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the World According to JR
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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Posted On Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 5:25 PM

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

Kings have gotten it together while Flames sink

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.

We're looking at the playoff race out west this week and focusing on two teams trending in opposite directions:

What's clicking?

The Los Angeles Kings are a team that put itself in the position to have to play well late in the season, and to their credit they've won five games in a row.

Darryl Sutter has come in and instilled a positive system to get his team going. Whether it was tough love or just good structure, the Kings are playing more as a team, together, with unity. The players have bought into the system, and that's always so important, especially for a new coach coming into a playoff race.

The Kings have found a way to start scoring goals. They are still one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL, but now, in push-comes-to-shove time, down to the last three weeks of the season, they are finding their offense.

It was nice to see Mike Richards get on the board Tuesday night against San Jose. He played a real solid game, and L.A. scored five goals in a win. It's proof that the Kings need Richards a lot.

He can bring it. He's just a solid, solid hockey player. For some reason he has lost his goal-scoring touch, but hopefully the game against the Sharks gives him more confidence because he can be the difference maker for this hockey club. He plays physical, very strong defensively, he's a good teammate, and he can make players around him better. That's why he was the captain in Philadelphia.

I'm also proud of Anze Kopitar, one of my favorite guys in the League. He has picked up his game. He's starting to skate. He's starting to shoot. He's starting to be that dominant forward that everyone expected him to be in the beginning of the season.

Can you say anything more about Jonathan Quick? He's out in L.A., doesn't get as much publicity as he should, and he continues to be one of the best goaltenders in the NHL while playing for a team that just didn't score enough goals for 90 percent of the season.

If you ask me, Quick has to be on the final ballot for the Vezina Trophy along with Henrik Lundqvist and probably one of Pekka Rinne, Marc-Andre Fleury or either of the guys in St. Louis. If Quick is left off the Vezina ballot, shame on the voters.

The Sharks have opened the door. The Coyotes have opened the door. The Flames kept the door open. The Kings are storming right through it.

What's missing?


The title question here, at least as it pertains to the Calgary Flames, is almost impossible to answer. The Flames are one of those teams that you just can't figure out.

Seriously, why can't they win games when it matters? They have talent, a top-end goaltender, one of the best scorers in the history of the game in Jarome Iginla, but for some reason they let up inopportune goals or they don't get enough secondary scoring in order to find ways to win critical hockey games.

The other night in Colorado was a perfect example. There are the Flames in the playoff race, playing a team that is hot, but also a young team that they could have and probably should have beaten. But they only score the one goal and lose in overtime.

You can't help but think that the Flames are going to miss the playoffs for a third straight season. This is one of the reasons why I thought it might be time for Jarome Iginla to move and find a chance to play on a championship-quality team.

It would be a shame if Iginla doesn't win the Stanley Cup with the career that he's had. He has been a model of consistency, the ultimate professional, a great poster boy for the National Hockey League.

There are a lot of people in this game that hope Jarome gets a Cup, but I just don't see it happening with Calgary, at least not with this team. And, worse yet, the Flames didn't make any moves in the offseason to help themselves.

They're paying for it right now.

They have a great coach in Brent Sutter, but Alex Tanguay is not carrying his weight and neither is Olli Jokinen. Even Miikka Kiprusoff, for as good as he is and has been in his NHL career, just hasn't been the same goalie this season. He's letting in some soft goals, and Calgary doesn't have enough goal scorers on its roster to compensate for that.

Look, when you're in a playoff race you can't go into a set of games against the 29th- and 30th-ranked teams in the NHL and get only one point. Playoff teams get three or four.

Calgary is a great city, a hockey-loving city, but it certainly looks like it will be without playoff hockey for a third straight spring.
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 6:09 PM

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

Roenick: Pens clicking without Sid, B's need to rally

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.

What's clicking?

It's that time of the season, and the frontrunners are gearing up and the pretenders are fading away. There are few teams establishing themselves as teams to contend with like the Pittsburgh Penguins are nowadays.

