NHL roundtable: Will the Kings make the playoffs? Will the Ducks play spoilers?

Kings center Phillip Danault celebrates with his teammates on the bench.
Kings center Phillip Danault (24) celebrates with his teammates on the bench after scoring against the Chicago Blackhawks on April 12.
(Paul Beaty/Associated Press)

The Kings and Ducks each have five games remaining in the regular season. The Ducks know their season will end April 29 in Dallas. The Kings hope their season will extend past their 82nd game, which is in Vancouver on April 28.

Whether the Kings can reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2018 depends in part on how they do against their Southland rivals this week. The Kings (40-27-10) travel to Honda Center to play the Ducks (30-33-14) on Tuesday, clinging to the third spot in the Pacific Division, three points ahead of Vegas.

The Kings and Ducks meet for the fourth and final time Saturday at Arena and by the end of that game, the Kings should have a better idea if they are playoff-bound. The top three teams in each division qualify for the postseason and two wild-card teams in each conference also advance.


On the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Manchester, a Times NHL playoff preview roundtable offers an early peek at the L.A. Kings’ path to a Stanley Cup.

April 9, 2022

The Kings have fewer games remaining and fewer points than Dallas and Nashville — the current wild-card teams — so their best route to the postseason figures to be staying ahead of Vegas and Vancouver. The Canucks are four points behind the Kings, with a game in hand.

In the last roundtable of the regular season, Los Angeles Times hockey editor Hans Tesselaar moderates a discussion about the Southland teams with Times columnist Helene Elliott (a Hockey Hall of Fame honoree) and Times staffers Curtis Zupke (former beat writer for both teams), Jim Barrero (a Kings season-seat holder) and Nick Leyva (a longtime Ducks fan).

OK panel, you know what the first question is. Will the Kings make the postseason?

Elliott: Yes, for a combination of reasons. They’ve been getting back quite a few injured players (Dustin Brown and Andreas Athanasiou most recently) and they have a relatively soft late schedule, though the Ducks — who were eliminated a while ago — won’t make it easy on them. Also in their favor is that Vegas is struggling. The Golden Knights were a popular pick to win the division or even the conference, and now they’re struggling to get into the playoffs as a wild card.

Barrero: A resounding yes. And I never thought before this season I would be saying that, but here we are. Compared to every team chasing a playoff spot, the schedule is kind to the Kings. But it does scare me a little that they seem to have an annoying trait for playing to the level of competition. Still, with so much on the line and the roster slowly getting healthier, I see a positive ending to this pursuit.

Zupke: Yes, I don’t see them coming this far and falling short, especially given how the schedule shapes up.


Levya: I think it comes down to comparing schedules at this point and there’s no reason the Kings shouldn’t hang on to this third spot. The Kings’ five remaining opponents are all non-playoff teams: Ducks (twice), Vancouver, Seattle and Chicago. Vegas has Washington and San Jose at home. Then they must go to Dallas, Chicago and St. Louis. That’s a much tougher road in my opinion.

Kings coach Todd McLellan watches during a loss to the Colorado Avalanche on April 13.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Considering the injuries the Kings have endured in the second half of the season — the biggest being the loss of Drew Doughty for the year — it’s almost remarkable they are still in a playoff race. That said, how disappointing will it be if they miss the postseason?

Barrero: Extremely. With all they have overcome and with the rest of the West teams waiting for what would not have been a surprising demise, to get this close and fail could set their rebuilding plan back. The thought of wasting another year of the young players not getting any postseason experience would be a gut punch. I don’t have delusions they’ll even get out of the first round, but to not even get the chance would be depressing.

Elliott: If the Kings miss the playoffs they will have failed. Period. Before this season team president Luc Robitaille told The Times, “We’ve turned the page. We’re done with this you can call it whatever, rebuild, and it’s time to start trending upward. Trending upward means you’ve got to get in the playoffs. You’ve got to compete. You never know what can happen in the playoffs, but you’ve got to get in.” They had injuries and COVID-related issues, but so did every other team in the NHL. Making the playoffs would be telling fans that yes, it was worth the long wait and painful rebuild to get to this point.

