The Los Angeles Kings are sixth in the Western Conference, and unless something out of the ordinary happens over the next month, they will begin the Stanley Cup playoffs on the road.
Yet, when the playoffs roll around, they will very likely be the team to avoid.
Sorry, (probably) San Jose Sharks.
A 3-2 victory against the Calgary Flames on Monday night gave the Kings their eighth straight win and seventh in a row since returning from the Olympic break. Despite the surge, the Kings are almost guaranteed to finish third in the Pacific Division and face the Sharks in the conference quarterfinals; the Sharks hold a seven-point lead on the Kings and trail the first-place Anaheim Ducks by four points.
The door is open for the Sharks to catch the Ducks, but Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles have been one-two-three in the Pacific since Dec. 24.
The Sharks and Kings went seven games in the conference semifinals in 2013 before Los Angeles won Game 7. With the way the Kings are playing in 2014, the Sharks might have to consider themselves lucky if the series goes the distance again.
The 2013-14 edition of the Kings is Corsi'ing and Fenwick'ing the rest of the NHL into the ground, according to ExtraSkater.com. They lead the league in both Corsi and Fenwick differential per 60 minutes—yet for the longest time, that puck-possession dominance wasn't translating into consistent victories. Before this hot streak, the Kings were a very respectable 30-22-6 but had dropped nine of 10 (1-8-1) and were averaging 1.3 goals per game despite winning the possession battle.
|Los Angeles Kings, pre- and post-Olympic break|
|Situation||Record||Goals For||Goals Against||Corsi-for % close|
With a PDO at 991 and climbing, the Kings are helping the case that underlying numbers can show a streak like this is only a matter of time. The Kings were outchancing teams night in and night out, and after a long stretch of bad luck, the math shows the numbers are beginning to even themselves out.
But there's another factor at play—the rest provided by the Olympic break.
The 2010 Detroit Red Wings have a lot in common with the 2014 Kings.
That Red Wings team was 28-21-12 but had lost 11 of 15 (4-5-6) heading into the break. They sent eight players to the Vancouver Olympics, although only one made it as far as the bronze-medal game. In the two previous seasons, the Red Wings reached the Stanley Cup Final, so a three-week break was just what the doctor ordered.
This season's Kings club sent six players to Sochi, although four made it to medal games. The Kings went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 and the conference finals in 2013, making them the most overworked team the previous two seasons, something the Red Wings could boast in 2010.
The Red Wings returned from the break and finished the 2010 season on a 16-3-2 run; the Kings have yet to taste defeat in seven games since the season resumed.
Good news for Sharks fans who may be fearing a collision course with the Kings—the 2010 Red Wings were the hottest team entering the playoffs but were knocked off in the second round in five games by the Sharks.
The bad news is the differences between the 2010 Wings and 2014 Kings seem to favor the modern team.
Detroit didn't make a notable move at the trade deadline; in fact, general manager Ken Holland dealt away Ville Leino, who was a big piece in the run to the Stanley Cup Final by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Red Wings were also a much older team, as the roster boasted 12 players who were at least 30 years old, six of whom led the team in games played that season.
Los Angeles landed five-time 30-goal scorer Marian Gaborik at the 2014 trade deadline, shipping draft picks and Matt Frattin to Columbus to make the team deeper up front. The Kings have six players who are 30 or older, but only two are north of 32.
While the Red Wings ran into a three-year wall of exhaustion in 2010, the Kings looked poised to run right through it in 2014.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick, 28, is 5-0 with a .964 save percentage since returning from Sochi. Jeff Carter, 29, has four goals in seven games. Slava Voynov, 24, has a 58.1 Corsi percentage in seven games. As a team, the Kings have a Corsi percentage of 54.1 in five-on-five close situations the past seven games.
Seventeen players remain from that 2012 championship team, with Dustin Penner and Rob Scuderi representing the biggest departures from the roster.
Everything is coming together for the Kings. They are young, healthy, rested and the math appears to be on their side heading into the postseason.
That's the type of equation stat people and old-school thinkers alike should be able to understand.
Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveLozo.
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