This is a self-indulgent, ridiculous exercise in micro-management, and it could be rendered moot at any point by unforeseen plot twists, including the fairly high likelihood that teams will not be as good or bad as I am assuming they're going to be. At which point I'll just revise my opinion and pretend I told you so.
We're breaking down the season into manageable chunks, with corresponding point targets. The ultimate goal is 100 points. Anything less than that, and you increase the danger of slipping out of the playoffs; more than that is gravy.
Games 1-11 - October
@VAN @CGY ATL VAN CAR @PHX @COL @MIN @CHI @DAL NJD
Seven out of the first eleven on the road. I think that's great. Let those other teams get nervous in front of their home fans. And I love playing Vancouver twice right up front, a nice post-script to last April. Either we win and feel good, or we don't and we know what we have to do to get better.
I would have ended this section after ten games, but the 11th game is at home against New Jersey. The Devils will be playing their fourth game of a six game road trip, with their 20 man roster, and their creaky old bones, in the wrong time-zone, having played the night before in Anaheim.
(I. Can't. Wait.)
Kings have four games against elite teams (VAN, VAN, CHI, NJD). Three back-to-back pairs.
In general, we need 13.5 (round up to 14) points out of any 11 games, in order to be on pace for 100 points. If it's a 10 game set, we need 12 points.
Must win: CGY, ATL, CAR, MIN, DAL. (I want 8 points out of these games.)
Tough: VAN, VAN, PHX, COL, CHI, NJD. (I'll take 6 from these games.)
Games 12-21 - four day breaks suck
TBL NSH DAL NYI @SJS CBJ @BUF @BOS @OTT @MTL
After four days "rest" (I hate rest), the Kings will try not to replicate their lull after last December's absurdly long break (what was that, seven days? It was terrible, whatever it was). The Kings have six games in California, five at home and a quick trip up to San Jose; then they hit the road for four games back East. The home games are especially dangerous; playing at home (nerves, etc.) against a a bunch of teams everyone will say we should beat, mostly bottom-feeders looking to be ex-bottom-feeders: TBL, DAL, NYI, CBJ. Throw in NSH and @SJS, and I am already chewing my fingernails.
Then back out on the road: @BUF, @BOS, @MTL, @OTT, leading up to Thanksgiving.
The way the Kings usually play this is, hey, let's lose to the mediocre teams at home and then play like cup contenders on the road. Please don't do that.
Must win: TBL, DAL, NYI, CBJ, MTL (target: 7 points)
Tough: NSH, SJS, BUF, BOS, OTT (target: 5 points)
Games 22-32 - ten huge in-conference games (and one FLA)
CHI, @ANA FLA DET CGY MIN @DET @STL @NSH @CHI @COL
Five games in SoCal (CHI, @ANA, FLA, DET, CGY, MIN) followed by five in the sort-of mid-West (@DET, @STL, @NSH, @CHI, @COL). I don't know about Florida, but the rest of these games are huge. Two against CHI, two against DET, and six games against our likely competition in the traditional 3-to-10 seed playoff log-jam (ANA, CGY, MIN, STL, NSH, COL).
One back-to-back game on the road (@NSH/@CHI).
And another dangerous lay-off (four days to atrophy at the beach) in the middle of the home-stand.
Must win: ANA, FLA, CGY, MIN (target: 6 points)
Tough: CHI, DET, DET, STL, NSH, CHI, COL (target: 8 points)
Games 33-41 - leading up to the halfway point
EDM ANA @SJS @PHX PHI SJS CHI NSH CBJ
When the Kings return from their five-game road-trip right before Christmas, they commence a giant block of 18 games where they play 13 at Staples and a paltry 5 road games, never venturing farther from home than St. Louis (SJS, PHX, DAL, STL, PHX). This takes them through all of January. The first nine games take us to the exact mid-point of the season.
Nine in-conference games plus the Flyers. Two quick-flight road-games, the rest at home. The middle of that run (@SJS @PHX PHI SJS CHI NSH) is a little playoff series all its own.
Now it's the beginning of January The narrative of the season is well in motion; you know who the heroes and goats are, you know what your needs are, you know who's hurt and who's about to return, and the trade-deadline is in sight. And the teams that are on the bubble are starting to talk about what they have to do to get back into the playoff mix. In that context, I think this string of games (especially PHI SJS CHI NSH CBJ all at home) is huge.
Must win: EDM, ANA, CBJ. (target: 5 points)
Tough: SJS, PHX, PHI, SJS, CHI, NSH. (target: 7 points)
If we hit all our targets, at the mid-point we would have 52 points. Last year at this point the Kings were 23-15-3, 49 points, 8th place.
TOR STL EDM @DAL @STL PHX @PHX BOS SJS
A pair of games against STL and PHX. One back-to-back pair (@DAL/@STL). Every one of these teams will be thinking playoffs at this point (even Toronto and Edmonton, I say), so it would be a good idea not to let our guard down.
Must win: TOR, EDM, DAL (target: 6 points)
Tough: everyone else (target: 6 points)
Games 51-60 - February is a Ginormous Road-Trip (10 games / 23 days)
After about five weeks hanging more-or-less around SoCal, the Kings pack up and hit the road for more than three weeks. It's a weird trip -- a Crosby-Ovechkin-Pronger sandwich with thick, mediocre bread.
bread: @MIN @EDM @CGY
meat: @PIT @WAS @PHI
more bread: @CBJ @NYR @NYI @ANA
Also, the second to last game (NYI) is the last Eastern Conference opponent the Kings face. The last 23 games are all in-conference.
One other thing: two games after the Kings get back from this trip is the trade deadline (tentatively 2/27/11). So it's open auditions for everyone. Fun and stress for all.
If we get ten points out of these ten road games, I'll call it a victory. That would put us at 74 points with 22 games left. Last year after 60: 36-20-4, 76 points, 4th place.
MIN COL DET PHX VAN DAL @DET @CBJ @DAL @NSH
Six at home, four on the road, no back-to-backs (actually, that's not true: the MIN game is the second of a back-to-back; the last one of the season). Two vs. DET, two vs. DAL. At this point every opponent is either a playoff team, someone we're battling for a playoff spot, or someone who's angry they're out of the playoffs already.
After the COL game is the (tentative) trade deadline. So the DET game will be the first one where the teams get to play with their new toys.
All in-conference games, nothing is easy. If the Kings are on pace, everyone will be gunning for them. Even the bad teams are good because they are loose and full of hate. Must get 12-14 points from these games. Call it 12.
That puts us at 86 points, with 12 games to go.
Games 71-82 - the last twelve
STL ANA CGY SJS COL @EDM @VAN DAL @SJS PHX @ANA ANA
All I can say is the Kings better not need points by the time they get to the last six games, because VAN, DAL, SJS, PHX, ANA, ANA could be deadly if they are any version of must-win. Eight points out of the first six games will put them at 94 with six games left. I will breathe easy then.
7 of 12 gets us to 100 points.
That wasn't so hard. Now all we have to do is play the games.