LA Kings: Team has entered must-win territory following Sharks series

LA Kings (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

The LA Kings failed to move up in the West Division standings this week, and the next six games will determine whether they will be sellers at the deadline.

Swept in the two-game set against their neighbors to the north, the LA Kings‘ playoff hopes took a significant hit this week. Five points back of the Blues, who lost 2-0 to the Wild on Thursday night, the Kings would have been one point out of a playoff spot had they won both games against San Jose. Heck, even a series split would have helped.

After coming off a huge win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday, the Kings dominated the game in every facet on Monday, except for the scoreboard. On Wednesday, the Sharks jumped out to a 4-1 lead before the Kings looked desperate, forcing a quick response goal from Adrian Kempe. However, they could only muster two goals against Martin Jones, who looked like Andrei Vasilevskiy in that series.

The Kings are off until next Monday, providing them with some much-needed rest after having the back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday. However, that much time off also means Todd McLellan’s group will have no excuse not to be prepared to face the Golden Knights.

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“This was as a poor rush coverage as I’ve seen from our group of D and our forwards set up some odd-numbered rushes by poor game management,” McLellan admitted following the Kings’ 4-2 loss on Wednesday. “We got impatient. We weren’t scoring. They stung us for it, so [a] tough lesson to learn, but we just didn’t handle the rush at all. We had some really poor performances back there in that area.”

The Kings obviously have some things to clean up before next Monday’s game against Vegas, and perhaps some lineup changes as well. But looking at the next stretch of games, combined with where we are at in the season, the two-game sets against Vegas, San Jose, and Arizona will ultimately determine the fate of the 2021 season.

The Kings will wrap up their series against the Coyotes five days before the NHL’s trade deadline. Arizona is currently one point ahead in the standings, so that series will obviously be critical, assuming the Kings don’t flounder against both Vegas and San Jose.

Should things really go south for the LA Kings, they have a few players that could interest playoff contenders in Andreas Athanasiou, Jonathan Quick, and Dustin Brown. The latter has already been linked as a potential replacement for Anders Lee in New York. Athanasiou was part of a package netting two second-round picks going from Detroit to Edmonton last year.

While more draft capital is always nice to have in your back pocket, the Kings need to start acquiring players who are close to being NHL ready. They have a ton of talent in the prospect pool, arguably the league’s best, but some of that talent needs to see the NHL soon while Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are still productive players.

So, to say the next six games are important for the LA Kings would be putting it mildly. They’ve entered must-win territory.