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Posted On Wednesday, 06.06.2012 / 2:25 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Devils still have hope, but Kings in full control

LOS ANGELES -- Jeremy Roenick has a great appreciation for the position that the New Jersey Devils find themselves in in this Stanley Cup Final.

It was 20 years ago that Roenick and the Chicago Blackhawks were down 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final. They did not win Game 4.

"There is always hope," Roenick, an analyst with the NBC Sports Network, told NHL.com, "but it's the slimmest of hope."

The Devils will try to do what the 1992 Blackhawks could not on Wednesday. They just want to win Game 4 at Staples Center to stay alive.

Can they do it? Let Roenick tell you what he thinks.

NHL.com: Can the Devils do this?

JR: Only three teams have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. Only once has it happened in the Final, and that was in 1942. They have that going against them. Secondly, they have a team that is just firing on all cylinders right now. Nothing is swaying the Kings right now. They have a goaltender that is setting a new standard of goaltending in the playoffs. All in all it does not look good, but for the Devils they have to try to make history and I think that's gotta be the mentality. They have to be the guys that try to change the record books. They have to first put a chink in the armor. Keep working and try to put any kind of doubt into the minds of the Los Angeles Kings.

STANLEY CUP FINAL - KINGS VS. DEVILS

Sutter family excited for Darryl's success

By Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer
The Sutter family, which placed six brothers in the NHL, is watching and waiting to see if Darryl and the Kings can bring home a title. READ MORE ›

NHL.com: If the Devils are able to simply get a lead in Game 4, something they could not do in Games 1, 2 and 3, is that enough to put the seed of doubt in to the Kings?

JR: No, it doesn't, because the Kings have been down before in games. But if the Devils get up a couple with the way Marty Brodeur has played, I think they have a chance of stealing one. The problem is who is going to score? Who is going to score the goals? I think Ilya Kovalchuk's back is really bothering him. They're shutting down Zach Parise. Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus have disappeared, as has Patrik Elias. They are working hard, but they are not getting any quality scoring chances. You talk about going up a couple of goals, but the question is who is going to do it. There is not one guy right now that you can look at in that room and say, oh, he'll score for us tonight. That's not a very confident feeling.

NHL.com: The Devils are making lineup changes, bringing in Henrik Tallinder and Petr Sykora for Peter Harrold and Jacob Josefson. Is change good for this team now?

JR: Yeah, absolutely. These guys have been sitting out, and this is their opportunity to become heroes. Sykora has been there. He's won a Cup. That's experience; you can't teach that. Tallinder is a big strong defenseman. So, you need them to switch it up a bit, make a change, give the guys something to rally around. Maybe it's Sykora coming in and scoring a big goal like he did against Philadelphia.

NHL.com: Put yourself in the Kings dressing room right now, what are you thinking?

JR: I think this is the opportunity to put a stamp on one of the best postseason runs in the history of the game. I would not only want to win a championship, I would want to create history. It would tie the 1988 Edmonton team for the best run ever (16-2), but they can eclipse the best goals-against average. You do not want to give the New Jersey Devils any life in order to go back to Jersey and have a chance to play one more game and have a chance to get within one. You want to finish it right away. That fourth game is the hardest to win. They have to say, 'We're in our own building, we want to finish this now,' and celebrate a Cup with their own fans. That becomes really important when you're trying to win the Cup. They will never have a better opportunity in their lives than right now.

NHL.com: Now that they are one win away, is the history angle something the Kings think about?

JR: No, they don't think about it. All they have to do is think about one period at a time and continue to play the solid game that they have, and they will create it. When you don't think about the big picture, just the smaller picture, that's when you get so much greatness. I think these guys have taken it one game at a time, one period at a time, and in that preparation of not looking too far ahead they have found themselves on the brink of having one of the best postseasons in the history of the game. I think each guy will be two steps faster because of the opportunity they have in front of them.

NHL.com: Will the Kings win it tonight, and who wins the Conn Smythe?

JR: I think the Kings win it 3-1, and I think Jonathan Quick will be the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Anze Kopitar is right there with him, but Quick has allowed 24 goals in 17 playoff games and that goals-against average (1.36) is unheard of and the save percentage (.950) is off the charts. He's the guy that got them to the playoffs. He's allowed them to roll through the playoffs. It's been every single night with Quick. Kopitar has been good, but Quick has been the main guy every single night.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Thursday, 05.24.2012 / 5:30 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Kings played great, but give Coyotes their due

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" touches on all things related to the NHL. This week, Roenick put a wrap on the Western Conference Finals and dove into some of the details that have the Devils within one win of meeting the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.

