I'm so tired of talking heads on TV saying how the Kings haven't clinched a playoff spot until so late in the season the last 3 years.
In 2012, they clinched their spot during their 81st game out of 82, but they also finished the season 5 points clear of the 9th place Flames, so it's not like they were really in jeopardy of missing the playoffs. They were always in the hunt for the division crown and it was always teams chasing them for a playoff spot, not vice versa.
In 2013, they clinched with 4 games left (albeit in a shortened season, so if you extrapolate out, that's like 7 games left). They finished that season 5th in the West, but only 4 points clear of the 9th place Columbus Blue Jackets.
Last season they finished a full 11 points ahead of the top team who missed the playoffs, the Coyotes. They still didn't clinch their spot until April 2, the day of their 77th game.
Here's why I'm sick of this bullshit drivel from mostly NBC Sports (and probably to a lesser extent Puck Daddy): NOBODY CLINCHES UNTIL THE LAST FEW GAMES!!!
The New York Rangers clinched a playoff spot today. They're the first team to do so in 2015. And there are 8 games left. There simply isn't enough separation between the top teams and the 9th place team (Obviously, in order to clinch you have to have a point differential that doubles the number of games the 9th place team has left. And also hold an advantage in the tiebreakers that can't be matched by that team.)
And it's not like you get to stop playing hard and rest once you've clinched. The Rangers, for instance, want to get 1st place in the Metro division. They want the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They want to win the President's Trophy and establish home ice advantage in every round of the playoffs.
Pretty much every team that clinches is still jockeying for playoff seeding. All that matters is that at some point, you do clinch that playoff spot.
(Oh, and just fyi, the Kings clinched in their 81st game in 2011 [7th seed, 3 points ahead of 9th place Dallas] and with 4 games left in 2010 [6th seed, 11 points ahead of 9th place St. Louis].)