Daryl Evans made a fantastic point yesterday, in the broadcast before the Flyers game, when he mentioned the Kings should be looking up in the standings at 3rd, and not down at the Wild Card competition.
Focusing on the work of the NHL Scheduling team is a likely way to spark anger and criticism. So let’s do it.
Anecdotally, it seems like the Kings are always kept a game or 4 behind.
All teams go thru concentrated areas of their schedule; usually that ends up just being life as normal on a road trip. Some teams have annual circumstances that make for unavoidable marathon road trips such as the Blackhawks’ “Circus Trip” where soon-to-be-defunct Ringling Brothers took over their arena for two weeks.
Though not as pronounced and lengthy, for the Kings it’s the Grammy Trip. This year, however, a gap in games comes during that usually condensed part of February. The Kings play 4 games in 6 days, starting with back-to back morning games the second of which faces the NHL’s best record so far, followed by 2 games in Florida in 4 days. But then it gets weird…
After the Florida games the Kings come home to play… Nobody for a week. Panthers on the 9th, then Arizona on the 16th. Instead of socking games in, the Kings actually gap further from the Games-Played leaders.
But let’s get back to the start of the thinking here; Edmo, the Pacific Division, and the Kings finishing 3rd or better.
As of now, the Kings are 6 points back of Edmo and 3rd in the Pacific. Not so bad. The Kings have played 2 fewer games than the Oilers at this point. So assume the Kings win 2 of those 4 points from games-in-hand, the Kings can accurately be expected to close to 4 points back when even in games played.
When a team is ahead in the standings, you can do two things to catch up. One is to simply hope they lose more than you do. But real opportunity knocks if you have the chance to play that specific team in the proverbial “4 point game.”
We play Edmo 3 more times in our last 30 games. Head to head games against the team you’re behind are the stuff Playoff Seedings are made of. Let’s say we just go 4 of 6 points, that would make a 2 point gain and projects the Kings to being within 2 points. Anything better than the Kings usual point-getting rate and the 2 teams would be virtually tied.
The 2-game advantage for the Oilers is lost this week, but only temporarily. We are even in GP by Thursdays Florida game, but then we hit that open week at home with no games. By February 16th, the Kings are again at 2 games less played than the EdmOilers. By February 28th we are 1 game back, and both teams are on extended home stands of 8 games for the Oilers and 7 in a row for the Kings.
We get even in Games Played on March 4th. By March 18th we are 1 game behind again. Then comes crunch time.
We play Edmo on the road twice, March 20th and March 28th. By March 31st we are even again in games played with two weeks left including 1 home game against Edmo.
Each team has 5 games in April: the Kings play 4 of 5 at home, the Oil play 2 of 5 at home.
The Kings play at home against Arizona, Edmo, Calgary and Chicago, and then finish on the road at Anaheim. The Oilers play Anaheim at home, then on the road v. the Kings, Sharks and Canucks, then home against the Canucks to finish.
So to say the Kings are a Wild Card team is probably accurate. But to say they don’t control their own destiny is wrong. The schedule sequencing gives the illusion that the Kings are much farther behind than is actually correct.
Of course, the Kings have to win the games in question, and Edmo has to not go on some crazy streak, but 3rd is not just do-able, for me it is actually the advantaged outcome.