Kings are No. 1 -- is that an omen?
The October portion of the 2010-11 regular-season schedule concluded Saturday with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings atop the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively. The Lightning (7-2-1, .750) placed first in the East in October for the first time, while the Kings (8-3-0, .727) topped the West for the first time since 1990-91.
A first-place perch in the conference through Oct. 31 does not guarantee a ring and a parade next June, although seven of the past 12 Stanley Cup champions did lead their conference at that season milestone. The past 12 Stanley Cup-winning clubs are a combined 94-23-17 (.765) in October of their championship season.
First place in the conference has served as a reliable playoff predictor over the years. Only twice in the past 24 seasons has a team missed the playoffs after leading its conference at the end of October. The Philadelphia Flyers missed the Eastern Conference playoffs in 1993-94 and the Toronto Maple Leafs missed the Campbell Conference playoffs in 1988-89. But with just six points separating the top 12 teams in each conference this season, no club can afford to take its foot off the accelerator.
For a look at how past early leaders fared, click here for the beautiful PDF.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Jake Muzzin, left, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Brown of the Kings. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images