Exactly two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Kings woke up in 12th place in the Western Conference. The defending Stanley Cup champions had won just four times since Christmas, were languishing five points back of a playoff spot, and even the most handsome of hockey bloggers had finally started to doubt them.
Yada, yada, yada, the Kings woke up this morning in a playoff spot. They’ve won six straight and, per Sports Club Stats, have seen their chances of qualifying for the postseason jump from 25.3 percent to 68.8 percent. As for those handsome hockey bloggers? They’re picking on the Ducks and Sharks now.
“We weren’t playing even close to our capability,” said defenseman Drew Doughty, per the Associated Press. “We’re seeing what we can do when everyone starts to perform. We’re happy with the way we’re playing now. But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We need to keep winning. We have a lot of work left to do.”
Indeed they do, starting Saturday in Santa Clara, outdoors against their better-be-motivated rivals from San Jose.
What’s more, the Kings have played 31 homes games, compared to just 26 on the road, meaning their remaining schedule is heavy on away dates. And lest we forget, this is not a team that’s been good on the road this season (8-12-6).
The March 2 trade deadline also looms. Will GM Dean Lombardi add a defenseman? (Jeff Petry? Andrej Sekera? Roman Polak?) We only ask, because playing Doughty 30 minutes a night might not be the best way to get him fresh for the playoffs. With no Slava Voynov, he’s averaged almost four minutes more than he did last season.
The Kings know they aren’t out of the woods yet. When asked about the excitement of playing the Sharks in front of 70,000 fans Saturday at Levi’s Stadium, goalie Jonathan Quick made that point clear.
“You’re playing for two points,” he said, per L.A. Kings Insider. “I think we’re tied with them right now in the standings. That’s the only thing you’re excited about. It’s going to be a playoff-type game. We know we’re fighting for a spot.”