Zupke: I think it would be something short of an epic collapse, especially in the eyes of their fan base, despite the injuries they’ve had. Todd McLellan is a coach-of-the-year candidate and the Kings are considered one of the surprise teams in the NHL. It would be a huge letdown.


Leyva: I think it would be very disappointing because they have played well enough to stay in the playoff picture for most of the season even though they’ve had several other injuries such as to [Viktor] Arvidsson, Athanasiou and [Alexander] Edler.

After 77 games, it’s still not clear who the Kings’ No. 1 goalie is. Jonathan Quick has started the last three games and appears to have an edge on Cal Petersen, who given up 12 goals in his last two appearances. Is time to ride or die with Quick?

Elliott: I think it will be Quick, at least to start the playoffs. Petersen has lost three straight. Quick brings a strong playoff reputation and, outside of a rough appearance in the Colorado loss, he has played well. He hasn’t allowed more than three goals since March 10.

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick deflects the puck away from Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman on April 7 at Arena.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick deflects the puck away from Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman during a game on April 7 at Arena.
(Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Barrero: I’m changing my answer from a previous roundtable, and I do agree now that Quick is the way to go and Todd McLellan seems to agree based on his goalie picks of late. Petersen’s penchant for not swallowing up pucks and giving up so many big rebounds than make me comfortable is enough for me to roll the dice with the guy with two Cups and let the chips fall where they may.

Leyva: I’ve been saying all season, they should primarily use Quick because of his experience and spell him with Petersen. The only issue with that is Quick is a goaltender with a lot of mileage and that makes him more prone to injury. When the playoffs start, I’m rolling with Quick.


Zupke: I’m still sticking with Quick. From a perception standpoint, if you start Petersen and he struggles, then it’s really easy for people to say, ‘See, you should have started Quick.’ I don’t see much rationale for the vice-versa.

If the Kings do make the playoffs, how far can they go?

Elliott: You’ve got to get in it to win it, as the saying goes, and the Stanley Cup playoffs often produce upsets. That said, if the Kings face Edmonton they could be done quickly because their young defensemen have been mistake-prone and any mistake against Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl will end up in the Kings’ net. Edmonton goalie Mike Smith shut out Nashville and Vegas in back-to-back starts last week but I’m not sold on him carrying them far.

Barrero: After 2012, anything is possible, and the players on this Kings team do seem to really like one another and therefore seem willing to go the extra mile for a common goal without panicking. That said, they have looked overwhelmed on occasion against elite teams late in the season and that makes me think they just don’t have enough this season. A first-round win would be heaven. Anything beyond that and I might not be able to function.

Phillip Danault knew there was more to his game than being a defensive star and the Kings agreed. In his first season in L.A., he has set a career high in goals.

April 7, 2022

Zupke: I’ll echo Helene here in that the Kings’ defense now looks really vulnerable and inexperienced. Their second and third pairings against Columbus were Jacob Moverare-Sean Durzi and Olli Maatta-Jordan Spence, nice young players (outside of Maatta), but I can see McDavid and Draisaitl licking their chops. If they do play Edmonton, the X factor is that you … can’t … invest … in the Oilers. I’m still having deadline nightmares from Edmonton losing a 3-0 lead in in Game 5 against the Ducks in 2017. If the Kings fall to the wild card, it’s an early exit.

Leyva: Assuming they would draw the Oilers in the first round, that series would hardly be a gimme for Edmonton. If the Kings can shut down McDavid-Draisaitl, they could do some damage against the shaky goaltending of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen.


It’s been a lost season for the Ducks since the end of January. They are 7-17-5 in that span and lost their last 11 games in March. They will miss the playoffs for the fourth season in a row. How would you assess their season?

Elliott: Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras established themselves as legitimate stars, and defenseman Jamie Drysdale has enormous potential. This has been a disappointing season for them.

