Playoff watch: Kings climb the standings with two thirds of the season left

Harry How

Three regulation wins can cause a big swing in a short season. Here's where the Kings stand after 16 games.

Showing how much can change in a single week, three regulation wins have improved Los Angeles' playoff odds considerably.

Last Monday, we talked about what the Kings needed to do to make the playoffs. At that time, Sports Club Stats listed their chances at 29.4%. They've now improved to 67.9%, or 5th-best in the Western Conference. That's currently better than San Jose, Phoenix, and Nashville.

As you can see from Quisp's excellent Points-Blown standings, that's because they are 5th in points percentage (.563%), though currently only 10th in points.

Here are some more thoughts on the playoff race:

  • The current standings have a logjam from 6th-9th. All those teams have one more point than the Kings (19), but the Kings have at least one game in hand on all of them.
  • Last week, I put six teams in the immediate must-beat group: Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota, Phoenix, Dallas, and Calgary. Regulation wins against three of them helped LA a good deal.
  • In terms of which teams the Kings can still pass in the standings, add Nashville, San Jose, and Detroit to that bunch.
  • The Kings already have one more regulation win than Nashville and San Jose. More, please.
  • The Kings have a positive goal differential for the first time (+1, whee!)
  • To reach my target of at least 57 points, the Kings need to go 17-10-5 (.609 W%).

To sum up, the Kings have now played one third of the season, and sit just outside a playoff spot with games in hand. They remain the top puck possession team in the NHL. They are still controlling the play and suppressing shots against. Better scoring, and much better goaltending from the competition between Quick and Bernier, have made all the difference.

This was a solid week of progress. However, their fortunes can change for the worse just as quickly if they don't keep winning. (I always thought coaches beat 'One game at a time' cliches to death because they're useful.)

The week ahead

Detroit is a must-win game in the race for a playoff spot. Even though they lost in regulation last time out, they controlled the play and generated many quality chances. I think they'll be able to overwhelm Howard if they can manage that again.

Anaheim and Vancouver are probably locks for playoff spots, so we can't think of those dates as "4-point games" -- but hey, aren't they the most fun to beat anyway?

What record do you think the Kings will have next week?

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*Note: Fenwick tracks shots that get though the defense at even strength. We use shots to estimate a team's offensive zone time.

Fenwick Close tracks what percentage of those shots a team gets when the score is within two goals, since teams change their strategies when protecting a big lead or trying to make a big comeback. This stat is a better predictor of a team's future success than previous win-loss records.

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