The LA Kings still have slim playoff chances. They haven’t been mathematically eliminated – yet. However, it’s clear that they (and probably the Ducks, slated just ahead of them in the standings with 2 more points) will not make the playoffs this year. I was surprised by how many people said that last night’s game was “it,” meaning the end of the playoff hopes for the Kings. I understand wanting your team to do well. I definitely wanted the Kings to make the playoffs. I really enjoyed seeing the players happy and in the race for the playoffs, blasting Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the locker room. Most of the Kings’ current roster had never been in a position where it was possible (if all the stars aligned) for them to make it to the playoffs until this season. They’re young and the Kings have not been good since most of them joined the NHL. The excitement of the playoff hunt didn’t change the fact that the problem the Kings faced was not the points in the standings, but all the teams between them and the 8th and final playoff spot in the western conference. Last night at the game, someone mentioned that all they had to do was change the number of points they had to get into the playoffs. However, that’s not a realistic view of the situation. In order to advance, a team needs to win and have other teams lose. Since the Kings face east coast teams (Boston and Pittsburgh) in the beginning of their road trip that starts Thursday), they can only control their result. They have no way of keeping teams they’re competing against from getting points unless they’re playing them at the time.
Some fans may still believe the Kings have a shot at the playoffs this season, but their long shot just got more unlikely when they lost a four point game (as Terry Murray always calls the division games, but last night’s was more of a four point game than a game against the Coyotes this season) last night against the then 9th place Nashville Predators (last night’s game moved them into 7th place). The Kings will most likely finish where I expected them to finish (not in the playoffs, but not far from it). They’re definitely outside looking in this year, but at least they can see the playoffs in their future. Last year at this time, the Kings’ locker room was one of the most depressing places one can imagine. Now, the Kings see what they need to do to improve and realize that they are capable of making the playoffs… just not this year.
Unfortunately for NHL fans in southern California, the only hockey team in the area making the playoffs this year might just be the Ontario Reign. In good news, the arena is beautiful, prices are lower, and parking is free. The down side, of course, is that all the NHL playoffs may have to be on TV or require travel for those who live in southern California. There is the possibility that the not-so-distant future will have both the Kings and the Ducks in the playoffs, though. The future looks bright for hockey fans in the LA/Orange County area.