Los Angeles Kings' Keys to Getting Home Ice for First Round of Playoffs
With 10 games left in the 2013 season, the Los Angeles Kings currently find themselves the sole occupants of fourth place in the Western Conference.
They are seven points clear of the drop, and at this point, making the playoffs seems almost assured.
It's a wild game, though, and anything is possible. However, at this point, the Kings can start to focus on the bigger prize: home-ice advantage.
The Anaheim Ducks are a considerable distance in front of the Kings within the Pacific Division, but home-ice advantage is certainly attainable.
What do they have to do?
Key Matchup Victories
These games are massive, especially the two against the San Jose Sharks, who are directly behind the Kings and have been swapping the fourth and fifth position with them for some time now.
While winning the remaining games against teams in the lower half of the conference like Dallas or Colorado is important, these games are more significant in their value—they will be four-point swings rather than your typical two.
It's not just getting the win; it's taking the legs out of the opponent trying to climb over you in the standings.
Victories will be needed against those key conference opponents if the Kings want to stay in the upper half of the top eight.
Continued Strong Goaltending
Whether it's been Jonathan Bernier or Jonathan Quick, the Los Angeles Kings have been getting some very good goaltending of late.
Bernier has allowed two or fewer goals in his last five starts and has gone 4-1. Quick has allowed 13 goals in his last five starts while going 3-1-1.
Quick has played much better down the stretch, despite his numbers being a touch underwhelming. However, Bernier has arguably been the better goaltender this season.
Between the two goaltenders and a defense that has been bolstered with the arrival of Robyn Regehr, the Kings can start to rely more and more on the knowledge that they are getting solid goaltending every night.
If they want to come up with home-ice advantage, they will definitely need all hands on deck defensively.
Offense Leading the Charge
The Kings have been fantastic offensively all season long.
They are seventh overall in combined offense, but they've run a little hot-and-cold at times. As the team nears the final stretch of games, a cold streak needs to be avoided at all costs.
The nice thing about the Kings is that if Jeff Carter or Anze Kopitar aren't scoring, someone is always coming up with a timely goal. Dwight King, Trevor Lewis, Jarret Stoll, Jake Muzzin...someone is always coming up with something.
It's a team game, and though the Kings haven't exactly scored by committee this season—with Mr. Carter carrying the majority of the load—they have found a wide range of scoring threats and timely goals from unlikely places.
Teams are going to be tightening up coming down the stretch. Everyone will know to match up their best defensive pairings against the Carter and Kopitar lines.
This is the time when the depth of the Kings will need to shine through.