Kings Keep Rolling with Dominant Win over Sharks: Is It Time for LA to Believe?

When the Los Angeles Kings won the fourth game of their first-round series against the San Jose Sharks, it didn’t really change much. The Kings were playing at home and the series was still 3-1 in favor of the Sharks, giving San Jose three chances to close it out.

On Saturday, the Kings went to San Jose and dominated, peppering the Sharks’ net with 41 shots and winning by a 3-0 score. For good measure, Los Angeles chased Antti Niemi from the nets for the second consecutive game, and an awkward first-period hit from Jarret Stoll sent defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to the locker room with injury.

The Sharks are losers of two straight games, down their top rearguard and in the throes of a goaltending controversy. The Kings have two consecutive wins, and goaltender Jonathan Quick was exceptional after a rough start to this series against the Sharks. Is it time for fans of L.A. to get excited?

No, not really.

Let’s start with the simple math. If the Sharks and Kings were perfectly evenly matched, Los Angeles would have a one-in-four chance of winning the series at this point, a 50-50 shot of winning Game 6 and a 50-50 shot of winning Game 7. We’d have to weight it a little for home and road games, but as a rough model, that’s how it would work if we were talking about flipping coins rather than a series between two teams.

But this is hockey, not coin-flipping. What about the impact of momentum?

Thanks to the website WhoWins, we can actually go back and look at how teams have performed. Take, for example, teams that were down 3-1 in a series but managed to win the fifth game—113 clubs have done it in a best-of-seven NHL series. If we were flipping coins to determine the results of games, we’d expect 28 of those trailing teams to end up winning the series.

In reality, 25 have, which shouldn’t be surprising given that the team...

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