Congrats to the Kings, praise for the Coyotes

I don't think any team has been as impressive this spring as the Los Angeles Kings, especially being perfect on the road. They symbolize what we talk about in playoff teams -- how they are supposed to play, rising to occasions, normal people doing abnormal things, getting contributions from everybody. That is them. That is the Kings.

But we have to give the Phoenix Coyotes a standing ovation for their season, the way that they battled and the way that they came together as a team, especially after the All-Star break.

It's as if they came together and decided as a team that they were going to do it, do it hard and do it together. I feel Dave Tippett is one of the best coaches in the NHL, and general manager Don Maloney did a great job of piecing together parts that were really important for this playoff run -- for instance, getting Antoine Vermette was a great addition and he played very well with them.

Maloney did it all while staying within a cap for a team that doesn't have an owner -- and Tippett had this team just going along as business as usual every single day.

It was impressive to watch this team play together. They played the system together. They won by committee, and when you win by committee the way they did you have a lot to be proud of.

Unfortunately the series ended in a heated controversy, with what Phoenix thought was an illegal hit by Dustin Brown. Look, there is really no need to prolong the discussion of whether Brown's hit was illegal or legal, because the Coyotes need to hold their heads high and go to the offseason proud of what happened, not thinking about a controversial call.

The Kings played great. The Kings deserved to win. Their goaltender was fantastic, but Mike Smith also deserves a lot of attention right now because he has put himself into the upper echelon of goalies in the NHL. All of the Phoenix players feel he is the key of their team, the focal point of their team, and it's nice to see them support him for an absolutely fantastic season.

The controversy they should be talking about is the fact Smith isn't up for any year-end awards for how well he played.

Moving forward into the Cup Final, I think if the Kings had a choice, just looking at matchups and matchups only, they would pick the New York Rangers as their opponent because the Rangers struggle to score goals. When you're a team that struggles to score goals playing against a goalie like Jonathan Quick and a team that is playing as well defensively, especially on the PK, as the Kings, it's just a recipe for disaster.

The Devils are pretty close to playing at the level that the Kings are playing with their hard forechecking, in-your-face, physical brand of hockey. I don't think the Kings want to see a team that emulates their success and style of play.

Plus, the Rangers have played a lot of hockey, and they would need to win a third straight Game 7 to make the Final. New York would have to be blowing some serious gas, and that would benefit the rested Kings.

DeBoer and his Devils, but look out for Lundqvist

Peter DeBoer has created a mindset in that Devils locker room that has gotten this team back to respectability, back to being the powerful Devils.

Last year they had one of the worst starts in franchise history and they had to make a valiant comeback just to try to get into the playoff race after being one of the worst teams in the League. You look at them one year later and DeBoer has come in and changed the philosophy and mentality. He's gotten guys like Ilya Kovalchuk to buy into a team system.

Kovalchuk is now doing all the little intangible things that team players do.

DeBoer has matched up lines really well. He's been a great bench coach. He's had a calmness that has filtered through this team. They want to play for this guy and play hard.

I've said it before, Zach Parise could be the hardest-working guy in the National Hockey League. He epitomizes everything you want in a captain. He has had big games in big situations. He just has come up big.

You can't say enough about Stephen Gionta, the little guy, plus Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier. That fourth line has been chipping in. When this team needs someone to chip in, someone usually does, and it usually comes from players on their second, third and fourth lines.

There is not one line that is carrying this team. This team is being carried by four lines.

The Devils have players on their defense corps who are sacrificing the body and staying within themselves. There are no superstars on this defense. You look at this defense and you would think your eyes would light up and your mouth would foam, but they finish hits, block shots, do what they have to do as units of two. They are playing very well.

How about Bryce Salvador? He's become an offensive dynamo in a contract year. He's proving he's worth another good contract.

The Devils' forecheck is as intimidating and frustrating as we've seen in a long time, and it's so much better than that old awful trap system they played in the '90s -- so much better.

So my hat is off to DeBoer for what he has instilled in the dressing room and on the ice.

That said, I think Henrik Lundqvist is going to have himself a great night Friday night and let's just say I hope it goes to Game 7, because between Jersey and the Rangers, that will be epic.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 10:00 AM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Plenty of candidates for Conn Smythe

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" touches on all things related to the NHL. This week, Roenick decided to offer his early Conn Smythe Trophy favorites on the four teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
There are some good candidates on each team, but I'm narrowing the field of Conn Smythe Trophy candidates. Here goes:
 
COYOTES
 
It's pretty much a lockdown, easy shot with Phoenix. It's Mike Smith.
 
