How long can the Kings keep it rolling anyway?
This is suddenly a burning question, when not too long ago it felt as if the Kings were gasping for air, trying to poke their heads above water to even see the playoff race. After a 5-game win streak, the Kings are once again poised to push themselves into the playoffs late in the season. According to hockeystats.ca, they now have an 86.6% chance to make the playoffs, the fifth-best figure in the West.
The very immediate outlook for the Kings is good. Tonight they'll head into Colorado to take on the Avalanche. The Avs are on a decent run in the standings, but their outlook going forward isn't so hot. Colorado currently boasts the second-worst score-adjusted fenwick figure in the NHL, just one spot ahead of the Buffalo Sabres. Though their recent run of positive results has put them on the outskirts of the playoff battle points-wise, they're still credited with just a 1.8% chance of actually playing post-season hockey.
Last year, the Kings were in the role the Sharks are currently not enjoying: struggling team limping into its first ever outdoor game against an intrastate rival. The game itself was a slog for Kings players and fans alike, and the Kings fell to the Ducks 3-0. I predict that the Kings spoil the Sharks' party in similar fashion.
The game against Detroit won't be easy, but the Kings will get to enjoy the first occurrence of something that will happen often down the stretch: their opponent will be playing the second half of a back-to-back. In fact, the same thing will happen the very next game when the Senators come to Staples Center. Both the Red Wings and Senators will be playing in Anaheim the night before. Unfortunately, following the Ottawa game, the Kings have to play one of their back-to-backs in Anaheim. I predict that it will be the Kings' next loss. All in all, an 8-game win streak isn't too shabby. Unless I'm wrong, then you can screencap this and tweet it to laugh at me. I encourage this.
After the Ottawa game, Kings opponents will still be facing the Kings on back-to-backs an additional 6 times, while the Kings will only have to play 3 back-to-backs of their own. With that said, the Kings will also have to go through 2 separate three-games-in-four-nights stretches.
The toughest piece of schedule remaining will be a 5-game road trip that begins with an east coast swing. Over a span of 4 days, the Kings will have to play the Devils, Rangers, and Islanders. Things don't get a lot easier from there, as the Kings then head to Chicago and Minnesota. Fortunately, the scheduling gods smiled on the Kings a tiny bit here, as both of their opponents will be playing the back-ends of a back-to-back.
Thankfully, the final 6 games of the season will be among the easiest stretches for the Kings all season long. They get to play Edmonton twice and Colorado once, and the highest score-adjusted fenwick of any of their opponents in that stretch is 50.7%. Three of those games are against teams currently trying to flag down a playoff position, so there is a good chance that the Kings will have their fate in their own hands if they are still clawing for position
The generally agreed upon point-total to reach the playoffs is 95. Currently, the Kings need 31 points in their final 26 games to hit that mark. If we say the Kings need to go 15-10-1 to do the trick, then most of the work they need to do will come against bad teams. If they handle their business in the 10 games remaining against teams trailing them in the standings, then they would only need to pick up 5 wins in the other 16 games. Moreover, the Kings are likely to be fancystats-favorites in most of their remaining games. Their only games left against teams with a better score-adjusted fenwick are against the Islanders and Blackhawks; every other team they will face trails them.
The Kings themselves have been playing some outstanding hockey of late. Since February started, they've posted a 59.2% score-adjusted fenwick; that figure paces the entire league (including the Islanders and Blackhawks). The Kings dug themselves a hole, but they've now given themselves ample opportunity to climb back out without help from anyone else.
Attached below is a complete schedule breakdown, click it to enlarge.