Kings face tough odds to stay in playoffs

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Many people probably already wondered this, but last night’s 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche really makes this question a necessity: are the Los Angeles Kings going to miss the playoffs? Let’s break it down.

The standings

First things first, glance at the West playoff picture.

source:  (click to enlarge)

The nerdy perspective

Los Angeles would be in the playoffs if they began today but the Kings aren’t in Sports Club Stats’ top eight over the long haul. The trusty Web site puts the Calgary Flames’ odds significantly higher (40.1 percent chance), while the Kings (29.1 percent) edge the Dallas Stars (22.1 percent) for ninth place.

The Kings’ loss to Colorado dropped their odds by a whopping 12.2 percent, so even unfeeling supercomputers* hated that defeat.

What the Kings need to do

By Sports Club’s calculations, Los Angeles likely needs to churn out an 11-6-4 record to make the playoffs. (That record gives them a 73 percent chance.) A 12-6-3 (86.3 percent) or 13-6-2 (94.1 percent) mark would really do the job, though.

Can they do it? Teams can certainly overcome tough schedules, but they can swing the tide of close battles in a parity-laced league

Kings’ schedule overall

The Kings have 21 games left this season, with nine at home and 12 on the road.

The good news is that might be better on the road than at home (perhaps because of their not-so-thrilling style). The Kings are a mediocre 15-13-4 at the Staples Center and a scrappy 12-9-8 abroad.

Los Angeles better retain its road warrior status coming up, though, because the next few weeks good get ugly.

Big challenges up ahead

After a home game against Chicago on Saturday, the Kings play six of seven games on the road, with plenty of tough Central Division matches (only one coming against Columbus). Mid-March provides a reward of five out of six home games, but then they end March with a rigorous four-game trip through the Northwest.

With that in mind, a March 28 match against the Flames in Calgary could have gigantic playoff implications. It’s also quite possible that a home-and-home series with the San Jose Sharks could very well make-or-break their playoff hopes.

(Oh, in case you’re wondering, the Flames play 14 out of their 22 remaining contests in Calgary, which is probably why those foreboding supercomputers seem to love them so much.)

***

Looking at the situation, I don’t feel fantastic about the Kings’ playoff hopes – especially with the seventh-seeded Phoenix Coyotes building themselves a nice cushion. If GM Dean Lombardi believes his job’s in jeopardy, he better trade for reinforcements because this won’t be easy.

* Note: I assume all formulas are created by unfeeling supercomputers. I am not a man of science.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.