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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
the World According to JR
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 Sunday, 06.03.2012 / 11:55 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: Kings must beware of a letdown

LOS ANGELES -- With the Stanley Cup Final shifting to Staples Center for Game 3 Monday night, NBC Sports analyst Jeremy Roenick says the Los Angeles Kings, up 2-0 on the New Jersey Devils, now have to guard against a letdown at home.

"They can't get into a game to try to impress their fans," Roenick told NHL.com.

The Devils, of course, will try to do all they can to make sure the Kings don't have an impressive night. Roenick says they will help their own cause if they get even more aggressive on their forecheck.

"You have to come with all your guns," he said. "You can't sit back now."

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POSTED ON Friday, 06.01.2012 / 4:33 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Onus on Devils to convert on their chances

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the Kings to win their 10th straight road game in these playoffs and take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, NBC Sports analyst Jeremy Roenick said they don't have to change much from their Game 1 performance.

Roenick is instead putting the onus on the Devils to capitalize when they have the chance and establish their forecheck from the get-go in Game 2 Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).

For more of Roenick's thoughts heading into Game 2, check out this Q&A he did with NHL.com:

NHL.com: What do the Devils have to do to win Game 2?

STANLEY CUP FINAL - KINGS VS. DEVILS

Devils focus on more sustained attack

By Darren Pang - Special to NHL.com
Hockey analyst Darren Pang discusses some key adjustments the Devils need to make in order to bounce back in Game 2. READ MORE ›
JR: Obviously this is the biggest game of their season. You can't fall down 2-0 to a team as hot as the L.A. Kings. For me, what I saw last game, the opportunities that were missed by the Devils -- open nets, missed passes, quality, quality scoring chances that they had that had they converted it would have been a much different game -- they have to convert on those in Game 2. Both teams had quality chances, but the Devils especially. David Clarkson had a couple. Zach Parise had a golden one that he just couldn't get a stick on it. I think a lot of it had to do with the ice conditions, the puck was bouncing a lot. The players won't blame it, but I think the ice was to blame for some bad bounces that helped keep the puck out of the net. Regardless, they have to convert on all those chances.

NHL.com:
How do they go about getting more chances than they had in Game 1, because they had only 18 shots on goal?

JR: I think they have to get on their forecheck harder. I don't think they put enough pressure on L.A.'s defense. They made a couple of big mistakes. Their 'D' got beat on the first goal by a hard forecheck, a turnover, and the puck goes to the back of the net without the proper coverage. They have to tighten up and put more pressure on the L.A. defense to create more turnovers.

NHL.com: If they are able to do that, do you think it'll be enough to win against a Kings team that is finding a way in just about every game it plays?

JR: It's going to give them the best opportunity. You can't say it for sure it will be enough, because you can't predict the future, but it will give the Kings a lot more to handle. I do think Jersey has the ability to forecheck harder and they have to test them to that capacity. If they don't, L.A. will continue to pick them apart.

NHL.com: What do the Kings have to do to take a 2-0 lead in the series?

JR: I don't think they have to change much. They moved the puck well. They stayed out of the penalty box. They got some really good forechecking in. They created some good scoring opportunities. All in all, they have to make sure they don't turn the puck over in neutral ice. Sometimes when Jersey got more chances the puck was turned over in neutral ice, either by the defense or the centerman, and then the Devils were able to transition very quickly.

NHL.com: How do the Kings avoid the pitfalls of those turnovers considering you know the Devils are going to want to pounce?

JR: For me, it's about making sure they control the puck and control the blue lines. The blue lines are very important. And they really just have to play as sturdy a defensive game and as boring a game as they possibly can to get the fans nervous, restless and quiet. Maybe they can steal another game out of the Devils building.

NHL.com: The Kings have been at their best in Game 2s. Does that matter now? Does it give them a psychological advantage?

