Our team has a lot of talent. I hope that soon we will break out with four or five goals and avoid overtime — Peter Bondra
With apologies to the long-time former Capitals forward, if the above quote doesn’t fit this year’s Kings team to a tee, nothing does.
There are just three games left in the regular season
Three more games. Three more chances for the Los Angeles Kings to somehow claw their way into the playoffs. Three opportunities to overcome the frustration of a 3-15 record after the first 60 minutes of regulation and compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Monday night’s 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks was yet another lost opportunity in a season filled with them. Yes, the Kings earned a point by taking the game to overtime, tying the Calgary Flames for third place in the Pacific division with 93 points. And yet they lost in the shootout — again — failing to secure the critical second point.
If the Kings don’t make the playoffs, their abysmal record after regulation will be the culprit. Forget the individual struggles of Mike Richards and Dustin Brown, the at-times uneven play of Jonathan Quick, even the cap impact and subsequent defensive disarray resulting from the suspension of Slava Voynov. If the Kings had gone even 8-10 in the overtime and shootout, they’d be securely in second, with the conversation centering around whether or not catching Anaheim was still possible. As it stands, it’s all about whether or not the playoffs are possible.
Can they do it? Let’s look at their final three games.
Los Angeles at Edmonton
No rest for the weary, the Kings turn right around and play the Edmonton Oilers tonight at Rexall Place in Edmonton. Five days ago, the Kings blasted the Oilers 8-2, improving to 3-0-1 against Edmonton this year, outscoring the Oilers 21-8 in the process. There is literally no excuse for the Kings not to win this game, and the smart money says L.A. will do just that, improving to 40-25-15 in the process.
Tuesday night is particularly critical since both Calgary (technically in third place via tiebreaker) and Winnipeg (one point in front of the Kings for the second wild car slot) play as well. The Jets face the surging St. Louis Blues, winners of three straight and still with a chance at the President’s Trophy. Calgary has a layup at home against the Arizona Coyotes.
Los Angeles at Calgary
Boom! Going into the year, who would have believed that the entire season would likely hinge on this game. And yet, that’s just about to happen, as the Flames and Kings will be within two points of one another with everything on the line. An outright win by one of the two teams could potentially lock up third place.
Even the Beer Prophet agrees:
— BEER PROPHET (@IHateMyLiver47) April 5, 2015
Scheduled to start at 6:00 local time on Thursday, this is simply can’t-miss television. The Flames haven’t made the playoffs in five years, while the Kings are still hanging on to the dream of being the first back-to-back champions in seventeen seasons. This is as close to a playoff game as a regular season encounter gets.
San Jose at Los AngelesEven though the Sharks are done like dinner, you know that they would love to knock the Kings out of the playoffs. In fact, it’d be a silver lining in an otherwise forgettable season, one which has seen THW’s Andrew Bensch pound management mercilessly over for months.
Anything can happen in this game. The Kings are very possibly going to be desperate, while the Sharks will play with absolutely nothing to lose. This matchup could be fun, ugly, intense and infuriating, all at the same time.
Almost three weeks ago, I took a stab at predicting the results of the final twelve games of the regular season. With nine in the books, how have I done? Let’s see:
– Vancouver (3/21): Swing and a miss. I predicted a regulation win, and instead Vancouver smacked the Kings around, 4-1.
– at New Jersey (3/23): I predicted a shootout win, and the Kings did one better by winning in regulation, 3-1.
– at New York Rangers (3/24): My guess was a regulation loss, but the Kings surprised me and played a great game, winning 4-2.
– at New York Islanders (3/26): Boldly, I predicted a regulation win. As it turns out, I was prophetic, as they did just that, pulling out a dramatic 3-2 win.
– at Minnesota (3/28): I thought the Kings would lose, and they did. The only difference was they didn’t get the overtime point I had hoped for, as they were blasted 4-1.
– at Chicago (3/30). My heart overcame my head on this one. I said overtime win, and instead the Kings laid a 4-1 egg in the Windy City.
– Edmonton (4/2). Pretty easy call on this one, and I nailed it as the Kings crushed the Oilers 8-2.
– Colorado (4/4). Ditto. The Kings made me look good on this one, winning 3-1.
– at Vancouver (4/6). This just didn’t feel like a win for Los Angeles when I was sketching it out, and as we saw tonight – it wasn’t.
If the Kings win their final three games, they’ll end up 42-25-15, matching the prediction I made in the article. Far more importantly, they will make the playoffs, either as the third seed in the Pacific or as a wild card.
Can they do it? Leave your thoughts below, or send a message to @McLaughlinWalt. If I get two or three worthwhile tidbits, I’ll publish them in my next article.
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.