by Dan Adkisson
After looking at the numbers and schedule, it’s quite remarkable that the Los Angeles Kings sat second in the Pacific Division after 19 games played. The mid-November point, five weeks after LA commenced play, represented the start of a slight reprieve following a particularly grueling start to the season.
While the season to this point hasn’t been without fault, it has been impressive for Todd McLellan’s rebuilding team on the upswing. The biggest move of the offseason looks to be paying off, and then some, and the Kings are in a very good place to kick on and capitalize on a relatively breezy December slate of games.
A chance to capitalize in December
December is looking very, very good for the Kings and a perfect opportunity to string together some wins and garner some confidence against many bottom-feeders. There is still doubt as to LA’s credentials, though, with the 11-7-1 team at 6/1 in the NHL odds to win the division that they’re second in at the time.
It’s a fair reflection of the .605 win percentage and the anticipated surge of the likes of Calgary and Edmonton, but LA can certainly better their fourth-place standing in the odds in December. Helping matters are that there are only two tired games, and there are a couple of three and four-day breaks between big games.
In December, the Kings will face three teams with exactly .500 win percentages, and seven teams with sub-.500 win percentages, and only five teams in division playoff places, at the time, the Kings were 19 games into the campaign. Boston is, by far, the most daunting, but it’s a 66 per cent schedule of losing teams.
A decent start in a stronger schedule
An 11-7-1 record after 19 games with a .605 win percentage might not look too impressive, especially as it was good for 12th in the NHL. However, it’s not particularly revealing of LA’s surprisingly strong start to the campaign, which has featured a tight schedule and clashes with Stanley Cup frontrunners.
LAKI claims that the Kings have had one of the most aggressive early schedules in the NHL, and it’s very difficult to argue with this point. At the 19-game mark, the Kings tied the Sharks for games played, and yet, San Jose commenced play exactly one week before LA in the Global Series, losing twice in the Czech Republic.
Furthermore, within this harsh opening stanza, the Kings have faced teams that are, at the time of writing, +.500 sides in nine of the 19 games. Losses to the Stars, Jets and Golden Knights were almost expected from the outset but wins against the Red Wings twice, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Panthers, and the Oilers recently were truly telling.
This Kings’ side is here to compete for a division spot and can throw down with some of the highest-rated teams of the Eastern Conference. This isn’t to say that LA hasn’t been inconsistent, as the 5-4-1 road and 6-3-0 home records certainly indicate as much, but given the results and crunch schedule, it’s been a strong start. With similar levels of performance, the Kings should be able to surge in December.
Before the turn into 2023, the Kings have a grand opportunity to cement themselves in the divisional playoff places and perhaps even ascend to the top of the Pacific Division.