He's been a feel-good story this season, putting himself in the star category of the National Hockey League. He probably could be named as the most improved player in the NHL, as well. This is a guy who was a backup and now he's a focal point of a team in the Western Conference Finals.
 
Smith is by far the easy choice for the Coyotes.
 
KINGS
 
This is not so clear cut. I think there are two very close candidates for this. Time will tell.
 
Leading the charge is Jonathan Quick because of his numbers and because of the way he has dominated every single game. His save percentage is off the charts. His goals-against average is excellent.
 
Dustin Brown
Right Wing - LAK
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 14
SOG: 38 | +/-: 11
Yes, the Kings are scoring more than three goals a game in the playoffs, but even if they were struggling to score like they did in the regular season, it wouldn't matter because Quick can win a game for you if you give him just one goal. He can win a game by himself. He has shown he can do it.
 
However, Dustin Brown is without question beating down his door and could dethrone him.
 
To say Brown has been a beast would be a huge understatement considering how he has elevated his game. Defensively, offensively, physically -- everything you can ask for in your captain, he has delivered. He has raised his level so high this postseason that his stock has tripled -- quadrupled -- for how he has played.
 
That's a tough call for L.A. between those two guys.

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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 5:14 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: No surprise Rangers and Caps are going seven

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" usually includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League. However, with Game 7 between the Rangers and Capitals coming up in New York on Saturday and the Western Conference Finals now set between two of the teams he used to play for, Roenick offered some of his thoughts on both.

A Game 7 in New York between the Capitals and Rangers -- no surprise at all. A Western Conference Finals that is starting in Phoenix -- big surprise.

Rangers-Caps

I don't think anybody is surprised they're going to a Game 7 for a couple of reasons.

For one, I've been so impressed with the way the Washington Capitals have been able to flip the switch and go out there and play flawless hockey.

It's amazing what a hot goaltender will do for a team's confidence, for its psyche, for its energy. Braden Holtby has an attitude that runs right through the whole team. The Caps feel confident they can win every game. They feel confident their goaltender is going to stop the puck if there is a breakdown.

I don't think that is something they had all year. I don't think Tomas Vokoun lived up to that potential and neither did Michal Neuvirth.

Good for Braden Holtby. He is so much fun to watch.

On the flip side: The Rangers during the regular season, their big problem was their goal-scoring ability, which is why there was so much talk about them acquiring Rick Nash at the trade deadline. Well, they barely slipped by Ottawa and now they're in another Game 7 with Washington mainly because their goal scoring seems very limited.

The Rangers are a very good, sound defensive team. Their goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, is off the charts. And it's going to be up to Lundqvist again to backstop a team in Game 7 that probably won't score more than two goals.

That's a very heavy burden and pressure-packed situation for Lundqvist to be in -- but if you're going to have that situation I can't think of a better guy to have in net than Lundqvist because he's been doing it all year.

We'll see how it all works out, but it's going to be an exciting game. It has been the most fun series to watch in the second round. L.A. made it look easy, Phoenix made it look easy, the Devils looked great -- but here we have some real, true drama with Washington and the Rangers unfolding in a Game 7.

This is what the National Hockey League needs. This is what NBC needs. North America will get treated to a very important rivalry in a very important game.

As for a prediction, since the game is in Madison Square Garden I think the Rangers might sneak this thing out in overtime.

Kings-Coyotes

It's the battle of the sun states. I played in both markets, but I didn't have a very good experience in L.A. and that was mostly my own fault.

But to think that Phoenix is going to host Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Finals -- I guess I'm not surprised that they're there, but hosting it? The fact that they finished No. 3 and finished off the season as strong as they did to secure that ever-so important home-ice advantage for this situation, that's huge for them.

It's a great story. In fact, there are a lot of great storylines in the NHL these days. You have Holtby emerging as a No. 1 goalie, the Capitals playing as well as they have. You have Jonathan Quick securing himself as a superstar. You have Mike Smith, who is probably the only star now in Phoenix.

But both of these teams in the Western Conference deserve it. They've been wallowing in mediocrity for a long time, one round and out, and sometimes not any rounds. Phoenix has gone through ownership issues, attendance issues, but the Coyotes just continue to put a good, quality hockey team on the ice that battles, and it is paying off.

It's really nice to see the way Don Maloney and Dave Tippett have created something exciting to get behind.

