There are a lot of different story lines going into the Los Angeles Kings’ game against the Edmonton Oilers tonight. Tonight’s game is the back-end of the Kings’ last back-to-back series of the season. Tonight with be the second game in four nights for the Kings, and is the half way point of the last time the Kings will travel through Western Canada this season.
However, the main focus for the Kings and their fans are not the logistics of this road trip but the effect this trip will have on the Kings’ playoff chances. The Kings go into tonight’s game on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.
Where will the Kings be at the end of the night? They could be as high as third place in the Pacific Division, or they could be even further away from making the post season. That all depends on how the Kings and those the Kings are chasing in the standings do tonight.
Going into tonight’s game, here are a few things to think about.
1. The Los Angeles Iron Men
On paper, the Kings will play game number 80 of their ’14-’15 regular season tonight.
For the Kings, this might not feel like game number 80. The Kings have been on quite an iron man schedule for quite some time now. Runs to the Stanley Cup in ’11-’12 and ’13-’14, and a run to the Western Conference Final in ’12-’13 may have used up most of the gas left in the Kings’ tanks.
Since the start of the ’11-’12 season, an October 11th matchup between the Kings and New York Rangers in Stockholm, Sweden, the Kings have played 349 regular and post season games. They have played an extra 64 games over the last three years thanks to extended runs through the post season.
That is almost an entire extra season of play added onto an already grueling regular season schedule. Which leads us to our next point.
2. Where’s the Finish?
Now at the tail end of this season, the Kings are in the midst of another push for the playoffs but seem to be running on empty.
Los Angeles has had trouble closing out games, going 13-10-15 in one goal games this season. That is 31 points out of 76 possible points decided by one goal. Adding a little more salt to the wound is the fact five of those one goal loses have come against teams the Kings are currently chasing for a playoff spot.
The Calgary Flames are currently tied with the Kings, but are in third place in the Pacific Division because they hold the tie breaker. The Flames have beat the Kings three times this season by one goal. Luckily for the Kings, two of those games went to extra time and the Kings got a point. That is still six possible points decided by one goal and the Kings walked away with two. That is a possible six point lead in the standings, but instead the Kings sit behind the Flames.
The Vancouver Canucks are the latest team to capitalize on the Kings lack of finish. Last night, the Kings entered the third period with a one goal lead and a chance to jump up in the standings with a regulation win. Instead the Canucks tied the game in the third period and marched on to win in the shootout, virtually eliminating the Kings from the race for second place in the Pacific Division and moving the Canucks closer to home ice advantage.
This loss moved the Kings to a 2-8 record in the shootout this season. There is no other way to look at that other than the Kings are just not getting it done. Getting to the shootout alone shows a lack of finish, but then not getting it done in the shootout is unacceptable.
Now the Kings have three games remaining this season. Over the next five nights, they will play the Oilers tonight in Edmonton, the Flames in Calgary on Thursday and end the season against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center on Saturday afternoon.
Needless to say the Kings season will be decided in the next five days. However you want to look at it, games numbers 80, 81 and 82 or games numbers 350, 351 and 352 will decide whether or not the Kings get a shot at defending their crown.