In the leadup to the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, we're concluding our series here at Vegas Hockey Now today where we will look at potential teams the Vegas Golden Knights could play in the postseason. While a playoff trip is not yet (but almost) guaranteed for the VGK, it is much safer to assume this team makes the postseason this year compared to last year.
Standings will fluctuate up until the NHL's last day of the regular season on April 13. So the Golden Knights will not have a set opponent for some time. In the meantime, we can do some speculation on which teams the VGK would match up well against, and which teams they would not. Today we will look at the Los Angeles Kings as the last team in our series.
Los Angeles Kings
How it Could Happen: The Golden Knights continue to lead the Pacific Division in points, but if they were to drop out of the top spot, they would have to play another Pacific Division team guaranteed in the first round. These teams could be the Kings, Edmonton Oilers, or Seattle Kraken.
The most likely matchup would be VGK (P2) v LAK (P3) or LAK (P2) v LAK (P3).
2022-23 Season Series: 10/11 4-3 VGK W, 12/27 4-2 LAK W, 1/7 5-1 LAK W, 4/6 @ VGK 7:00 p.m.
It's pretty safe to say that the Los Angeles Kings are now out of their rebuilding phase as they are set to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second season in a row. They have won nine of their last eleven games and continue to challenge the VGK for the top spot in the Pacific Division.
Veterans and Stanley Cup Champions Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are still present on the team, but a new movement of youth led by Adrian Kempe, Sean Durzi, and Gabe Vilardi has started to take over. Combine that with free agent and trade acquisitions Kevin Fiala, Viktor Arvidsson, and Phillip Danault, and the Kings are suddenly a good team again.
Their biggest issue all season has been one that has affected the Golden Knights. The Kings, not seeing Jonathan Quick as their starter of the future have juggled in several goaltenders to try and find the franchise's next netminder. This season alone they have tried Pheonix Copley, Cal Petersen, and are now testing Joonas Korpisalo, who they acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline.
Defensive depth is also an issue on the Kings' roster, so at the trade deadline they also added Vladislav Gavrikov from the Blue Jackets. Of course, Quick was sent the other way in the deal and eventually ended up in Las Vegas to help the Golden Knight's complex goaltending situation.
It goes without saying that a potential playoff series between these two teams would motivate Quick to play well against his former team, where he spent over 16 years and won two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy with.
The Golden Knight's first-ever playoff series in 2017-18 came against the Kings, meaning this would be the second time these teams would meet in the postseason. Separated by just a four-hour drive and with many players like Quick, Michael Amadio, and Alec Martinez knowing both sides, it should be a fun series if it does indeed happen.
On paper, these two teams are pretty evenly matched. So the victor of the series would likely be the team with the better goaltending and the team that can have enough intangibles to secure the series. The Jonathan Quick story is a huge motivator for the VGK and could check off both boxes.
The Kings are probably the second-most complete team in the Pacific Division outside of the Golden Knights themselves, and would obviously be a tough opponent. They are built similarly to the VGK, with a good forward corps and defense, but very questionable goaltending.
This series would likely go down to the wire with the team with the more consistent goaltending winning.