But if everyone was talking about how Los Angeles and St. Louis would be the lowest-scoring series of all time -- well, I think this one between the Kings and Coyotes definitely could be.

I could be wrong, though. There could be a surprise or two coming. You never know.
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 2:20 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Kings are rolling at the right time

If we've learned one thing in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's that there is no home-ice advantage anymore. Yes, one second-round series has seen the home team win each of the first three games entering Friday, but road teams have still won 60 percent of the games in the playoffs this spring. That is down slightly from 65 percent in the first round.

If we're going to talk about home-ice disadvantage, we need to talk about the Los Angeles Kings, who are 5-0 on the road and 7-1 overall in the postseason. In order to win the Stanley Cup, you need a team that gels and goes on a roll at the right time. I don't think there is a team in the National Hockey League right now that fits that description better than the Kings. They snuck into that eighth spot at the end of the year when it looked like they could possibly miss the playoffs. Then they started Game 1 against Vancouver, with nobody giving them a chance to win, which made them a dangerous team. When you have no expectations and everybody is expecting you to lose, you can just play hard and prove everyone wrong. That’s a good situation to be in.

I don't think there is a team in the League that is working in all facets of the game harder than the Kings in all three zones. Their feet are moving faster than anybody else's, their positioning is bang on, their puck movement has been fantastic. Defensively, they've been sound and their goaltender is the best goaltender in the National Hockey League right now, bar none. Nobody even close.

I've watched Jonathan Quick and his mechanics are so sound. His concentration on the puck is so intense and I don't see the kid breaking. With the way he is playing, he is very quickly moving himself up to the superstar level in the National Hockey League. It's always nice to see an American kid do well in the National Hockey League and I'm biased to the New England area because I grew up there. You like seeing guys who come from the United States system do really well and I think Quick is the upper echelon of American hockey right now.

A lot of it has to do with Darryl Sutter and what he implemented coming into Los Angeles. His mentality has been, "Listen, we're going to do it my way and we're going to do it hard or you're not going to play."

Whether he has scared the guys into doing it or the respect is naturally there for Darryl Sutter, this team is clicking at the exact right time. They're 7-1 in the playoffs, they haven't lost a game on the road yet, and they're doing it against two teams that everyone thought would blow them out. Not only are they doing it, but they're making it look easy.

Bringing in Sutter was a turning point for this team, but they also brought in Jeff Carter at the NHL Trade Deadline, a guy who has been a proven goal scorer for a long time. Dean Lombardi needed a goal scorer. The Kings were No. 30 in scoring for most of the season and ranked No. 29 by the end of the season.

When you need something and your GM goes out and fills that void, that sends a message to your team. Especially with a guy like Carter, who has a big salary. That shows dedication from management.

The guy some people thought the Kings might trade at the deadline, Dustin Brown, has also raised his game. I've played with Dustin and I've watched him for the last three or four years, but this is the best I've seen him play. And when your captain does that, everyone else has to follow.

One last thing that people don't understand is that the Kings have a great fan base. Staples Center is not a very cozy arena to play in because it's so vast and so big, but the Kings pack it every single game. People in that area don't get enough credit for the support they give the Kings. Before this year, the Kings hadn't had too much playoff success, yet their fans continued to come back day in and day out. I don't think there were any empty seats when I played there in 2005-06 and there haven't been any in the last couple of years.

That great fan base is important now that the Kings are playing the way they are.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 11:57 AM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Why I'm picking home teams to win Game 7s

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and normally includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League. However, with three Game 7s upcoming in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, JR switched his format for this week to analyze the games: Washington at Boston; Ottawa at New York; and New Jersey at Florida.

The road teams have dominated in these playoffs so far, but I've got the home teams winning these upcoming Game 7s. Here's why:

Washington at Boston

First off, I think this will be a very low-scoring game. However, I like the Bruins to squeak it out.

They're not going to be nervous. They are coming off a Stanley Cup win and three Game 7s, one of those being in the Stanley Cup Final. They're going to come out flying and feeling good that they got to Game 7 after winning Game 6. And if you want a goalie in the net for a Game 7, you want Tim Thomas.

Thomas is a guy who lives for games like these with the way he plays, his aggression, his style. He likes to be the center of attention, so I think Boston is going to take this just because Thomas is going to try to take over this game himself.

Tyler Seguin getting on the board scoring that overtime goal in Game 6 could spur him as well. He's going to be flying because whenever you're a top guy and you start getting points, score a goal, whatever, that pressure comes off of you and you really start moving better, skating better, making better decisions.

I must admit that I've been impressed with the way Washington has flipped the switch.

