With the NHL playoffs three weeks away, the Kings have established themselves as one of the best teams in the Western Conference, if not the league. On Sunday at the Crypto.com Arena in St. A 7-6 victory over the St. Louis Blues extended their streak to a franchise-record 12 games (10-0-2).
Since the All-Star break, the Kings are 15-2-3 and are in contention for the Pacific Division title and first place in the West. Entering play on Tuesday, they were tied for sixth in the NHL with 96 points.
The Royals’ second straight postseason berth (43-20-10) is a virtual lock. The only lock on the South’s other team, the Ducks, is that they will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season. Anaheim is 23-41-10 and 29th out of 32 teams in points.
Can the Kings seriously contend for the Stanley Cup? And when will the Ducks be back in the playoffs? Times columnist and Hockey Hall of Famer Helene Elliott, along with Times hockey editor Hans Tesselaar (former Kings season seat) and Times staffers Curtis Zupke (former beat writer for both teams) and Jim Barrero (current Kings season seat) and Jim Barrero. headline) discussed these issues and more.
What expectations should the Kings have going into this postseason?
Elliott: They need to go at least two rounds deep to have a successful season. The Kings are doing well, defending well, getting production from their power play, and getting balanced scoring. They gave up a franchise icon in Jonathan Quick and a first-round pick for Joonas Korpisalo and Vladislav Gavrikov, both of whom can walk as unrestricted free agents. Leaving the playoffs early and then facing the possibility of losing both players without compensation would be a huge step back. General Manager Rob Blake went home knowing there is no top team in the West to fear. It was the right call, but there is no guarantee that it will succeed.
Zupke: The second round would be the first playoff win since at least 2014. In my opinion, it’s about how they will fare against Colorado, Dallas or Vegas. , because that’s what they’ll have to go through in the end.
Barrero: At the very least, the Royals must advance one round and that can also be considered a disappointment. But with the West so wide open and the Kings playing their best hockey lately, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals wouldn’t be unreasonable. I think realistically I would be happy in the middle of those two.
Tesselaar: A season ago, the goal was to make the postseason – after losing three years in a row. Expectations are higher this season and their level of play should be considered. The goal should be to reach at least the Western Conference finals.
Kings center Rasmus Kupari, left, and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo are all smiles after Saturday’s win over the Winnipeg Jets at Crypto.com Arena.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)
At this point it is impossible to say who the Royals will play in the first round. But who would they best join? And who would be the most shunned team in the West?
Elliott: They’ve beaten Edmonton twice this season, but be careful rooting for a game with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, because you might get more than you can handle. They are 0-1-2 against Seattle, including a 9-8 overtime loss, and they don’t want to get caught in games like this. Colorado is 2-0-0 and Winnipeg is 1-1. Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has good playoff numbers (2.46 goals-against average, .921 save percentage in 35 postseason games), so that could be a problem for the Kings.
Barrero: I actually feel good about any team the Kings would play in the first round, as it probably takes Vegas out of the equation as the teams battle for the top seed in the Pacific. The Royals defense holds them in most games so I don’t see a “bad” game. Is it crazy to say it could be Seattle? The Kraken have won all three games this season, but those were early. Let’s review after their April Fool’s Day game in Seattle. Finally, if the Kings finish first in the Pacific, I don’t think I’ll be too fond of being matched up with Colorado if the Avs fall to a wild card spot. Not likely, but you never know.
Tesselaar: Colorado is the reigning Stanley Cup champion, so a matchup with the Avalanche would be the toughest test possible. What’s really needed is a Kings-Vegas series with Jonathan Quick in goal for the Golden Knights. Just imagine the story lines.
The Kings traded Quick on March 1st and since acquiring Korpisalo and Gavrikov, they haven’t lost in regulation. It’s too easy to say the only reason they’ve played so well this month, but what has the trade done to the Kings?
Elliott: He’s given them new life in the form of a bigger defense, a better balance between left and right shooters, and a calm and reliable goalie. They are still not great defensively but Gavrikov gives them a physical presence and a good instinct to go forward. The players were really shocked that Blake traded Quick – and Drew Doughty has made it clear he didn’t like it – but they realize how much Gavrikov and Korpisalo can contribute to the team moving forward and taking a big step.
Zupke: Gavrikov probably wasn’t part of that trade. He’s what they needed on the blue line: a big, rugged, left-shooting defender who can play a safe, simple game. But I think what’s really going on with the Kings is that their lineup fits perfectly right now: they have a balanced, back-and-forth offense (Trevor Moore-Phillip Danault-Viktor Arvidsson), a 20-goal scorer. third line (Gabriel Vilardi). Everyone knows their role, which is the hallmark of a successful playoff team.