I think Pittsburgh is the team to beat in the Eastern Conference without Sidney Crosby, so you can imagine how I feel about them with Crosby and potentially Kris Letang returning to the lineup Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). Imagine how difficult that team is going to be to beat.

I truly believe that top to bottom, Pittsburgh's core group of players is as solid as there is in the NHL.

Evgeni Malkin
Center - PIT
GOALS: 38 | ASST: 46 | PTS: 84
SOG: 277 | +/-: 12
Evgeni Malkin is the odds-on favorite to win the Hart Trophy. He's carried the team all season and has been a model of consistency. Marc-Andre Fleury has continued a very high level of play, again. Chris Kunitz has played well. James Neal is having a career season. Jordan Staal is one of the most attentive and responsible players in the National Hockey League.

You just continue to go down their lineup and they are just solid, solid players. They play strong and hard every night. And if everybody is healthy in that lineup come the playoffs, I don't know if there is a team that can beat them four out of seven games, especially when you have a world-class coach like Dan Bylsma.

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Posted On Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 5:58 PM

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

Roenick: Stars soar, while Sharks, Coyotes hit skids

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.

It's all about the Western Conference playoff race this week, the good and the bad.

What's clicking?

It is probably an extremely high-blood pressure, high-intensity time if you're a player, coach, executive or fan in L.A., San Jose, Colorado, Calgary, and you can even throw Dallas in there despite the fact the Stars are first in the Pacific Division and third in the conference. They still have 77 points, which is only two more than Phoenix and three more than Los Angeles and Colorado.

But the fact that Dallas is first in the Pacific Division, third in the Western Conference and winners of three straight, seven of their last eight, just speaks to the unbelievable job Glen Gulutzan is doing down there.

It's just amazing that he's been able to do this with his captain, Brenden Morrow, being out with injury. It's very impressive what they're doing on the road. They've won five in a row away from American Airlines Center, including Tuesday's 5-2 win in Vancouver.

If anybody else is not absolutely 100 percent impressed with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, then you just haven't been watching enough hockey. They're carrying that team on their back and Mike Ribeiro has been a strong supporting actor.

Phoenix was in a comfortable spot after a great February, but the Coyotes have fallen off and now Los Angeles, Colorado and Calgary are winning.

Looking at the Kings, if Tuesday's 5-4 win over Nashville is an indication of how they're going to play down the stretch, then it's going to be troubling for a lot of these teams fighting for a playoff berth with them. We already know how good Jonathan Quick has been this season, but if the Kings start scoring consistently, watch out.

I give a lot of credit to Colorado for sticking in it. The Avalanche have had a nice stretch here to put themselves in position to fight for the eighth spot, but if Matt Duchene is going to be out then so is Colorado. Duchene's ankle injury could seriously damage the Avs' chances.

And then there is San Jose. If you're a Sharks player, coach, executive or fan, are you absolutely freaking out right now?

You should be, but more on that in the next section of this blog.

The fact is this race is going to come down to the wire, and I'm looking for the superstars to step up. We'll see which ones are going to earn their keep.

What's missing?

I'm a fan of San Jose. I love the market and the organization. But I'm scared to death for the Sharks.

I honestly don't know what is wrong there. I don't understand how they're struggling at home, how they're struggling to win hockey games. Why those guys, at such a crucial point in the season, are struggling to put the puck in the net.

I'm really nervous for this team. I'm nervous for Doug Wilson.

Again at the beginning of the season they were supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender, but they're struggling to hold on to the eighth spot. They have it by the games-played tiebreaker right now.

If those top two lines don't score goals, they're not going to win games. Other teams realize that they just have to shut one line down and if they do they can win. More than that, Antti Niemi has been average of late.

I talked about looking for the superstars to step up, so in San Jose I'm looking at Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. You're not going to get any consistency out of Patrick Marleau because he can't find it in him to get angry, mad, ticked off enough to help lead this team out of the doldrums.

