As the LA Kings approach the halfway mark of the season, they are in the middle of the playoff race in the west. Currently, they sit three points out of the third spot in the Pacific Division and are one point out of the second wildcard spot, right behind the Edmonton Oilers.
Coming into this season, the belief was that the Pacific was the most non-competitive division in the NHL. The Kings, in particular, were also an afterthought, with many preseason predictions having them finishing 6th or 7th in the division.
Right now, the Kings are fifth in the Pacific and are six points behind the second-place Anaheim Ducks. They also have three games in hand on their cross-town rivals, with the Ducks sitting at 36 games played and the Kings at 33.
It is possible that the Kings could qualify for the playoffs through the wildcard. But with teams like Winnipeg (tied in points with LA and having a game at hand) or Dallas (who have four games at hand on the Kings and are five points behind in the standings), they will likely need to finish top three in the Pacific Division in order to secure their first playoff berth in four seasons.
It looks like the top two spots will end up being Vegas and Calgary. That leaves the Kings, Oilers, and Ducks battling for that coveted third spot. The Ducks and Oilers are definitely within reach. Vancouver is also starting to jump in the standings, and the Sharks are still hanging around, but those teams don’t seem like they will be making a serious push for third place.
As the Oilers and the Ducks have both hit recent skids, the Kings are quietly gathering points and getting closer to the top teams in the Pacific. Over their last 10 games, the Kings are 6-3-1, while the Oilers record sits at an abysmal 2-6-2. The Ducks’ struggles have seen them only winning one game in their last five contests.
The door is wide open for the Kings to seize this opportunity and climb into playoff position in the Pacific Division.
There are also more head-to-head matchups between the Kings/Ducks and Kings/Oilers this season. This will give the Kings plenty of opportunities to gain ground on their rivals for the playoff spot.
Hopefully, by then, though, the Kings will only be looking to pad their lead in the standings and on their way to securing postseason play after a prolonged absence.