The LA Kings are coming closer and closer to a return to the postseason, sitting in second in the Pacific Division. The Kings are looking to make the step into the post-season tournament for the first time since they were swept out in the first round by the expansion Golden Knights.
While an incredible series if you love goaltending – the final score of the whole series was 7-3 in favor of Vegas – it was the beginning of the end for the Kings roster and the rebuild started not long after. With Los Angeles working on getting better, let’s look at possible playoff matchups ahead of the start of the tourney.
SCENARIO 1 : Golden rematch against the Knights
2018 – VGK 4 LA 0
This would probably set the Kings fandom alight. It would probably also be a very tightly-contested series. The Kings and the Knights have squared off 24 times in the regular season, with LA taking exactly half of those games in the win column.
All in all, they are very even with Vegas analytically, with Vegas holding a cumulative one-goal advantage over the 24 games. Based on the numbers, the Golden Knights would hold a slight advantage in goals with their 3.08 GF/G but again, the difference is small, with the Kings holding a 2.87 GF/G. The Golden Knights have a stacked roster that gives them a lot of firepower, but a lot of defensive liabilities.
Since the debut of Jack Eichel in Las Vegas, the Knights are 4-8-1, with only three players at 4.5% relative Corsi for or higher on the roster (none of those three named Jack Eichel, by the way). They also lost five of seven between March 3 and March 13. Comparatively, the Kings have five players at or above the same Corsi level. The main problem with that, though, is that one of them is Austin Strand, who has only played five games, while the other two are on IR for the moment.
The Kings get the advantage in this series if they can get key contributors Viktor Arvidsson and Brendan Lemieux back, as well as restock the blueline once the injuries to Doughty, Edler, Anderson, and others work themselves out. Between March 3 and 13, the Kings went 4-1-1, digging into their position in the standings further. The Kings will be a very good team to play in the playoffs and this year is going to be a best to the readiness of the players on the LA roster if they can hold second for home-ice advantage.
PREDICTION: LA 4 VGK 2
SCENARIO 2: Hitting the Oil Slick
PREVIOUS SERIES: 1992 – EDM 4 LA 2
This isn’t exactly an old rivalry anymore, because the Kings and the Oilers have been on different trajectories since about August 4, 1988. Something significant happened that day, but it may elude some people as to what. Regardless, this series would be fairly interesting given the star talent that would be available in the series.
Of course, you would have perennial scorers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl going up against the Kings in a playoff situation. The new-look roster of Los Angeles would be fairly evenly matched with the Oilers. The Hart men have only been in the playoffs twice (if you don’t count the bubble play in the round in 2020) and they have one out of the three series they played. Really, this series would come down to goaltending.
Both teams have ten “Really Bad Starts” per Hockeyreference.com, but the Oilers draw up well in the rest of the goaltending numbers. The final numbers seem to skew toward the Kings, but it’s not a marathon in the playoffs. It would probably be assumed that Jonathan Quick would start in net for the Kings in the playoffs, but his abysmal GSAA (Goals saved above average) could throw a game or two in the cart of the Oilers.
His -5.7 GSAA is three points below that of Miko Koskkinen, the assumed starter for Edmonton. The analytics say that the Kings would win the series over, maybe, 30 games, but there are only seven in a series. Playoff momentum is real, and a couple of bad starts could doom an up-and-coming Los Angeles team.
PREDICTION: LAK 4 EDM 3
SCENARIO 3: Roughing it in the Rockies
PREVIOUS SERIES: 2002 – COL 4 LAK 3
As with Edmonton, the Kings haven’t seen the Avalanche in the playoffs in 20+ years. The Avalanche have won both series they have played against the Kings, coming in successive seasons while winning and defending a Stanley cup title, respectively. Colorado has been a force to be reckoned with this season, their home record of 24-3-3 the most terrifying set of numbers any playoff team could ever hope to see.
They possess eight players on the roster with more than 30 points, five of them over 50. Darcy Kuemper’s .922 save percentage is lights out when it comes to a goalie who can ride the hot streak of the team around him. The Kings are currently 0-1-0 against the Avalanche this season, being trounced in an easy 4-1 victory for Colorado. That game took place in the midst of a six-game 2-4-0 run for the Kings. The Avalanche exposed the weakness of the King’s penalty kill and ran with it, leading from the 9:43 mark of the first period and never letting go.
Those same special teams would be the downfall of the Kings in a series against the Avs, as the Kings could get frustrated and end up a man down more often than they expect to be. With Colorado holding a 23.33% power play effectiveness, you have to give the advantage to Colorado on the special teams. In the playoffs, that can be the way to make or break a series. While LA’s run to the cup featured an astonishingly terrible 12.8% PP conversion, the team carried a 92.1% down a man on their way to the championship. If you can suffocate any resistance against you, you can still find a way to win.
The Avalance have 145 5v5 goals this season, that’s 30 less than all the goals scored by the Kings. Something to think about when the playoffs start.