Right now I'd be scared. I'd be mad. I'd be huffing like a raging bull right now. I'm not sure that Patrick Marleau can do that. I don't know if he has it in him to bring this team into the playoffs. I'd like to see him get angry, show some passion.

But it's not just San Jose that has me concerned. The Phoenix Coyotes were flying high, but now they're in a very precarious position with four straight losses, including two against Columbus. That's unacceptable, and I have to think that Dave Tippett is livid with this recent skid.

Even if they just won one of those games they would have themselves in a much more comfortable spot, but they're not. Neither are the Sharks.

There is going to be some high drama, high tension coming down the stretch in those markets.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 3:43 PM

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

Coyotes, Leafs illustrate opposite ends of spectrum

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.

Two teams going in opposite directions as the Stanley Cup Playoff races head down the stretch. Read on to find out who, what, why, all of it...

What's Clicking?

The Phoenix Coyotes = red hot.

They've had the most controversy of any team in the NHL during the last two or three years with the ownership issue, but GM Don Maloney has done just a tremendous job of not only keeping the faith within that dressing room, but bringing in quality players and a coach who has created a great playing atmosphere for these players.

You can tell by the way they play.

They were up against adversity going into the All-Star break, and they come out playing like their playoff lives were on the line. Now to be unbeaten in February and third in a difficult, strong Western Conference without any major superstars just tells you how much pride is in that locker room.

Shane Doan, who is one of the best men I've ever met in the game, is a true professional in the way that he runs this team, captains this team, leads it by example.

Radim Vrbata is drastically under-appreciated in the NHL for what he can do and for the season he's having. For him to not make the All-Star Game was such a kick in the face.

And, I've got to give props to Ray Whitney -- 20 years in the NHL and he's leading the Coyotes in points. He continues to be a great locker room leader and a fantastic person to watch on the ice. To keep his level of play as high as he has is a true testament to him as a competitor.

All in all, I am very proud of the Coyotes and I hope for continued success for them. I really hope they can continue this right on into the playoffs and be that team that nobody wants to play come April 10.

Kudos to them. Job well done.

What's Missing?

The Toronto Maple Leafs = ice cold.

This is a team that is under probably the most scrutiny of any in the NHL, especially because they haven't made the playoffs since 2004, but you have to wonder what it is now. It's not coaching because obviously Ron Wilson has a system in place that had the team flying high in the beginning of the season.

You know what, I'm going to make the same statement I made last week about the New York Islanders: Does this team even want to make the playoffs? Does this team even want to make the sacrifice that it takes to win crucial games night in and night out?

I know Florida is a good team, but you can't lose to the Florida Panthers at home when you're battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. There are too many teams right now that are refusing to take that next step, and Toronto is in that group.

Phil Kessel has continued to play strong hockey. Joffrey Lupul has fallen off a bit. But, the guy who has fallen off the most and is hurting this team is Mikhail Grabovski.

It bothers me so much when a guy with that much talent has so many ups and downs throughout a season. You can't be as good as Grabovski was and then be as poor as Grabovski has been. Either you're good or you're not.

To me, it's simply about effort.

Grabovski is a great player and he needs to step up and be accountable for the way he's performing.

But, unfortunately, goalies James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson have also fallen on quiet times. That's not helping the cause at all for Wilson and Brian Burke or the Toronto Maple Leafs' fans.

Finally, I have heard they're calling for Wilson to be fired, chanting for it at Air Canada Centre; but it's not right. Why is it Wilson's fault now? What about the beginning of the season? They weren't calling for his head then.

It now goes down to the players because they're not performing to their expectations. They have proven that they can do it, that the system works, but now they have to play the system and stop blaming the coach.

They just need to do what it takes to win hockey games.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 9:00 AM

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

Roenick: Ducks clicking, Islanders inconsistent

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.

