After a huge win against their rival Chicago Blackhawks on January 28, the Los Angles Kings are slowly crawling back into a playoff spot. With a 3-3-4 record in their last 10 games, the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings are one point out of a playoff spot as they kick-off the unofficial second half of the season.
The Kings have had their struggles this year, particularly on the road. Compiling a 5-9-6 road record has truly been their downfall, as all of the other teams in the Western Conference currently in a playoff spot hold a winning road record. The Kings are always going to be a solid home team because road teams are always going to end up getting too banged up partying with the celebrities in Hollywood and because there’s nothing more fun than being successful in L.A.
With the recent demotion of Mike Richards to the minors, after he cleared waivers, a lot of questions have been asked about the Kings. Are they are going to get back to a championship calibre level where they were last year, or are they experiencing that dreaded championship hangover?
The Kings have played more games than any other team in the past three seasons so the early season struggles are justified. After a winning two championships in the past three seasons, the players on the Kings may have overlooked how tough it is to win again, and the energy levels may not be there as a result. Winning doesn’t come easy and the Kings are noticing that now. With that being said, the All-Star break should have been a perfect time for players to reflect on their current season and try to recreate that desire to repeat a championship for the first time since the Detroit Redwings did from 1997 to 1998.
Although the Kings are just outside of a playoff spot, they are a great team. As long as the team gets into the playoffs, they have a chance at winning the Stanley Cup, just like they did in the 2011-12 season, when they won the Cup as an eighth seed.
Statistically the Kings are still the best Corsi team in the league with a 56.3 Corsi For percentage, which means the team is creating more offensive chances than they are allowing. Although this statistic can be over evaluated, it is a great way to determine the overall team play. Playing in too many tight games this season, the biggest factor for the Kings thus far has been the shootout.
The Kings are by far the worst team in the league in the shootout with a 1-7 record. If the Kings had even won two more of those games in the shootout, they would be second in the Pacific division with 56 points. However, the silly skills competition that has been deciding games since 2005 is ruining the team’s playoff success right now.
For a team with such offensive-power as Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Marian Gaborik, Justin Williams Anze Kopitar and a Conn Smythe Trophy winning goaltender in Jonathon Quick, they can’t catch a break and have been failing at the shootout. If the Kings are able to make the playoffs, it definitely won’t be because of the shootout and they’re going to have have to try to win more one-goal games in order to secure two-points instead of one.
However, at the end of the day, the Kings are far from finished and should still be considered a Stanley Cup favourite despite their record. If they do end making the playoffs, it’ll be time to smile Kings fans: there are no shootouts in the playoffs.