The Caps were so back and forth throughout the season with two good games, three bad games, one good game, two bad games. Alex Ovechkin was under scrutiny and Alexander Semin was always under fire and then Nicklas Backstrom was hurt. But all of a sudden, here in the playoffs, they are playing a total team game, which is why they are still in this series and have a chance to win this series.

When you have a guy like Braden Holtby playing so well it sends confidence throughout the team. I think they are playing harder for the kid in net, and that's what Dale Hunter has been trying to get across to this team.

But I just think all that Game 7 experience on Boston's side, especially from the last year, will push them over the top.

Ottawa at New York

I really thought the Senators would win Game 6, but their undisciplined penalties could end up losing the series for them.

When you're on the power play and you take two bad penalties, then you go down 5-on-3, and you let up power-play goals, that is going to kill you every time. As an eighth seed, you can't have an opportunity to close out the No. 1 seed in your own building and then blow a lead to lose it. Ottawa has lost their chance to win this one.

You've got to go with the goaltender, and Henrik Lundqvist has been the best goalie all year and I think he will be the best goaltender in Game 7.

I've also been impressed with the kid, Chris Kreider. He played his best game Monday since he came in in Game 3.

Kreider finally moved his feet, got into the play, used his speed and size, and showed his talent. The kid has good hands for a big guy. He was involved. He wasn't standing on the outside waiting for something to happen. He made things happen and then scored a big goal. I would expect him to be just as good with having a big game under his belt.

But I like the Rangers because of Lundqvist.

New Jersey at Florida

I have no problem saying that this is probably the least intriguing series of the playoffs, and probably the least exciting in terms of the fighting, the physicality and the speed.

However, it is exciting that Florida keeps battling back from deficits. The Panthers go down 3-0 and battle back to win Game 3. They're down 2-0 in Game 6 and battle back to tie it only to lose in overtime.

I just think it's the Panthers' turn. It's their year. They haven't won a series since 1996 and this team is resilient. But they have to play more intense and be more aggressive than they were in Game 6. They sat back. They tried to not make mistakes and it ended up burning them in the end.

Home-ice advantage will be huge for them and getting Jose Theodore back in net, if his injury is healed, is also big.

Scott Clemmensen played well in Game 6, but he wasn't tested much. A lot of the shots were from the outside, from the corner, pucks just thrown at the net. I don't think he was tested all but two or three times, and he let up a weak goal to Steve Bernier and probably could have had the winning goal by Travis Zajac. I guess all in all he played pretty sound, but if Jose can go, he should be in the net.

Dale Tallon has put together a team that might be able to get this done. It's a 51-49 shot for me and I'm going to the home ice.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 10:55 AM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Bruins a safe bet, while Senators could surprise

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and normally includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League. However, with the playoffs set to get under way Wednesday night, JR switched his format for this week. Read on to find out more:
 
It's hard to talk about what is clicking for a team right now because the puck only just dropped to begin the playoffs. Similarly, how can I possibly get on a team for what they're missing before they even play a game? So, as my own little playoff preview, I've instead decided to blog about the first-round series that I think is easiest to pick and the one I think that can be the upset special.
 
My predictions are included in this the blog ...
 

JR's PREDICTIONS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
 
Quarterfinals
Rangers over Senators
Bruins over Capitals
Devils over Panthers
Flyers over Penguins
 
Semifinals
Rangers over Devils
Flyers over Bruins
 
Finals
Rangers over Flyers
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
 
Quarterfinals
Canucks over Kings
Blues over Sharks
Coyotes over Blackhawks
Predators over Red Wings
 
Semifinals
Canucks over Predators
Blues over Coyotes
 
Finals
Canucks over Blues
 
CUP FINAL
 
Rangers over Canucks
 
Conn Smythe Trophy:
Henrik Lundqvist
If you're looking for an easy pick ...
 
It is the Boston-Washington series.
 
I think Boston is starting to play at that high level again and the Capitals have a young goaltender in Braden Holtby who they're going to have to hope finds a hot streak in the pressure cooker that is the playoffs.
 
There are just far too many questions with Washington.
 
Is Alexander Semin going to show up? Is Nicklas Backstrom going to be ready for playoff hockey? Is Mike Green going to find a way to score a point?
 
These are all issues that they'll have to deal with. They're all issues the Bruins don't currently have.
 
I love the way Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand are playing. They're young guys that are flying high and playing some really great hockey. Tim Thomas is heating up at the right time, and he always gets extra jacked up for the playoffs. Chris Kelly and Danny Paille are playing well.
 
