The Royal Three comes around every week and will examine three “Things to Watch” in the coming week of LA Kings hockey. Tune in each week and find out what you can expect to hear from the City of Angels.
1. 3 of 10 Versus the Sharks
It’s been widely publicized that the Kings and the Sharks may be competing with one another for a single playoff spot. With 3 of their final 10 games coming against the Sharks, the Kings have the ability to put some serious distance on their stiffest competition and secure that elusive playoff birth. Darryl Sutter, for one, seemed pretty excited for the upcoming match-up when he spoke to Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider:
SUTTER: “No, not really. Everybody does — we all do — our own little speculations in the summer. It proves, always, that most of them are wrong. … It’s surprising, in your division, that you have three of 10 against one team. I wonder if anybody else has that, three out of 10? Jersey and the Islanders did three in a week, two weeks ago. It was pretty neat.”
According to Sports Club Stats, a win tonight would give the Kings a 71.9% chance of making the playoffs, and would drop the Sharks down to 43.2%. Alternatively, a win from the Sharks would put the Kings at 43.3%, effectively erasing any ground the Kings have made up with their current four game winning steak.
So the games only continue to grow in importance. Unfortunately, putting together their current four game winning streak has only allowed the Kings to keep pace with the rest of their conference, but a win tonight would catapult them to 1st in their division and 3rd in their conference, a position that many pundits had predicted they would finish, coming into the season.
The Sharks are always a difficult team to play against, but they have been floundering lately and if the Kings can put together a full 60-minute effort they will garner an essential two points.
2. Bring Your Best at Home
The Kings will face San Jose, St. Louis, and Boston this week, with all three games coming at home. It’s not exactly an easy lineup but 5 of their 7 games following this homestand will come on the road, which is no walk in the park either.
The Kings have been respectable both on the road (16-12-8) and at home (19-13-4) this season, but it will be important for them to make the most of their remaining home games, it will only get tougher to win on the road in the coming weeks. As teams in closer to 82 games, desperation will set in and games will be even tougher to put away.
Luckily, only one of the next 3 games will be against a divisional rival, so losses won’t be quite as destructive, but the Kings finally have the opportunity to put some distance on the teams around them. It would be a shame for them to miss on that opportunity yet again.
3. Let’s Keep the Scoring Coming
The Kings have been on a tear in the offensive zone of late. Their current four-game winning streak has come largely as a result of timely scoring, and for the first time this season the fate of the game isn’t solely on the shoulders of Jonathan Quick.
The acquisition of Jeff Carter has brought with it a flood of production and as Darryl Sutter told Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider, Carter has brought with him a “trickle down” effect that has allowed players to be slotted into more appropriate roles. As evidenced by the box scores, scoring has been more plentiful and has come from a variety of sources, something the Kings have been searching for all season. The powerplay has improved, the defense is contributing, and LA looks like the Pacific Division champs everyone predicted they may be.
The Kings have looked unstoppable when they manage to score this season, so look for them to try and take advantage of a struggling Antti Niemi tonight and build a lead early. This is a pivotal point in the season and an optimistic fan might say the Kings are putting things together at the right time. The fate of their season will be determined in the next few games and hopefully it will be fun to watch.