lock to remain on the outside looking in, and will have a lengthy summer of rest and recovery to look forward to. Of course, after playing more games in three seasons than any NHL team in history, that would probably be a blessing in disguise.
The Kings are just 1-2-1 in their last four games, good for three out of a possible eight points. If they want to make the playoffs, that has to turn around completely, and right away, starting with the first game of their current five-game road trip, tonight at New Jersey.
During that four-game stretch, the Kings scored just five goals, averaging 1.25 goals per game. They did not give up much—ignore the two empty-net goals they allowed against Vancouver on March 21, and they allowed only seven goals in those four games—1.75 goals per game.
The Kings know what they have to do…
“We need more shots,” said forward Dustin Brown. “We’re really good along the walls, and we [get] a lot of possession time, but we’ve got to get into the scoring areas a little better, and a little quicker.”
“We can be better on our forecheck, and get more chances,” said forward Trevor Lewis. “We can get to the net more, get pucks there, and get second and third chances.”
“It seems to be the same story all the time, when you don’t score a lot of goals,” said left wing Marian Gaborik. “We have to push ourselves to the net and get those loose pucks.”
In recent games, opposing goalies have seen a lot of Kings shots coming in because there has not been enough traffic in front.
“Most goalies in this league, if they see [a shot], they’re going to stop it,” Lewis explained. “Traffic is a big thing, as are loose pucks in front, those dirty goals. They’re big, especially this time of year. We need to start getting [to the front of the net].”
“We need to push ourselves, drive to the net off the walls, and, as I always say, try to get those ugly goals, and don’t pass up shots,” Gaborik stressed. “We have to make it uncomfortable for the goalie—create a lot of traffic.”
“We need to work on this,” Gaborik added. “We need to score more goals. That’s the bottom line—without sacrificing our defense. We need to play the right way, try to get pucks on goal, and put [them] into the net.”
As reported earlier, the Kings have a big mountain to climb in order to earn an invite to the post-season party.
“It’s fair to say that we have a hard schedule [coming up], but that’s what the NHL is all about, especially down the stretch,” Brown observed. “It’s one of those things [where] if we deserve to be in the playoffs, we’ll find ways to win games.”
Even with a rather tall mountain to climb, the Kings remain confident.
“A couple of months ago, everyone was saying we didn’t have a chance, and we’re still sitting here with a chance,” said Brown. “We have to find ways to rattle off some wins here.”
“We’ve struggled, at times, this year, but our confidence hasn’t wavered. We’re still in control of our own destiny. We [still] play a lot of these teams that we’re battling with.”
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