The Los Angeles Kings are likely on the heels of their first-ever Stanley Cup Championship and are about to wrap up a postseason run that may be remembered as one of the most remarkable and dominant in history.
When the playoffs started in April, who could have imagined that the Los Angeles Kings, who rounded out the Western Conference playoff standings and were about to face the President's Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks, would have posted a 15-2 mark after Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final? They are an astonishing 10-0 on the road, and won the first three games of all four series they have played in.
In mid-March, these Kings (as well as their Western Conference Final foe the Phoenix Coyotes) were out of a playoff spot.
I attended a game in March between the Kings and Red Wings in which Los Angeles was already on the outside looking in. They surrendered two goals in the final minute and a half, to not only blow their third lead of the game but to give Detroit the victory in regulation—resulting in zero points for a team who had dominated most of the game.
I remember thinking that it might be the dagger in the heart for a team who already had to deal with so much competition in a deep Western Conference.
This Western Conference race was extremely tight the whole season. There were six teams fighting over three spots (third seed would automatically be won by Phoenix, San Jose or Los Angeles because of a Pacific Division championship); three teams would miss out. Let's take a look at how it finished up (W-L-OL = points)
3. (Pacific Division champion) Phoenix Coyotes: 42-27-13 = 97 points
7. San Jose Sharks: 43-29-10 = 96 points
8. Los Angeles Kings: 40-27-15 = 95 points
9. Calgary Flames: 37-29-16 = 90 points
10. Dallas Stars: 42-35-5 = 89 points
11. Colorado Avalanche: 41-35-6 = 88 points
Hold on a second...
I remember reading all sorts of articles here on Bleacher Report criticizing the NHL points system, and saying that the "loser point" for an overtime loss is ridiculous because teams are not awarded half of a win for a playoff overtime loss. I tend to agree with this because if you think about it, why should a team get awarded for half of a win if they lost the game, even if it had to go five extra minutes?
Now without the "loser point," let's see how this race would have played out. Note that I'm not changing anything that has to do with shootout wins, another area in which I think the points system is flawed. I'm just simply subtracting overtime loss points from total points. I am still using regulation/overtime wins (ROW) as a tiebreaker.
3. San Jose Sharks (Pacific Division champions): 96 points - 10 OT/SO losses = 86 points
7. Phoenix Coyotes: 97 points - 13 OT/SO losses = 84 points (36 ROW)
8. Dallas Stars: 89 points - 5 OT/SO losses = 84 points (35 ROW)
9. Colorado Avalanche: 88 points - 6 OT/SO losses = 82 points
10. Los Angeles Kings: 95 points - 15 OT/SO losses = 80 points
11. Calgary Flames: 90 points - 16 OT/SO losses = 74 points
So, according to those who say that there should be no "loser point" in the regular season, the Los Angeles Kings should not only have missed the playoffs, but should have missed them by four points.
Instead, the Dallas Stars would have taken their place in the playoffs. Would Dallas have duplicated the Kings' success? Who knows, but Dallas would have gone into the playoffs on a five-game losing streak, which is not the way teams want to enter the postseason.
On another note, remember Drew Doughty's buzzer beater and the clock incident? It ended up not making a difference, but it came pretty close to doing so....
I'm definitely not trying to take anything away from the Kings by any means—I'm sorry if it sounds that way. I am extremely happy that this team made the playoffs and put on this kind of show for us hockey fans to watch; this spring has been incredible.
In fact, this whole situation just seems to demonstrate why hockey is so great and why this season has been extra special. The parity in the league has caused a team, who would not have even made the playoffs based on a points system supposedly favored by most fans, to completely dominate throughout the playoffs and put on quite a show.
Obviously nothing is for certain, but even if New Jersey completes an extremely unlikely miracle comeback, the 2012 Los Angeles Kings will be remembered as one of the greatest stories in the history of hockey.