Heading down the stretch in the regular season, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves in sixth place in the Western Conference, with only nine games remaining.
They are five points away from moving up into fifth place, and do not appear to have much of a chance to move much higher than that. Many people look at being down as one of the top three seeds a bad thing, but it does not appear to be so for the Kings.
In just about any major sport, it appears that the team that gets hot down the stretch appears to win the championship more often than the team that dominates the entire regular season.
After losing nine out of ten games from Jan. 18 to Feb. 3, the Kings have won 14 of their last 17 games. Those three losses came as a losing streak, so they are also on a four-game winning streak. They have outscored opponents by 20 in those games.
There are a lot of similarities for between this team and the 2012 Stanley Cup Championship team. That team was an eight seed and had to get past three teams who had an excellent regular season to get to the finals. They were led by stingy defense and great goal tending.
They have only given up four goals in a game twice in the last fifteen games. Jonathan Quick appears to be a new man since the Olympic Break and always steps up play when the playoffs come around.
The offense is finally clicking and has not been shutout since Feb. 1. The championship team was a team that did not dazzle with offense, but had an aggressive forecheck and created scoring opportunities with their defense. This team appears to be more than capable of that.
If the season ended today, the Kings would face off with the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. The Ducks have scored the third most goals in the NHL but have not shown to be a great defensive team. Nor are they physical, so the Kings should be able to out grit them and win with their style of play that is made for playoff hockey. The Kings have given up the second least goals in the league.
If all goes as it should, that would mean that the Kings would be matched up with the top seeded St. Louis Blues in the second round. The Blues have looked great and play a similar style to the Kings, but the Kings have knocked them out of the playoffs each of the last two years. Their styles are very similar but the Kings have more playoff experience and have gotten the best of previous matchups, so they appear to have the advantage.
The second seed San Jose Sharks would be another team that the Kings would potentially face in the playoffs. They are another team that the Kings have had success again. The bitter rivalry between the two would ensure a gritty, hard-hitting series. The Kings knocked out the Sharks last year, and appeared to stick to their game better with all of the hits going on.
The biggest threat for the Kings in the Western Conference is the Chicago Blackhawks. They are a well-oiled, offensive machine and they can play physical. They are a team that does not seem to be phased when a team like the Kings plays physical with them. The Kings’ offense would be absolutely crucial in this series, as the Blackhawks have shown that their only inconsistency is defense.
The Kings appear to be in a good spot to make a run at the title again with their defense playing the way it has been. They are a team that thrives in the underdog role. If their offense can pick it up just a little bit, they should be able to make a run at a second Stanley Cup in three years.