The Anaheim Ducks' amazing run under coach Bruce Boudreau and why the New York Islanders can't ever get over the hump. It's all in the blog, so read on:

What's clicking?

It's amazing to watch what the Anaheim Ducks are doing right now. They were 20 points out of eighth place on Jan. 6, but entering Tuesday's game in Tampa Bay they are five points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference

Incredibly, when Boudreau arrived just a few days after getting fired by Washington, the Ducks still couldn't get it right. They won just three of their first 14 games under him, but they are 15-2-4 in their last 21. For a team that looked like it couldn't do anything right, to change coaches like that and all of a sudden catch fire the way the Ducks have and play as soundly defensively -- it's just amazing.

This is a team that couldn't keep the puck out of the net, and now teams are finding it hard to get even one goal. Mind you, these are some of the same teams that were scoring in bunches against the Ducks. The same teams now can't score against them. Amazing.

My hat goes off to Boudreau and the mentality he's brought in there. I'm sure there were players on that team that were sick and tired of Randy Carlyle's drill-sergeant mentality; seeing now how Boudreau is with this team, at least it seems to me that the players are really playing hard for him and buying into his system.

The run they're on now, being as close to a playoff position as they are -- and with a lot of it being on the road -- tells me this is a team on a mission.

Moreover, they are fun to watch.

Teemu Selanne, at 41, continues to defy his age. He's just as fast as anybody out there now, and with his brilliant hockey mind he's leading this team. Guys like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan are following right with him.

Perry, in fact, is the best second-half player in the NHL, bar none. You saw the way he finished last season on an absolute tear, and he's doing it again. He's scored six goals in his last five games.

Between Selanne and Perry, they're bringing this team back into the playoff hunt.

It'll be interesting to see if they make the playoffs, and even more interesting to see if a coach that got fired by one team can win the Jack Adams Award in the same season with another team. That's never happened before. I would think Boudreau would be a shoe-in if the Ducks make the playoffs.

What's missing?

I don't know if the New York Islanders even want to play in the postseason.

This team probably works as hard, if not harder, than any in the National Hockey League. But when the moments get bigger, they seem to find ways to lose in big ways.

So there they were, six points out of a playoff spot, battling hard in every game to get there, working hard to climb up the standings, believing in coach Jack Capuano and the system he has put in place. They're beating the best teams in the NHL with that work ethic, and they get close to the playoff spot. But with a hot team in Ottawa coming into their building, they lay an egg in a 6-0 loss.

That is just so frustrating. You'd think it wouldn't happen when they can see the playoff line, so like I said before -- I wonder if the Islanders even want to make the playoffs? I wonder if they're so young that they don't have that mentality.

That's not a knock against their team; it's a knock against their age and maturity.

Their best player, John Tavares, is having a good season, but he's not bringing the team over the hump to get them more consistent. They have other good players in Matt Moulson, P.A. Parenteau, Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit, but they can't seem to grasp the mentality of how to slam the door.

Who is going to teach them that? Well, I believe having Doug Weight behind the bench is one of the best things the Islanders can have. That guy is a winner and can be a really good mentor to the young guys, but Dougie is such a nice guy. He needs to have some tough love with these players.

These guys work hard, but they're finding ways to lose when they're in critical situations. It frustrates me and I'm sure it frustrates Islanders fans everywhere. It's about time this young team matures and doesn't accept getting blown out 6-0 when they're in arm's reach of a playoff spot.

I sure hope Capuano and Weight put their foot down and expect more out of their players. I sure hope they can get back into the playoffs sometime soon.

Islanders fans have endured enough already.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 12:33 PM

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

Roenick: An exciting weekend for hockey in America

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.

Hockey Weekend Across America and the Columbus Blue Jackets' Jeff Carter are on my mind this week:

What's clicking?

Hockey Weekend Across America is coming up this weekend, and to be honest, I don't know why they didn't start this years ago. This is a great way to introduce hockey awareness to sports fans in the Unites States.