JR: No, I don't think it does. I really think the Kings are in a zone physically, mentally. I don't think they're looking at it being Game 1, Game 2 or Game 3. They are taking it one game at a time. They're keeping it simple. They are moving the puck well. They don't care if they're up or down, they're just playing a hockey game, one at a time. Darryl Sutter is making third and fourth lines feel like they're a huge part of this team, and he's challenging the top lines to be better. That's a beautiful way to bring the whole team into the mix. I think Darryl Sutter deserves a lot of credit for bringing in a very strong mentality in that locker room.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.29.2012 / 11:51 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick breaks down keys to winning Game 1

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the Los Angeles Kings to take a lead in the Stanley Cup Final, NBC Sports analyst Jeremy Roenick says they have to exert their game with their aggressive forecheck on the New Jersey Devils.

Similarly, for the Devils to win Game 1 Wednesday at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS), Roenick says they have to exert their forecheck and their will on the Kings.

Clearly Roenick believes the team that does it better will get the early edge in the Final. For more, read on to the Q&A NHL.com conducted with Roenick for his complete breakdown heading into Game 1:

NHL.com: What do the Kings have to do to win Game 1?

STANLEY CUP FINAL - KINGS VS. DEVILS

NHL.com's expert Stanley Cup Final Picks

By NHL.com Staff
Can the Kings keep up their remarkable postseason run or will the Devils bring home a fourth Cup. See what the experts have to say. READ MORE ›
JR: No. 1, they have to understand what they do very well and stop the Devils from playing their game, basically beat them at their own game. The Devils have an extremely good forecheck. They use their speed to get in on the defense, cause havoc, crate turnovers. The Kings have to make sure they really hold the gaps, hold the blue lines. They have to make sure the Devils dump the puck in and they have to get a lot of support from their centermen. One thing that will be really hard for them is the pressure. The Kings are going to get more pressure than they have all playoffs so far, and they have to make quick, good decisions with the puck. Obviously they have to have good goaltending, but first and foremost they have to make sure that they control the puck and possess the puck as much as they possibly can against a very good offensive team in the Devils.

NHL.com: What is the key to the Kings controlling the puck?

JR: Their game has been very good, very tight. Defensively they've been very good. But where they have been so much better against Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix is their ability to make good decisions with the puck. They move the puck, make the smart, easy decision. They are not forcing pucks. They are doing things very quickly, and when you do things quickly it frustrates the other team. The other team can work so hard on the forecheck, but when that puck is moved quick, accurately and smartly, you're going to beat the forecheck. The other team is going to exert a lot of energy, but not get anything done. I think that's what the Kings have to do, step that up just one more level, which you need to do in order to win in the Final.

NHL.com: What kind of pressure will it put on the Devils if they're able to do all that?

JR: It means the puck will be going the complete opposite way, and that's what the Kings have done so well. They're working together as units of five. It's not one or two guys working hard one shift. All five of them are working in unison. A team gets by one roadblock, and there is another one there. A team gets by that one, and there is another one there. Then if you get past the three walls, you've got a goaltender that has just been unbelievable.

NHL.com: Let's flip it, what do the Devils have to do to win Game 1?

JR: They have to outwork the Kings. The Kings, in my opinion, have been the hardest-working team in the playoffs so far. The Devils have to outwork them. They have to make sure they stay out of the penalty box, stay disciplined, but they have to continue their forecheck. Their forecheck has been so good. Their power play has to be very good, which will be tough because the Kings' penalty kill has been the best in the playoffs. But, all in all, they have to find a way to beat Jonathan Quick. They've got to get in his face.

NHL.com: The Canucks, Blues and Coyotes couldn't do that consistently. How can the Devils get in Quick's face?

JR: With Quick it's all second effort, secondary opportunities. The points have to shoot for deflections. They can't shoot to score because it's not too often that a defenseman is going to score from the blue line on a direct shot. They have to shoot for deflections and it's secondary. It's rebound to top shelf, rebound to top shelf. He covers the lower half of the net so well and he's so good laterally that it has to be a bang-bang play to get in the net, or it's not going to get there.

NHL.com: If the Devils can get to Quick, what kind of pressure does that put on the rest of the Kings?

JR: Well, the Kings haven't really been under duress at all in these playoffs. The Devils have. They've played a seven-game series. They've been down in series. They've been down in games. They've had to battle back. The Kings haven't had that. When you haven't had that deficit, that mentality or mind frame, that benefits the New Jersey Devils.

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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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery