Tag: schedule analysis

Cory Emmerton, Trevor Lewis

Kings suffer a brutal loss for second night in a row


No doubt about it, it’s been a brutal two nights for the Los Angeles Kings – maybe the worst in a season rife with letdowns.

A night after dropping an honestly unacceptable 3-1 loss to Jack Johnson and the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, the Kings seemed like they were on the verge of salvaging back-to-back contests against the Central Division by beating the Detroit Red Wings.

Dwight King gave the Kings a 3-2 lead with about six minutes left in the third period, but that lead proved insufficient. Valtteri Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg were a serious problem for the Kings all night, including the game-tying goal by Filppula. Zetterberg had two goals and one assist while Filppula collected a tally and two helpers. Darren Helm then scored the 4-3 game-winner with 1:13 left in the third, making the Kings go from increasingly positive to downright despondent.

The kind of losses that result in firings later on

On paper, losing to the Red Wings is far from shameful – particularly at Joe Louis Arena. Still, with all of Detroit’s injuries and the urgency of tonight’s match in mind, this is the kind of loss that might get Kings GM Dean Lombardi fired.

Dwindling odds for the Kings

With that loss, the Kings remain a point behind the eighth-ranked San Jose Sharks, who also hold two games in hand on Los Angeles. The Kings do have a slight edge over the Colorado Avalanche but the Calgary Flames could create a virtual tie for ninth place if they hold on to beat the Winnipeg Jets tonight.

What lies ahead

The Kings face a challenging schedule, but at least gives them a chance to “control their destiny” to an extent with matches against some of the teams who stand in their way.

Los Angeles will visit Chicago on Sunday and then get a chance to avenge tonight’s loss against the Red Wings at the Staples Center on Tuesday. After that, they’ll take on the Ducks in Anaheim on Friday and then enjoy a four-game homestand that’s less enjoyable since they’ll face four of the best teams in the NHL (Nashville, San Jose, St. Louis and Boston).

After that, they must deal with a four-game road trip through the Northwest Division, a home game versus the Edmonton Oilers and then a potentially crucial season closing home-and-home set with the San Jose Sharks.


On paper, that’s a brutal stretch. Sadly for Kings fans, it doesn’t seem like the team’s given the hockey world much reason to believe that they’ll overcome the challenges ahead.

Capitals’ two-week gut check begins tonight

Montreal Canadiens v Washington Capitals

Many people in the hockey world have already made their minds up about the Washington Capitals – most likely in a bad way. Still, for those who are giving the struggling squad the benefit of the doubt, the next two weeks should provide a succinct answer.

Everything about their season would say that they’ll shrink from the challenge ahead, but that’s the fun thing about sports – if they flourish, they could very well be a dangerous eighth seed or even a surprise division winner. Here’s a game-by-game look at a trying and fascinating stretch.

Tonight: vs. Tampa Bay – The Lightning have been hot lately, but with Mathieu Garon on the mend, the Caps need to squash those upstarts.

Saturday: at Boston – An afternoon road game against the defending champs won’t be easy even with the Bruins being a little off.

Sunday: vs. Toronto – The last home game of this stretch comes against the only team that might be more desperate than them.

March 13: at Islanders – Washington better not take the Isles lightly – this could be a “trap game” considering the rest of the schedule.

March 16: at Winnipeg – The Jets are currently two points ahead of the Capitals and Washington’s game in hand advantage has dropped to one paltry contest. Winnipeg’s 21-10-4 at home so, yeah, this should be a big test.

March 18: at Chicago; March 19: at Detroit – The third and fourth road contests take the Capitals through two dangerous Central Division teams in back-to-back games. Normally getting two points out of that duo would be acceptable, but Washington will likely hope for more.

March 22: at Philadelphia – The tough two-week run ends against a bitter foe of the Capitals.


To review, this stretch includes three contests against teams at or around their playoff position, four matches against surefire playoff squads and a potential trap game against those meddlesome Islanders. Six of their eight games are on the road, which is the most interesting part since Washington is a pathetic 11-18-3 away from the Verizon Center.

If they can weather this two-week storm, they’ll be in great shape with four out of five home games and five contests in Washington vs. three road matches overall. With all that in mind, share your thoughts: will the Capitals flip the script and actually respond to the challenge or will this challenging run be their predictable undoing?

Breaking down Winnipeg’s Southeast chances after crushing Florida

Winnipeg Jets v Florida Panthers

If you’re a schedule analysis dork such as myself, the Winnipeg Jets’ rush back into the Southeast Division/Eastern Conference playoff picture is far from a shocker.

Even with that in mind, the Jets’ 7-0 thrashing of the Southeast-leading Florida Panthers was far from expected.

For the most part, this scrappy bunch is making the most out of an eight-game home stand that carried almost as many challenges as it did advantages,* but this win should be the centerpiece. Winnipeg carried a 2-0 lead into the third period. Rather than sitting on the lead, the Jets scored five more goals as they chased Jose Theodore and then beat Scott Clemmensen three times on just eight shots.

(In other words … it wasn’t all Theo’s fault.)

Southeast race is still most likely Florida vs. Washington

The Panthers shouldn’t freak too much because they still have a pretty cozy Southeast Division lead. Florida has two more points and three games in hand on the Jets, although Winnipeg has a slight edge in plain-old wins (31 to 30) and regulation/OT ones (27 to 26).

source: Getty ImagesWashington vs. Winnipeg

The Jets’ greater chances for a stunning playoff run obviously come in merely getting one of the bottom seeds – even if the Southeast is by no means out of the question. They bumped the Washington Capitals out of the top eight because the Jets have 70 points to Washington’s 69.

The Capitals still “control their destiny” (to use an NFL playoff term that bothers many, which makes it extra-delightful) however, as Washington has 19 games remaining vs. Winnipeg’s 16. The Capitals also have more standard wins (32 to 31) and significantly more regulation/OT ones (31 to 27), so the Caps hold tie-breaker advantages.

Jets’ future

Give the Jets plenty of credit for taking advantage of an opportunity to move back into serious contention, but their home stand is about to end with a Monday match against the enigmatic Buffalo Sabres. After that, they’ll play two road games, three home games and then three more contests away from Winnipeg.

Overall, the Jets have just seven games left in Winnipeg versus nine on the road (where they’re an unsettling 11-18-3).


Looking at the Southeast picture, the Jets and Capitals face remarkably similar situations since they’re up-and-down teams who are highly dependent on home ice. The Panthers have been a little more balanced (15-8-8 at home; 15-13-4 on the road) and that might ultimately determine the division champion.

Still, considering the fact that countless people wrote that Winnipeg fans would likely accept a horrible team just to get an NHL team back, it’s a heck of a story that they have a real shot to make the playoffs – and maybe take the Southeast.

* – The homestand began with a game against the Boston Bruins, included an OT loss against the formidable Philadelphia Flyers and a shootout loss against the St. Louis Blues. The only true letdown so far was a 5-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

Ryan Miller might just drag Buffalo back into playoff picture

Ryan Miller
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The Buffalo Sabres have suffered plenty of disappointments during the 2011-12 season. Injuries have been unkind. Plenty of relied-upon guys have fallen on their faces. Ville Leino’s been bad enough that you really just need to utter the name “Ville Leino.”

Still, some might argue that Ryan Miller’s relative struggles* towered over all the other issues because they depend upon him so heavily.

Miller gets his groove back

Perhaps it makes sense, then, that Buffalo is making a moderately plausible push for a playoff berth on the strength of Miller’s rejuvenation. The American-born goalie is 9-2-3 since seemingly hitting rock bottom around Jan. 24. (He went 2-7-0 in the previous nine games.)

Leap Day’s results might do the most to cause some Sabres fans to make the huge leap of imagining an unlikely playoff berth, though. Despite having just a 4.1 percent shot at the playoffs, Miller’s 43-save shutout of the Anaheim Ducks in a 2-0 win could very well give birth to some wild dreams:

That prompts the obvious question: can Miller and the Sabres pull it off?

According to Sports Club Stats, the Sabres would need a 12-5-2 finish for a slightly-better-than coin flip’s chance (52.1 percent) while anything in the 12-4-3 range (70.9) or better could give them very good odds.

That doesn’t sound totally outrageous, but Buffalo’s schedule won’t make things easy. Five of its next six and seven of its next nine games are on the road, with the next two games coming against San Jose and Vancouver.

With that in mind, Sabres fans can keep it simple: if the team’s situation actually looks better when the smoke clears in mid-March, then leap away.

* – It’s almost as if the world-class goalie was in some bad ’80s movie where Milan Lucic’s collision gave him amnesia, thus making him forget that he’s an elite player. Admit it; that would result in the greatest injury report ever.

Sizzling Senators shut down Bruins, spawn some bold questions


Erik Karlsson might not have the defensive acumen to please people who cringe at the points-centric Norris Trophy voting, but his scoring ability is making the Ottawa Senators an intriguing sleeper in the East.

Karlsson’s power-play goal was the only marker as the Senators beat the Northeast Division-leading (and defending champion) Boston Bruins at their own game 1-0.

Well, either that or their promising backup goalie won a significant duel with Tim Thomas. Nope, it wasn’t recently acquired netminder Ben Bishop; instead, Robin Lehner made a compelling argument for his NHL-readiness by stopping all 32 Bruins shots. Thomas was brilliant in making 37 out of 38 saves, but Ottawa beat the B’s in Boston to make a statement.

Either that, or they raised some questions.

1. Circling back to Karlsson, is his resounding offensive production reason enough to make him deserve the Norris? Normally I’m in that embittered hockey nerd group in regard to that trophy’s voting, but one could argue that he’s essentially the most valuable defenseman in the NHL because of his offense.*

2. Does Ottawa have a decent chance to steal the Northeast title from Boston?

Rather than going too deep on this question, I’ll merely present you with some crucial points.

  • The Bruins are currently ahead of the Senators points-wise 77-76.
  • Boston also has a fairly massive games in hand advantage, with four more games remaining (21 to 17) than Ottawa.
  • On the other hand, the Senators are streaking up (two wins in a row; 7-2-1 in their last 10) while the Bruins are bumbling a bit (4-5-1 in last 10).
  • The Bruins have 10 home games and 11 road games left.
  • The Senators have nine home games and eight road games remaining.
  • Both teams actually possess remarkably balanced win-loss records on the road vs. at home, which means that games remaining and streaks are probably the biggest factors.
  • Well, except for tie-breaker considerations, perhaps. The Bruins have 37 wins to Ottawa’s 34 and 30 regulation/OT wins to the Senators’ 29.

Looking at that information, it would take a serious run (and/or significant Boston struggles) for Ottawa to shock the hockey world by winning its division. Still, it’s pretty amazing that such a question would need to be examined with March just a breath away.

* – The Norris Trophy isn’t defined as the MVP of the blueliners, but the point must be made.