It wasn’t too long ago the Los Angeles Kings were in a rough spot. Los Angeles had just dropped a home game against their Southern California Rival, the Anaheim Ducks. The loss to their Pacific Division rival was the exclamation point in a low for the Kings and a high for the Ducks.
The Ducks had then beaten the Kings twice in one week. The first on February 28th, a 4-2 victory in Anaheim and then just six days later by a 3-2 score in Los Angeles.
The latter of the two victories marked a franchise record eleventh consecutive win for the Ducks and gave Anaheim sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division. This was the cherry on top of a run that started on January 20th, when the Ducks sat 16-points behind Los Angeles in the Pacific Division.
However, rather than fold like a lawn chair, the Kings took the Ducks’ punch to the gut and have worked their way back into the driver’s seat in the Pacific Division, and possibly the Western Conference.
Since dropping their last meeting with the Ducks, Los Angeles has gone 3-0-1 and has outscored their opponents 20 to 8 in those games. While the Kings rebounded after their stumble at home, the Ducks have fallen into a rut of their own. Since their win at Staples Center, the Ducks have gone 1-4-0 and been outscored 13 to 11, which has allowed the Kings to jump back into first in the division.
Now with 13 games remaining for both the Kings and the Ducks, the Kings have a four point lead over Anaheim in the Pacific Division.
Outside of the Pacific Division, Los Angeles has positioned themselves to take a run at the number one seed in the Western Conference. At the end of play on March 16th, the Kings had three games in hand on the St. Louis Blues and two games in hand against the Dallas Stars who were tied atop the Western Conference with 91 points.
Clutch Wins Against The Central Division
Los Angeles recently embarked on a two-game road trip against two of the Central Division’s top teams. The Kings opened their back-to-back games in Chicago with a commanding 5-0 win over the Blackhawks.
After a game against the Blackhawks, where Jonathan Quick posted a 32-save shutout and broke the record for most shutouts by an U.S.-born goalie, five different Kings found the back of the net and the Kings were a perfect six-for-six on the penalty kill. The Kings put up another dominant performance against the Central Division’s number one team, the Stars.
The Kings followed up one five-goal game against Chicago with another five-goal game against Dallas where the Kings jumped out to a 4-1 lead and eventually won the game 5-2.
Los Angeles went on a brief tour of the Central Division and in 48-hours grabbed eight points, kept points out of the Central Division and moved within two points of the Stars and Blues for the number one spot in the Western Conference.
The Kings have one game remaining against the Stars, a home game for the Kings on the second day of April. Depending on how the season plays out, this game could have major implications on who ends up as the number one spot in the Western Conference.
A Photo Finish In The Pacific Division
The Kings, Ducks and San Jose Sharks have distanced themselves far enough from the rest of the Division to make the race for the Pacific Division a three-team fight. Five points separate the Kings in first and the Sharks in third, with the Ducks sitting in the middle with 85 points.
Every game down the stretch is big for any team in the race for the playoffs, but for the Pacific Division’s California trio, games against each other bring in a different level of importance.
The Kings and Sharks meet one more time this season, Los Angeles and Anaheim face off one more time as well while the Ducks and Sharks will not cross paths again this season. This remaining schedule puts the Kings and Ducks in a better spot than the Sharks when it comes to gaining ground and or pulling away from one another in the division.
All three teams have 13 games separating themselves and the post season, which should set up a great finish in the Pacific.
Kings In Control
When It comes to the Western Conference the Kings have positioned themselves to take runs at both the Pacific Division title and the number one spot in the Western Conference.
As far as the Pacific Division, the Kings have given themselves a cushion, although not huge, of four points over the Ducks in second place. In the hunt for the number one seed in the Western Conference, the Kings have three games in hand on the Blues, two games in hand on the Stars and one game in hand on the Blackhawks. Once the Kings catch up in the games played column they could very well be in first place in the Western Conference.
Along with those advantages, the Kings will meet the Ducks, Sharks and Stars each one more time before season’s end. Big four-point swing games, where the Kings can grab two points and keep two points away from a team fighting for the same spot could propel the Kings into the number one spot in both the division and conference.
Of course with 13 games remaining for the Kings (89 points) Ducks (85 points) and Sharks (84 points), 11 games remaining for Dallas (91 points), 10 games to play for St. Louis (91 points) and 12 games to play for Chicago (88 points), and some of those games against one another, there is still time for any team to shake the playoff picture up.
Eric covers the Los Angeles Kings for The Hockey Writers. You can follow Eric on Twitter @_Roberts11.