With just 11 games left in the regular season, the Los Angeles Kings are in the midst of a tight race to make the playoffs. The Kings are currently sixth in the Western Conference and third in the Pacific Division, which means they have a spot in the playoffs as of right now. However, this could all change in these final games as the Kings have been rising and falling among the rankings throughout the season.
After missing the playoffs last season, the Kings are determined to not have a repeat performance. While the Kings may be in a good position now, they cannot afford to get too comfortable since they have the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks, and Calgary Flames hot on their heels. These final games are crucial for the Kings if they want to solidify their spot in the playoffs. However, the Kings have been plagued with issues regarding injuries and inconsistent play throughout the season.
Center Jeff Carter has recently returned from a 55-game absence after recovering from surgery to repair a lacerated ankle tendon sustained in the game against the Montreal Canadiens on October 18. His return is already seen as a welcome relief as he has scored six goals and tallied two assists since returning to the team on February 24. With everyone healthy, the Kings are in good shape to compete and pull together some much needed wins in order to maintain their standing.
However, inconsistency has been the biggest issue for the Kings throughout the entirety of the season. The Kings started off strong in the beginning of the season, only losing three out of 12 games in October, but as the season has progressed, the Kings have struggled with bringing a level of consistency to their play.
The Kings suffered their worst loss of the season on March 10, losing 7-2, against the St. Louis Blues. However, they shut out the Vancouver Canucks during their next game with a 3-0 win. The Kings have constantly struggled with bouncing between an impressive win one game and a blowout loss the next game. Goaltending issues and scoring droughts from players like Adrian Kempe and Tanner Pearson have not helped the team either.
While generating offense has been a struggle for the team as a whole, Kings’ captain Anze Kopitar has emerged as the team’s most productive player on the ice. He leads the team in both goals and assists and has 80 points. All-Star defenseman Drew Doughty is in second place on the team with 51 points. If the Kings make the playoffs, the team must work to play the full 60 minutes each game and bring more consistency to their play on all sides.
The Western Conference’s playoff race is getting tighter as the end of the regular season approaches. With Nashville having clinched a playoff spot, teams are fighting to stay in the mix and claim the remaining spots. Every game matters, and teams are fighting for those two points each night. The pressure is on, and the Kings do not have much room for error.
While the Kings are clinging to their playoff spot, if they can consistently generate offense and defend their own end, they have the opportunity to move up the rankings as well. The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin April 11, 2018, and if the Los Angeles Kings can hang on through these last 11 games, then they should be in good shape to compete in the postseason.