I like the Bruins' overall grit. I like the whole team. And they're getting down to the grind now and playing with the substance that Boston is known for.
 
The Capitals won't be able to avoid the physical game; the question is can they play it? I'm not so sure.
 
You can push Semin right out of the game or even the series by intimidating him. Backstrom might be tentative after missing so much time with a concussion. He might have a little bit of the nerves going.
 
It's going to be up to Washington's tough guys. Brooks Laich has to be solid and strong. Troy Brouwer has to be the same way. I think Jason Chimera is a guy that people overlook, but he can be a very physical presence that can score goals. He has to.
 
Bruins in five.
 
If you're looking for an upset ...
 
It's kind of weird because I think the biggest upset that could happen is Ottawa beating the New York Rangers, and if you read below I have the New York Rangers winning the Stanley Cup.
 
Yes, I know that sounds crazy and maybe it is, but a lot of the reason why I think the Rangers might win the Cup is because if they beat a very tough opponent in Ottawa in the first round it could really give them a lot of momentum and confidence.
 
The Rangers have not played well against Ottawa. They lost three out of four games to the Senators this season.
 
The Rangers don't match up very well with Ottawa in terms of styles. The Senators' high-powered offense can be a problem depending on how the Rangers do offensively. They have to score goals, but they can't get into a run and gun, trading chances, horse race style of game and series. They have to play stringy defense, get timely goals, and they have to make sure they get their power play going.
 
They have worked hard at trying to fix their power play and they need to get it going now.
 
The Senators, meanwhile, don't really have much pressure on them, and yet they're here in the playoffs because their top guys got them here.
 
Jason Spezza is having a career year. Milan Michalek is having a career year. Daniel Alfredsson is playing very well still. And having Erik Karlsson, who has shattered all the defensemen in the League in the points race, is huge and really dangerous for the Rangers.
 
The key to success for the Senators is in goaltending. Can Craig Anderson hold down the fort?
 
When Ottawa doesn't win, it's because its goaltender gives up some very shady goals. He's got to find a way to shut the door.
 
If Anderson is good, this might be one of the toughest opponents the Rangers will face. So, even though it's kind of weird for me to pick the Rangers to win the Cup and then look at them as a possible first-round bust, this could happen.
 
I still think the Rangers win this series, but it'll take seven games and it won't be easy.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 7:47 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Sens pose major threat to Rangers

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and normally includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League. However, with the playoffs set to get under way Wednesday night, JR switched his format for this week. Read on to find out more:
 
It's hard to talk about what is clicking for a team right now because the puck hasn't yet dropped in the playoffs. Similarly, how can I possibly get on a team for what they're missing before they even play a game? So, as my own little playoff preview, I've instead decided to blog about the first-round series that I think is easiest to pick and the one I think that can be the upset special.
 
My predictions are at the bottom of the blog…
 
If you're looking for an easy pick, it's the Boston-Washington series.
 
I think Boston is starting to play at that high level again and the Capitals have a young goaltender in Braden Holtby, who they're going to have to hope finds a hot streak in the pressure cooker that is the playoffs.
 
There are just far too many questions with Washington.
 
Is Alexander Semin going to show up? Is Nicklas Backstrom going to be ready for playoff hockey? Is Mike Green going to find a way to score a point?
 
These are all issues that they'll have to deal with. They're all issues the Bruins don't currently have.
 
I love the way Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand are playing. They're young guys that are flying high and playing some really great hockey. Tim Thomas is heating up at the right time, and he always gets extra jacked up for the playoffs. Chris Kelly and Danny Paille are playing well.
 
I like the Bruins' overall grit. I like the whole team. And, they're getting down to the grind now and playing with the substance that Boston is known for.
 
The Capitals won't be able to avoid the physical game; the question is can they play it? I'm not so sure.
 
You can push Semin right out of the game or even the series by intimidating him. Backstrom might be tentative after missing so much time with a concussion. He might have a little bit of the nerves going.
 
It's going to be up to Washington's tough guys. Brooks Laich has to be solid and strong. Troy Brouwer has to be the same way. I think Jason Chimera is a guy that people overlook, but he can be a very physical presence that can score goals. He has to.
 
Bruins in five.
 
Now, if you're looking for an upset…
 
It's kind of weird because I think the biggest upset that could happen is Ottawa beating the New York Rangers, and if you read below I have the New York Rangers winning the Stanley Cup.
 
