Less than two dozen fixtures remain on the 2020-21 NHL schedule, and it looks likely at least two of the three Californian teams will miss out on the playoffs. Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and San Jose Sharks occupy the bottom three places in the Honda West division with time rapidly running out to climb into the top four spots.
Los Angeles Kings will miss out on the NHL playoffs for the third consecutive season if they fail to close the gap on St. Louis Blues, who are the team in the fourth and final playoff place in the West division.
The Kings takes on San Jose Sharks at home in their next two fixtures before hosting fifth-placed Arizona Coyotes on April 5 and April 7. They then travel to the Sharks again for two games, host the Las Vegas Golden Knights before traveling to the 2020-21 NHL Playoff favorites Colorado Avalanche.
The Kings are the best placed of the Californian trio to reach this season’s NLH playoffs. They have played two games fewer than the Coyotes in fifth place and one game less than the Blues; Kings trail the Coyotes by three points and the Blues by four.
Kings will fancy themselves against fellow strugglers, the Sharks, despite losing 1-2 and 2-4 on Game 31 and 32. The Kings take on the Sharks four times in six games and must set themselves a target of at least six points to keep their playoff dreams alive.
Sharks Defense Needs More Bite
The Sharks are tied on points with the Kings, but they have played one more game than their rivals. A porous defense has leaked 120 goals this season. Only four teams, including the Buffalo Sabres, who lost 18 consecutive games, have conceded more goals during this campaign. Sharks have allowed four or more goals in 15 of their 35 fixtures; you cannot and do not win games with a defense that is full of holes.
Sharks will fancy their chances of mounting a comeback and a charge towards the playoff places. The four games against the Kings are as crucial to them as they are the Kings. They also play the struggling Mighty Ducks three times on either side of those games against the Kings. However, from mid-April, the Sharks have some tough fixtures against Minnesota Wild, Vegas, the Coyotes, and Stanley Cup favorites, the Avalanche.
The Mighty Ducks Are Lame This Season
You can write off the playoffs for Anaheim Mighty Ducks unless they somehow embark on a never-before-seen winning streak while the teams above them fall apart. The Mighty Ducks only have 28 points from 37 games (0.378) and have a -40 goal difference. They are currently 10 points behind fourth-placed Blues and have played two games more.
The Mighty Ducks are 3-8 from their last 11 games. That record would have read even worse was it not for back-to-back shock 4-1 and 3-2 victories at the St. Louis Blues. They have to play Avalanche twice in April, having lost 2-5 and a heavy 4-8 during March’s disappointing 5-10-1 run.
Who Will Win The Stanley Cup?
It is difficult to see past the current two favorites when predicting a Stanley Cup champion. Avalanche are the overall favorites, and rightly so. They went 12-2-3 in March, although they played the majority of those fixtures at home (10-1-2). How will they cope with being on the road 14 times in the final 20 games?
The fact the Avalanche faces many trips makes us fancy the chances of Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning is 24-9-2 this season with a +39 goal difference in the MassMutual East. Lightning are the reigning Stanley Cup champions and could become only the eighth team to win back-to-back titles; they would be the first since Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017.