Leyva: If you had told me back in October that this team would be close to a .500 team in the middle of April, I’d take that. Ducks fans already knew going in this would be a season of playing youngsters, taking lumps, and facing big questions when it came to the trade deadline. But this is a team heading in the right direction so I’m not worried.

Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras (46) controls the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.
Ducks center Trevor Zegras controls the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov on Sunday.
(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

Zupke: Terry and Zegras. Terry and Zegras … even in losing, they’re still The World’s Most Interesting Team. Looking back, I think this season was the turning of the page. [Former general manager] Bob Murray is gone. Ryan Getzlaf is retiring. The NHL is very cyclical, and it’s still the Ducks’ turn to be a bad team.

Barrero: I felt good about the Ducks early on, and frankly was a little jealous that their young players seemed to be stepping into the spotlight and making it count. I still think on some level to see their young players have success has to feel good as they move forward.


In moves that have been lauded by many hockey experts, new Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek traded away several veterans, including Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson and Nicolas Deslauriers, for a number of draft picks. How would you say he’s done so far?

Elliott: Verbeek had to trade those guys or risk losing them as unrestricted free agents this summer. He got a nice pile of draft picks and prospects, even if the [Evgenii] Dadonov trade was voided.

Barrero: He seems to have done a lot in a short period but also has been deliberate and thoughtful, which is a good sign. Cap space is so important in this league, and for a rebuilding team being in that position reveals so many more options. I’d say he’s on the right track.

Zupke: We won’t get a better idea of his direction until this summer. The Ducks have cap space and draft picks (11 first-or second-rounders from 2022 to 2024, according to CapFriendly) to leverage.

Leyva: I thought primarily getting draft picks was the way to go but did he have to trade top enforcer Deslauriers? Now there’s no one to answer for Terry and Zegras getting roughed up by the opposition. Always got to have that tough guy on the roster to keep them honest.

Ducks coach Dallas Eakins, center rear, stands behind his bench during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in December.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Another Verbeek move was announcing that Dallas Eakins will return as coach next season. Are you surprised?

Leyva: Not really. The adage don’t fire someone unless you have someone better in mind applies here. I think keeping Eakins is the smart move and it doesn’t make sense to bring in a whole new system now. Let him have another year to develop the youngsters, many of them having worked with Eakins in San Diego. At the end of next season, then Verbeek can revisit the topic.

Elliott: Honestly, I was surprised to hear the Ducks had picked up the option on Eakins for next season. Usually, a new general manager wants his own guy instead of a coach he inherited, but the Ducks are sticking with Eakins. I’m not sure that’s going to work.

Barrero: The Ducks are not in an urgent position to have to make this change right now. Let it breathe, see if Eakins improves, and if he doesn’t, then at least time has passed to make a true assessment.

Zupke: Yes. But Verbeek only had two months to assess Eakins up close, and that reportedly wasn’t enough of a sample size. I would think that Eakins is on a short leash from here on out, though.

In the latest NHL roundtable, Los Angeles Times staffers discuss whether the Kings and Ducks can end their playoff droughts and who is the Kings’ No. 1 goalie.

March 4, 2022

Finally, how much joy do the think the Ducks would get out of helping deny the Kings a playoff spot?


Elliott: Oh, they’d love that. Games between the two teams are always emotional, and the Kings’ fight for a playoff spot will add drama to the games on Tuesday and Saturday. Should be fun!

Zupke: Did I mention Kings-Ducks games give me deadline nightmares? Seriously, the Ducks would love to ruin it for the Kings, whose overall game has simply looked off ... a lot of passes into skates, shaky goaltending, no production outside of the [Phillip] Danault line. It’s still a fierce rivalry, partly because the players know each other so well. Beat writers used to joke: If you wanna know what’s going on with the Ducks, ask the Kings, and vice-versa.

Leyva: All the joy in the world. These last two meetings with the Kings will be the playoff games for the Ducks and you can bet they will treat them as such.

Barrero: I refuse to answer this question on account of me jinxing something. I will say the thought of it makes me ill.