We're at the end of the second "chapter" of the schedule, as we laid it out in the pre-season. Good time to take a look at how the Kings are doing in relation to my non-binding targets.
Overwritten Kings' Schedule Break-Down - Jewels From The Crown
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.)
We got the 8 points from the "must wins" and 8 from the "tough" column. So at the first marker, we're 2 points ahead of target.
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)
Kings got 6 points out of the "must win" games, and 4 points out of the "tough" games, which makes for 10 points where I had targeted 12.
2 points up at the first marker, and we gave it back by the second marker. So we're even, i.e. exactly on target.
I thought the sky was falling. So I guess I can breathe a little easier maybe. However, here's the next chapter in my pre-season point budget:
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)
I think I'll stick with my original assessment. These are huge games.
For a frame of reference, last year, after 21 games, the Kings were 12-7-2, 26 points. This year, 13-8-0, 26 points. Last year, 65 goals-for, 64 goals-against. This year, 62 GF, 53 GA; only slightly worse on offense (surprising, given the Kings' power-play troubles), and much better on defense.
I've got some other head-to-head comparisons to make, but I'm chopping them up into separate posts...