Yes, I know that sounds crazy and maybe it is, but a lot of the reason why I think the Rangers might win the Cup is because if they beat a very tough opponent in Ottawa in the first round, it could really give them a lot of momentum and confidence.
 
The Rangers have not played well against Ottawa. They lost three out of four games to the Senators this season.
 
The Rangers don't match up very well with Ottawa in terms of styles. The Senators' high-powered offense can be a problem depending on how the Rangers perform offensively. They have to score goals, but they can't get into a run and gun, trading chances, horse race style of game and series. They have to play stringy defense, get timely goals and they have to make sure they get their power play going.
 
They have worked hard at trying to fix their power play and they need to get it going now.
 
The Senators, meanwhile, don't really have much pressure on them, and yet they're here in the playoffs because their top guys got them here.
 
Jason Spezza is having a career year. Milan Michalek is having a career year. Daniel Alfredsson is playing very well still. And, having Erik Karlsson, who has shattered all the defensemen in the League in the points race, is huge and really dangerous for the Rangers.
 
The key to success for the Senators is in goaltending. Can Craig Anderson hold down the fort?
 
When Ottawa doesn't win, it's because its goaltender gives up some very shady goals. Anderson has got to find a way to shut the door.
 
If he is good, this might be one of the toughest opponents the Rangers will face. So, even though it's kind of weird for me to pick the Rangers to win the Cup and then look at them as a possible first-round bust, this could happen.
 
I still think the Rangers win this series, but it'll take seven games and it won't be easy.
 
JR's PREDICTIONS
 
EASTERN CONFERENCE
 
Quarterfinals

 
Rangers over Senators
Bruins over Capitals
Devils over Panthers
Flyers over Penguins
 
Semifinals
 
Rangers over Devils
Flyers over Bruins
 
Finals
 
Rangers over Flyers
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
 
Quarterfinals
 
Canucks over Kings
Blues over Sharks
Coyotes over Blackhawks
Predators over Red Wings
 
Semifinals
 
Canucks over Predators
Blues over Coyotes
 
Finals
 
Canucks over Blues
 
CUP FINAL
 
Rangers over Canucks
 
Conn Smythe Trophy: Henrik Lundqvist
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 1:27 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Canucks quietly becoming West's best as Stars fade

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Last week I made some points on teams in the Eastern Conference, specifically the Buffalo Sabres and the Winnipeg Jets. This week, with the races still white-hot, I'm moving back out west to focus on two teams going in completely opposite directions with the end of the regular season only four days away:

What's clicking?

The Vancouver Canucks are the one team that everybody has not been watching or paying attention to. Especially in the U.S., with the Rangers, Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Sabres, the Capitals, the Kings and everybody in the Pacific Division, it seems like no one has noticed that the Vancouver Canucks have won seven in a row and quietly have found themselves right near the top of the National Hockey League again.

It doesn't surprise me. This team has been remolded, readjusted. They have built a tougher team, and that was one of the knocks against Vancouver last season. People were saying the Canucks weren't tough enough in the playoffs, especially in the Stanley Cup Final, when they got pushed around by the Bruins.

Cory Schneider
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 20-7-1
GAA: 1.93 | SVP: 0.938
This season they're tougher physically, tougher mentally, and they're a better all-round team despite the fact that Daniel and Henrik Sedin are below their average in production for a season.

The big positive for the Canucks has been the emergence of backup goalie Cory Schneider. He really has put the pressure on Roberto Luongo to perform at a higher rate.

Schneider is one of the best young goalies in the NHL and will be a starter if not next season, then very soon. He has done everything a backup goaltender is supposed to do.

He's won four in a row, allowing less than one goal per game with a save percentage of .972. He has Luongo looking over his shoulder and everyone questioning whether Luongo should or will be in net for the playoffs.

A friendly rivalry like that is great for goaltenders. You see what it has done in St. Louis with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Look at how well that team has done with their goals-against.

It may sound absurd, but I'm calling the Canucks a sleeper in the Western Conference even though they are right at the top because nobody has been talking about them. That is always a dangerous situation. The Canucks could quietly get up there, pounce, kick some teams in the butt and find themselves right back in the Stanley Cup Final.

It wouldn't shock me at all.

What's missing?

I hate to say it, because he was one of their best players, but it appears that Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen has hit the skids and so has his team.

Lehtonen has looked tired lately. He certainly isn't moving the way he had been for the previous couple of months. And when your goaltender gets tired, it's very difficult for a team to maintain a high level of play, especially when the teams you're playing also are in playoff mode.