USA Hockey really has moved leaps and bounds ahead of where they were in the 1980s and '90s in their push to make hockey a much more popular sport. To get the awareness of hockey out there has been at the forefront of their mission, which I think is so important. Now NBC has pushed to get kids interested not only in the game, but the rivalries in the game, the logistics in the game, the competition.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.08.2012 / 5:17 PM

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

Roenick: Birthday wishes to an elite young scorer

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.

Wishing happy birthday to a young superstar in Tampa and hoping that the officials in the NHL can receive some help in the future to make one of the judgment calls there is to make in the game. Read on to find out who and what I'm talking about:

What's clicking?

Steven Stamkos is just lighting it up this season and he's probably going to be the only 50-goal scorer in the NHL. He should get to that 50-goal mark and regain the Rocket Richard Trophy.

It couldn't go to a better guy.

Steven Stamkos
Center - TBL
GOALS: 35 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 58
SOG: 184 | +/-: 5
It was Stamkos' 22nd birthday on Tuesday and we saw players on his team chasing him around, trying to stuff one of those shaving cream pies in his face. You can tell how much these guys love to be with Stamkos.

Everybody around the League should sit down in front of a television set to watch him play. Just watch his demeanor, how he conducts himself, how he treats others -- he's truly a treat to be around and he's one of the great ambassadors for the NHL.

He's also one of the most dynamic players in the League and one of the most talented goal scorers we've seen in a long time. When you put a guy like that with Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, you're going to have something special.

It's great to see that as of late the Lightning have been winning some games and trying to get back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. They work so hard, but unfortunately the team's defensive liabilities take away from the offensive ability it has, an offensive ability that Stamkos leads the way on.

So, this is a happy birthday blog for Stamkos, a guy I love to watch play. He should get to 50 goals again this season, but no matter how many he scores, his personality doesn't change. He's humble and fun to be around. He's a treat, and he deserves to be recognized for it.

What's missing?

After seeing what happened in New York on Tuesday, when Marian Gaborik was called for goalie interference, negating a game-tying goal with only seconds remaining in the third period, I think it's time that the League allow the officials to go to video review to determine such plays.

This happens a lot, especially late in games, when guys are going to the net and defensemen are valiantly trying to keep them away. But a lot of the times the goaltender interference happens as a result of the defending team's actions. The Gaborik incident was an example of that.
 
On the play, it appears that Gaborik is trying to stop when Anton Volchenkov pushes him into his own goalie, and the goal is disallowed. If the officials had the opportunity to go to a video review of that play, it's possible the goal would have been allowed and that game would have gone to overtime. The officials would have had the opportunity to review if Gaborik was trying to stop and if Volchenkov created the contact between Gaborik and Martin Brodeur.

At the very least, the officials would have been allowed to take what is a split-second decision amid chaos and further analyze it before coming to a better judgment.

The officials have an incredibly hard job and they do it quite well, but it wouldn't hurt for them to have a little help on plays such as the Gaborik interference. It also wouldn't take very long for them to determine with 100 percent certainty, or as close to it as there is in this game, that they are making the right call.

It is such a reviewable circumstance because goals are so hard to come by in this League, especially late in a game when a team is going for the tying goal to get it to overtime.

I know the goalies are being protected, and they should be, but a lot of times it is the defenseman's fault that they're getting contact. And who's to say it is not the defenseman's strategy or tactic to push or ride an attacking player into his goalie, especially when he knows he's likely going to get the call to go in his favor.

There has been so much talk about protecting the goaltenders and using the instant replay for goals to find out if pucks are in the net, but these plays are also critically important and the officials should be allowed to have every piece of technology available to make sure they get it right.
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Quote of the Day

I'm hoping Bob [Murray] didn't go out and get Dany Heatley just to get someone. I'm sure he's excited and motivated.

— Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on general manager Bob Murray's decision to sign Dany Heatley