(This article was originally published by me as a guest author at the site called “Surly and Scribe”)
The Road (And Home) Ahead 3/21/2012
Here’s a quick summary of the now 6 teams in contention for 3 remaining playoff spots, one of which is the Pacific Division Title, a #3 seed and home ice in at least one round of the playoffs. Immediately below is a picture of the actual games listed by date. Furthest below are some bullet points. The great news is that not only do the Kings have the easiest road opponents (by averaged points percentage), but they also have one of the easiest set of circumstances where back-to back games and travel are concerned.
Since I like to save the best for last, we will cover the Kings’ bullet points after we gloat over our competitors’ difficulties.
The Avalanche, with 8 left have no back-to-back games, but they play the Canucks twice, and also face the Coyotes, Flames, Predators and Sharks, too. They have just one easy game against the Blue Jackets but that’s after 5 days off and toward the end of the season (April 5). Let’s hope they are stale, rusty, out of rhythm, or… (insert your favorite cliche here.)
The Stars, with 9 left have one back-to-back against the Canucks and then the Sharks, both on the road and therefore with travel. Overall, the Stars will play the Sharks twice, and the Canucks twice, and the Flames twice, and then have the joy of ending their season on April 7 against the St. Louis league-leading Blues. Hah!! Screw you, Ott. The Oilers on the road is their only easy game.
The Sharks with 9 left have one back-to-back with travel, facing both the Ducks and then Coyotes on the road. The Ducks, on the road, is their only easy game. They will play the Coyotes twice, the Stars twice, and Kings twice, and the schizo Bruins once in San Jose. Hopefully, the Bruins will be on their game against the Sharks, whom they play tomorrow while we play the Blues. Over the next two weeks, let’s expect the Coyotes and Stars to exact a meaningful physical toll on the Sharks and in so doing grind down their first three rows of teeth.
The Flames, with 8 left have one back-to-back with travel, against the Avalanche at home then they play the Canucks on the road. They will play the Stars twice and Canucks twice, and their easiest game is against the Wild on the road. The Great and Noble Jarome Iginla will carry this team once again, but that poor dude is a longshot to even see the post-season much less use any silver polish in June. Too bad, I love the guy, I love his game. I think he is the number-two perfect human behind Lidstrom.
The Coyotes with 8 left have two back-to-backs; one starts in San Jose and then the next night is at home against the Blues. The other back-to-back is to end their season with both games on the road against Blues and then the Wild. The Coyotes will play the Sharks twice and let me say it again, they also play the Blues twice. Their 3 easiest games are against the Ducks, Blue Jackets and Wild. I only hope they lose every game except the two against the Sharks. [UPDATE: Shane Doan has been suspended for three games: Phoenix will be without their Captain for Colorado, San Jose and St. Louis. Ouch.]
Our beloved L.A. Kings, with 9 left, have just one back-to-back with travel against both the Oilers and then Wild on the road. If you have to do a back-to-back, maybe it won’t be so bad to see the Wild and play a slower-paced defensive style the second night. In Edmo, we must win, for psychological purging as well as the points. Actually, we play the Oilers twice overall, another positive factor. In fact, of their 9 games remaining, one could say the Kings have 3 “easy” games; the two Oiler games and the Wild game. I know, “…it’s never easy,” “…on any Sunday,” etc., etc., but c’mon; would you rather play the Blues, or Canucks twice instead of the Oilers? Maybe the fact that the game against the Oilers in Edmo is followed the very next night against the Wild in Minnesota will provide just enough perceived difficulty to force the Kings to not play down to their opponent.
Tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) home game against the Blues grants the Kings the second night of a back-to-back for the Blues, making what would arguably be the Kings’ toughest remaining game that much less daunting. That’s another break from what could be much more difficult.
Finally, there will be plenty of time to prepare for our games against the Sharks in the crucial home-and-home to end the season. The first Sharks game is at Staples, which will be a nice chance to set the tone of that mini-series, and is played on April 5. In what may be our single most important scheduling advantage, we play April 2 at home against the Oilers, while San Jose plays April 3 on the road against Dallas and will then have to travel to L.A. At that late point in the season, two full days of rest for the Kings at home against one day of rest for the Sharks on the road can be a real difference-maker. After that, the Kings and Sharks have the same travel, of course, until the last game in San Jose.
The ideal would be for the Kings to clinch their own playoff berth, and maybe even the Division Title, before that last game in San Jose. But, even if it is necessary to get points up there in the last game, we are at least equal in the intangibles, and probably ahead. The Kings, for once, are not going to be the victims of geography, and have easily the most conducive schedule, and from that the best chance to make it in. For me, I expect them to aim for the Division Title and if they don’t make that, settle for a playoff spot. I think we should all feel that way, because I don’t think it’s at all unrealistic. And, I am not afraid to be optimistic; my faith is restored, my expectations are renewed, I am emotionally committed and I believe in this team.
Imagination hones the knife-edge of reality; perception dulls it. Think big. Go Kings!