The Los Angeles Kings’ Twisted Road to the Playoffs

Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick is key to the Kings playoff hopes this season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
One thing is for certain: the road to the playoffs for the Los Angeles Kings promises plenty of remaining twists and turns.

Following Wednesday night’s overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the Kings were left clinging to a playoff spot by a single point. One night later, the Calgary Flames trounced the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1, pushing the Kings — if the season ended today — out of the playoffs.

In, out, in, out. The consistently inconsistent Kings have hovered on either side of the line for quite some time now, making every single point critical between now and the end of the regular season.

The playoffs loom on the horizon

L.A. has twelve games remaining, eight of which are on the road. Despite their typical late-season push (13-6-2 since February 1), they are by no means certain to finish in the West’s top eight. That being said, all that really matters is that they make the playoffs — as they’ve proven in recent seasons, the rest will take care of itself.

But first, the task at hand is to sprint faster than Calgary, Winnipeg, San Jose and/or the other contenders for one of the final few seeds. The following is a quick prediction of the outcome of the Kings’ remaining games.

March 21: Vancouver Canucks

The Kings are 3-0 versus the Canucks this season, outscoring them by a combined 12-3. Needless to say, winning this game is vital to the team’s postseason chances, especially since it’s one of just four remaining home games.

Look for Los Angeles to come out with vim and vigor after the disappointing loss to the Ducks. The Kings rarely win easily, so even if they emerge victorious, don’t expect it to be by much.

Prediction: regulation win

March 23: at New Jersey Devils

In their only previous encounter this season, New Jersey beat the Kings in Los Angeles 5-3.

This is a very tough game to gauge. The Kings have been poor on the road this year (12-14-7), but a bit better of late. Also, the Devils won’t have the emotional edge, as they are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. This translates into a pick ’em scenario, which usually means overtime loss. However, the Kings are due for a break in that department, so we’ll call it a shootout win.

Prediction: shootout win

March 24: at New York Rangers

This one looks and smells like a loss, as it’s the Kings’ third game in four nights, the last two back-to-back. With the President’s Trophy within reach, the Rangers need this one, too. New York beat L.A. 4-3 back on January 8th.

Prediction: regulation loss

March 26: at New York Islanders

A few weeks ago, I’d have called this a regulation win for the Islanders. However, they’ve stumbled badly down the stretch, having lost four straight games and seven out of ten.

New York hasn’t been scoring much, and since the Kings don’t typically either, it has the makings of a 2-1 final. Speaking of which, the Islanders defeated the Kings in a shootout at the Staples Center by that very same score last November 6th.

Prediction: regulation win

March 28: at Minnesota Wild

Jason Zucker Minnesota Wild
The Wild have been surging toward the playoffs. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
Nate Bauer wrote a piece yesterday detailing the Wild’s headlong dash toward the playoffs. In short, they’ve been scoring, defending and receiving stellar goaltending. The combination will be a tall order for the Kings to overcome.

However, the Kings seem to match up well with the Wild, having won both previous games. Snagging two points would be quite an achievement, but we’re realistic: Los Angeles makes it to overtime, then falls in the shootout.

Prediction: shootout loss

March 30: at Chicago Blackhawks

Always a game to circle on your calendar, the Kings and Blackhawks are 1-1 so far this year. Chicago won the first game going away 4-1, with Los Angeles exacting revenge on Janaury 28th by a 4-3 margin.

Even though this game is in the Windy City, it’s effectively a pick ’em game due to the history between the two clubs.

Prediction: overtime win

April 2: Edmonton Oilers

Already 2-0-1 versus the Oilers, the Kings should make it 3-0-1 with a rather easy win at home.

Prediction: regulation win

April 4: Colorado Avalanche

See the Edmonton comment above. The Kings are 2-0 versus the Avs this year, who admittedly are playing better now than earlier in the year. However, in the end, Los Angeles has the talent and motivation to take it to Colorado, especially at home.

Prediction: regulation win

April 6: at Vancouver Canucks

This game has revenge written all over it. Assuming the Kings win on March 21st, they will have gone 3-0 in the season series against the Canucks. Alas, all good things eventually come to an end.

Prediction: regulation loss

April 7: at Edmonton Oilers

The good times continue to roll versus Edmonton, but it takes overtime to secure the second point.

Prediction: overtime win

April 9: at Calgary Flames

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Another game to circle on the calendar. Who would have thought the Kings potential spot in the playoffs might come down to the winner of this game?

The Kings are just 1-1-2 against the Flames, which doesn’t bode well here. With this game in Calgary, don’t expect Los Angeles to pull this one out, although like most games, it should be close.

Prediction: regulation loss

April 11: San Jose

With 97 points entering into this game, the Kings will be in prime position to make the playoffs. However, the loss to Calgary will hurt, and it’s always possible it’s one of those years where that’s still not enough, at least entering the final day of the season.

The Sharks will be out of the mix, so the emotional edge will be strongly in favor of Los Angeles.

Prediction: regulation win

If all goes true to form, the Kings make the playoffs

If the results go exactly as predicted (which of course they will not), Los Angeles will be 42-25-15 by the time the season comes to an end, good enough for a 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs. That’s pretty much where they need to be on the precipice of the Western Conference playoffs.

What do you think? Will the Kings make it in, or will they just miss this year? Leave your thoughts below, or send a tweet to @McLaughlinWalt.