Western teams are finally starting to fall out of the playoff race as we round the final turn of the regular season. This week's victim is the Kings, whose chances were rendered trivial by their 2-0 loss to the Blues last night.
The postmortem on the Kings' season is pretty simple -- they didn't score enough to win.
The Kings set a new NHL record by being shut-out an astonishing 9 times (that's roughly 1/9th of the complete season schedule) so far this season. Furthermore, they scored only 1 goal in 14 more of their games, meaning that roughly once per 4 games they required a shutout to win.
Surprisingly, they actually pulled it off from time to time -- 5 shutouts and a solid debut by goalie Jonathan Quick kept them in the playoff race. But with only 9 games left, a 4-win deficit, and five teams to leapfrog in order to get to the final playoff spot, hopes of squeaking in the back door have faded.
But there is hope on the horizon: the Kings seem ready to compete over the long-term in the brutally physical Pacific Division. They have perhaps the league's most promising blueline, led by rookie standout Drew Doughty and youngsters Jack Johnson, Kyle Quincey and Matt Greene. Kopitar, Frolov and Brown could be the forward nucleus of a dynasty in LA, but only if they add enough goals to the roster to take the next step. The Kings will spend the summer trying to decide whether now is the time to make a move for an elite scorer (think Gaborik) or if the young talent needs another year to build.