LA Kings: There is risk in going streaking to make the playoffs

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /

The story of the LA Kings season so far has been one of the streaks – both good and bad. While exciting, it can be a dangerous way to get to the playoffs.

Ray Stevens had a hit song in 1974 called “The Streak,” which was a humorous tale about, well, let’s just put it this way – it wasn’t about wins and losses. One of the lyrics in the song went, “if there’s an audience to be found, he’ll be streakin’ around, invitin’ public critique.” While I’m sure Mr. Stevens was not referring to the standings, this line applies to sports streaks as well.

Take the LA Kings, for example. Since the middle of January, they have been either on a winning streak or a losing streak of varying lengths. The audience has certainly been found (you’re reading this right?), and nothing invites public critique quite like a streak.

When the Kings were on their recent six-game winning streak, visions of the playoffs could be seen throughout the fan base and media alike. Losing streaks, like the one the team is mired in now, brings about a lot of eye-rolling, and “here we go again” can be heard in living rooms and studios across Los Angeles and beyond.

With all of this said, why are streaks in the NHL dangerous? Losing streaks are especially dangerous in any season but in a shortened, intra-divisional play only set up for this season, they can be downright deadly. Every game is a potential four-point game, and most teams are playing their opponents at least twice before moving on to the next one. Compare to a normal season where about half of the LA Kings would be played outside of their division, it’s easy to see why as this season goes on, each regular-season game starts to feel more and more like a playoff game.

So with the dangers of a losing streak being very obvious, the best antidote to it is a winning streak. The LA Kings found this out first hand, as from January 28th – February 7th, they were floundering in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Hopes of making the playoffs were fading as, of course, this losing streak meant that not only were the Kings not gaining points, but they were losing ground in the race to each of their opponents during that streak.

Then, the switch flipped.

On February 11th, in a game at the Staples Center, the LA Kings played what could arguably be their best game of the season so far in a 6-2 drubbing of the San Jose Sharks. No one knew it at the time, but this would springboard the team to five more wins in a row – many of them in convincing fashion. Just as a losing streak sent them plummeting down the standings, by the time the winning streak came to an end, the Kings were sitting in a playoff spot and within striking distance of first place.

Of course, anyone would prefer their team be on a winning streak. The confidence built and trip up the standings is just flat-out fun! Believe it or not, there was one minor drawback to being on a winning streak. In the LA Kings case, the winning streak might have prevented Rasmus Kupari from seeing playing time when he was called up to the taxi squad in the wake of the Jaret Anderson-Dolan injury.

With the team on the winning streak at the time, it’s understandable as to why Coach Todd McLellan would be hesitant to insert him in the lineup over Mike Amadio or Blake Lizotte – as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” With that said, it is inexplicable why Kupari didn’t get into any games after the win streak ended on February 26th – certainly a missed opportunity.

Even still, I think just about everybody would take a winning streak over the debut of a prospect. With the team currently on a three-game losing streak, the LA Kings will need another winning streak to make up the ground in the standings they have recently lost. While exciting, depending on streaks over consistent play to get to the playoffs is a risky path to travel. This Kings team has the tools to make the playoffs, now let’s see how they choose to make their push.