Kari Lehtonen
Goalie - DAL
RECORD: 32-21-4
GAA: 2.34 | SVP: 0.922
I give Lehtonen a huge amount of respect for the level he's played at for most of the season, but unfortunately when you come down to the nitty-gritty, when the races are going on and you're playing as much as Lehtonen has lately, and you get as much action as he gets, something is going to give.

The Stars are letting in too many goals and they haven't found a way to put the puck in the back of the net. Loui Eriksson, the Stars' leading scorer, has only three goals in his last 13 games and none in the past seven.

It's no surprise the Stars have lost three in a row at the most crucial time of the season.

The Stars had a fantastic run, especially from late February to the middle of March, when they went 10-0-1 in a span of 11 games, but nobody expected them to make the playoffs earlier in the season and now it looks like those predictions are going to come true.

It's simple math, really. When you're battling for those final precious few playoff spots with three or four teams, you can't afford to lose three games in a row. The parity is too great right now, teams are nipping at your heals every single day, every single game. With as many points that are being distributed because of the system there are too many teams in the run for the playoffs that you can't afford to lose three straight.

I feel bad for the Stars. I feel bad for Jamie Benn and Brenden Morrow. But, it looks like they're going to have to get ready to play some golf.
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 3:54 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: Hats off to Miller for keying Sabres' rise

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

As I continue to look at the playoff race, my focus this week is on the Eastern Conference, specifically the red-hot Sabres and the ice-cold Jets.

What's clicking?

We have to talk about Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres.

I don't think there is a hotter player in the National Hockey League than Miller right now. It's not even just his stats, though. It was how he responded in that trip out west about a month ago.

This guy had a horrible start. He let up bad goals, was getting hit -- he just wasn't himself. I don't know what happened, but he went out west and he made 43 saves in a shutout against Anaheim, 39 saves in a shutout against San Jose, and 32 saves in a win at Vancouver.

His confidence just went soaring off the charts.

Ryan Miller
Goalie - BUF
RECORD: 30-18-7
GAA: 2.46 | SVP: 0.919
Even more than that, the team has backed up Miller in a big-time way. They have come a long way from the time when Milan Lucic smoked Miller earlier in the season and they got a lot of criticism from people saying they were not protecting their goalie.

Now their goalie has stepped up like this, and the rest of the team has rallied behind him. Everybody has picked up their game, their level of play.

You have to be afraid of the Buffalo Sabres right now with the way they are rolling and as well as Miller is playing. This is a great hockey city, and it is one that deserves to have a team that is on this type of run.

The Sabres are about ready to do something amazing, and that's be in 15th place less than two months ago and still get into the playoffs with a magical run.

Hats off to the Buffalo Sabres.

Hats off to Ryan Miller for having the ability to go through a terrible slump, battle an injury, have people question him, deal with trade rumors -- all different types of adversity. It takes a strong man to be able to do that, to overcome that, and Miller is showing people now why he is one of the best goaltenders in the world.

I was one of the guys who was critical of him. We said it right here in this blog earlier this season. But just as I was critical of him, I now have to give him huge amounts of credit for playing big when the stakes are this high.

It's really a fantastic story.

What's missing?

The Winnipeg Jets are an easy target for good reason. They've won only one of their last five games.

You just can't have this happen if you're the Jets, especially in a city like Winnipeg.

These Jets fans have absolutely given the team one of the best home-ice advantages in all of hockey, but being as close as they are to the playoffs this year with that fan support, it's really just disappointing that the Jets have fallen out of the race by losing such big games at such a critical time.

2011-2012 Standings

Eastern Conference
GP
P
ROW

8
77
86
31
9
77
84
36
10
76
78
31
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
03/28/12 3:55PM
It's not for lack of effort, but when your sights are still set on getting a playoff spot and you go out and lose to Ottawa at home, that's just unacceptable. I know Ottawa is a good team, but when you're at home at this time of the year, in the middle of a playoff chase, you have to win those hockey games. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. You have to win those games.

But unfortunately, the Jets get into a run-and-gun style of game and their goaltending has only been average of late. They need to lock down defensively like a team is supposed to when it's trying to get into that playoff mode.

Playoff mode is not a run-and-gun style. It's about slowing things down, making sure all of the ducks on defense are in a row. It's about being on the same page, but the Jets are not on the same page, and because of it they find themselves on the brink of elimination, down eight points with only six games left to play.

This team has good players and good fans, and it had to find a way to win. That the Jets were unable to do that this year shows me that they still have a lot of growing to do as a team to make sure those fans in Winnipeg get what they deserve for all the effort and support they give.
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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic