Well, today is the day. Will the Los Angeles Kings survive to fight another day,or will their chances of making the playoffs go up in flames? Only time will tell.
Tonight the Kings will take on the Calgary Flames. The Flames currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division with 95-points. A regulation win for the Flames would officially eliminate the Kings from any chance at making the playoffs. A regulation win for the Kings would breathe life into Los Angeles and set things up for a ridiculous finish on the season’s final day, but we’ll look at that if and when we get there.
For now, the task at hand for the Kings is to beat Calgary. A task that at the beginning of the season most would have thought would be an easy order for the Kings. But as the season progressed the Flames have developed into a certified contender and playoff hopeful.
1. Rising From The Ashes
In the last five seasons the Flames have finished on the outside looking in, and with a sixth place finish in the Pacific Division last season it seemed like the Flames would have to wait a while longer to take a run at the Stanley Cup.
If only hockey were that predictable.
The Flames have stormed through the second half of the season, grabbing a 19-10-4 record since the All-Star break and are knocking on the playoff’s door. Lead by the emergence of rookie sensation, Johnny Gaudreau or what he is mostly known by “Johnny Hockey” the Flames have been one of the biggest surprise stories of the season. Gaudreau has recorded 23 goals and 62 points giving him the lead in rookie scoring this season and cemented his name in Calder Trophy talks.
Along with the play of Gaudreau, Sean Monahan has flourished in his second year in the NHL scoring 31-goals and recording 61-points in 80-games. Included in those 31-goals are eight game winners this season.
A major factor in the Flames march to the playoffs this season has been their play against their Division rivals. The Flames have compiled a 21-6-1 record against the Pacific Division this season.
On the back of “Johnny Hockey” the Flames are trying to make the playoffs for the first time in five years, and a 22nd win against a Division opponent will get the Flames in the post season.
2. Is This The End Of The Kings’ Reign?
While the Flames are salivating at the idea of ending their playoff drought, the Kings are holding on to their last bit of hope at having a chance to defend their crown. If the Kings are eliminated from playoff contention they will become just the third team to fail to qualify for the post season the season after winning the Cup since the playoffs expanded to 16-teams.
The Flames have gotten to where they are because of players surprising the league and over-performing, if that is even really a thing. On the other hand, the Kings have gotten to where they are because of players under performing. Jonathan Quick has carried the Kings to Stanley Cup championships in the past. Quick posted a 1.95 and 2.07 goals against average in ’11-’12 and ’13-’14 respectively, but has posted a very human 2.26 goals against average this season.
Quick’s save percentage on the year is a lowly .917 percent. That’s on the second page of league leaders at number 31. The second page! That’s just not going to get it done.
Okay we’ll get off of Quick’s back. The Kings have not been the iron men they have been in the past and have suffered from various injuries all season long. Up to this point of the season, the Kings have missed more than 125 man-games due to injury, a problem the Kings did not have to deal with in the past.
The bottom line is this, the big difference between the Kings and the Flames is the Flames and Kings have both controlled their own fate at different points of the season. The Flames when controlling their fate have won and won often, the Kings on the other hand have lost and lost games they should have won. Plain and simple.
Going into tonight, the Flames have the momentum and the young energy that will draw most to root for and take Calgary in tonight’s game. But I think the veteran leadership of the Kings will play a heavy role in keeping the emotions of this game in check and may play a big role in who comes out on top.
Will the Kings live to fight another day, or will the Flames punch their ticket to the playoffs?