The Los Angeles Kings have only made the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, but there’s no doubt about it: the 2014-15 postseason would feel a bit empty without them.
There are a few reasons for this. They are the defending Stanley Cup champions, and it would be somewhat lame for them to not get the chance to defend. It’s on them for not playing a high quality brand of hockey more frequently, and no one should feel bad for the Kings should they miss the cut.
Starting the postseason without the Cup champs in the bracket still takes a little bit of shimmer off the first round though. Unless you’re a fan of the Kings, the intrigue is always “can Team A defeat last year’s winners?” That intriguing storyline is gone if they aren’t there to begin with, victimized by a tough 82-game season just a few months after playing through four rigorous rounds of playoff hockey.
We are learning a lot about this LA team though. This organization’s ability to fight back despite the odds has become somewhat mythical. To the point where they almost seem lackadaisical in the way they approach the regular season. The feeling around the team always seems to be we’ll turn it on when it matters.
Their attitude almost comes across as smug. “Why would we play down to other teams in October when we’ll be able to make up the difference in February?”
Does anyone outside of California really believe that the #Kings have a chance for the Cup? No team wins two Cups in a row anymore.
— Stan Fischler (@StanFischler) March 18, 2015
Six weeks ago it didn’t seem likely that the Kings would be able to find their famed switch in time. They were on the outside of the playoffs while the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets continued to win hockey games. While the Western Conference is still wide open, the Kings have been pulling down points at just about every opportunity lately.
They have points in six of their last 10, which is good but not great. Luckily for them, it’s been good enough to claw back into playoff contention. Not only are they back in the Wild Card race, but they’re hanging onto the third seed in the Pacific Division too.
There’s still plenty of puck left to be played. The wheels could still fall off of Los Angeles, but is it wise to bet against this squad at this point?
We all know what the Kings were able to do in the postseason en route to their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. The San Jose Sharks still can’t shake the ghost of the 3-0 lead they blew against LA, and that was just the first round. The Kings then fought off elimination in the second round, beating the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 and 7 to advance to the Conference Final.
Then all they did was defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in a Game 7, and that’s a team that is no stranger to winning in high pressure situations.
By that point the Kings had won so many big games that the result of the Stanley Cup Final was never really in question. No disrespect to the New York Rangers, but the Kings were cut from different cloth. What’s strange is the roster is by and large unchanged from a year ago, but the Kings haven’t looked like a playoff team for most of 2014-15.
They still could miss. They don’t have much room for error as the season closes. According to Sportsclubstats.com, the worst the Kings could do and still have a 100% chance of making the playoffs is 8-2-3. Not exactly running the table, but it’s close enough. They could go 4-8-1 and still have a 90% shot at getting in, but it doesn’t seem likely that this team will sag that badly now that a Stanley Cup defense is looking realistic.
Are you willing to bet against the Kings after all they’ve been through as a group? From the tough road to the Cup last year to the demotion of Mike Richards to the Slava Voynov situation, this is a team that has handled a ton of adversity over the last few months.
Regardless of how the playoffs race shakes down, it would be strange for the Kings to not be involved with the tournament. It almost seems like a customary right of spring, watching Los Angeles win a playoff series it appears to be out of. They’ll have to get through a season where they appeared to be down for the count first though.