Barrero: Once the initial shock of the trade subsided, I think it was a move that showed the players’ belief in what this team could be here and now. Take away the emotion, and it was a great move because it consolidated two very important areas. The Kings have the NHL’s best goals-against average since the trade and have allowed more than two goals in regulation and overtime this month alone (11 games). Both of their losses have been in shootouts. When you watch Gavrikov, he does a lot of things that won’t show up in a box score or basic stats. It’s clear that the new players have fit in perfectly and strengthened the already strong chemistry.
Tesselaar: Quick’s place in Kings history is secure. The trade could help the franchise make even more history.
Ducks goaltender John Gibson makes a save against the Carolina Hurricanes on February 25th.
(Karl B DeBlake/Associated Press)
The Ducks host the Kings on April 13 in a game that will cap off another disappointing season for Anaheim. What must the Ducks do to make themselves relevant moving forward?
Elliott: Where to start. … Clean out all the older players and give the reins to Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras, Lukas Dostal, Mason McTavish and the deep stack of options they’ve designed and/or developed. They also need a new coach. GM Pat Verbeek inherited coach Dallas Eakins and knew there was no hope the team would contend, so Verbeek hoped Eakins could at least hold down the fort and help develop the kids. Time for a new coach who can set and meet higher standards. They also have to hope to win the draft lottery.
Zupke: Defense has to be a big part. They are conceding a league-worst 4.04 goals per game and it often looks bad. Obviously, Pat Verbeek’s offseason will be important with the draft and free agency, but it has a lot to do with building an identity. Who will be theirs, say Phillip Danault?
Barrero: I’m a little surprised the Ducks weren’t better this season, but maybe Terry and Zegras are asking too much at this stage. Rob Blake and the Kings have been criticized in recent seasons for being too slow to give their kids a shot. But maybe the ducks are a case study of what happens when you do it too soon. In their case, perhaps it will be out of necessity. That said, until they establish three solid defensive pairings, they’re not going anywhere. John Gibson can only do so much. And losing defender Jamie Drysdale in October certainly didn’t help. The Ducks’ minus-112 goal differential is the worst in the NHL.
The Boston Bruins may set the NHL record for wins and points in a season. They are absolute favorites to win the cup. Can anyone beat them four times in a row?
Elliott: Probably not in the early rounds. By the time the conference finals and cup finals arrive, every team has a few bumps and bruises. If the Bruins can get through a few scrapes and bruises, they can win it all.
Zupke: Short answer? no But they will be under enormous pressure. I remember when the Ducks were going to the playoffs in 2007, and the big question was: Can you imagine if they missed that first playoff? It’s more than how they handle adversity. And can we go to that Boston-Toronto series?
Barrero: Honestly, I don’t see anyone winning, although the Bruins have shown some weaknesses in recent weeks. But after losing three of four, they’ve since won seven in a row, so perhaps it’s just a natural blip in a grueling season as the postseason approaches. Frankly, if Boston falls short and doesn’t win the Cup, it will be a total failure after the bar set. But hockey can be a rare sport, with Presidents Trophy winners becoming more frequent over the years.
Tesselaar: As Jim points out, winning the Presidents’ Trophy doesn’t guarantee anything expected of home ice in every series. The 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks are the Cup-winning Presidents’ Trophy winners. Still, it’s hard to see a team with only 11 losses in regulation dropping four of seven in a series.
Kings forward Adrian Kempe celebrates after scoring against the Calgary Flames on March 20.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)
It’s the middle of June. What are the Kings doing at that moment? And what day is – wink, wink – the parade?
Zupke: I’m done covering parades! The Metro section will have to enter. Again, it comes down to whether they have a horse (ahem, goalie) to throw in, say, Colorado or Dallas. I’m not completely sold, but they’re playing as well as any team right now.
Barrero: We’ve seen what adding a dynamic player and scorer like Kevin Fiala can do, but perhaps adding a similar player would be at the top of the wish list. Oh, and re-signing Gravrikov and Korpisalo. I’m already sold and I look forward to seeing the opportunity this team has in the next few seasons and making the noise to want to be here. Finally, make sure the parade is on a Monday or Tuesday so you can attend on one of the days off.
Elliott: Are you starting the Stanley Cup parade in your backyard, Hans?
Tesselaar: I’d better gas up the lawnmower just in case.