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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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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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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 12:14 PM

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

Preds' brilliance, Coyotes' struggles intrigue Roenick

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 out in the Western Conference have piqued my interest this week. One is red-hot and deserves our attention; the other is near and dear to my heart, but needs some type of jolt to get back in the hunt. Read on to find out who I'm talking about and why:


What's Clicking?

The Nashville Predators are on fire despite having very little fanfare around them other than Ryan Suter's contract talks.

The Predators don't get the respect and the attention they deserve, but I can tell you they're a team I didn't like playing against. They're a very tough, stingy, competitive team, and it seems their coach, Barry Trotz, is a wonderful guy.

He's extremely smart and he seems like a good players' coach. He always has a very solid, sound system that he displays to his team. His team believes in the system and plays hard for him. Every single night they are disciplined, they work hard and they are sound defensively.

If there is any one knock against the Predators it would be their lack of consistent goal scoring, but lately they've found ways to win games by scoring goals. Mike Fisher is scoring like crazy right now. When Martin Erat starts scoring a little bit more, the Predators are going to be even harder to beat than they are right now, and in the last 15 games they are 13-2.

Look at the standings. Nashville is only three points behind the top spot in the National Hockey League, and yet you don't really hear anything about that. It's disappointing to me, because the Predators have paid their dues. They've sat in the basement, worked their way back to respectability, and now they are arguably one of the strongest and most disciplined teams in the NHL.

Pekka Rinne is one of the best goaltenders in the world and he's anchored by probably the best tandem in the NHL with Shea Weber and Suter.

Hopefully Suter's contract situation doesn't distract this team and he's able to sign eventually. We'll see what happens with that, but right now I'm just very impressed watching this team play hard together, play a very organized system.

Trotz is one of the most tenured coaches in the NHL right now, and I don't think anybody should question why he's been in Nashville for so long. His team really loves playing for him and always responds to his coaching tactics.

I would not want to play this team in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Trust me, I know they're a very difficult and frustrating team to play.

What's Missing?

The Phoenix Coyotes are very dear to me. They're a team I love to cheer. You can see how hard they work on a consistent basis and are backed by a fantastic coach in Dave Tippett, but they're also a team that I seriously worry about right now.

The Coyotes lost Tuesday night at home to Anaheim and are just 3-4-3 in their past 10 games. They sit No. 12 in the Western Conference because for some reason they can't get over the hump; they can't string three, four or five wins together to find their way back into the top eight.

They're a team without any major superstars or big-time goal scorers they can market and be that game-breaker, so in my opinion GM Don Maloney has to start thinking about making a trade for a proven scorer before it's too late. He has to do it in order to have an opportunity to make the playoffs this season.

And we all know how important it is for the Coyotes to make the playoffs and get that extra revenue from selling out the building for playoff games. They can't afford to miss the playoffs.

Radim Vrbata is trying his hardest to be that offensive punch, but Phoenix is not going to rally around Radim Vrbata. I mean no disrespect to him, because he's a fantastic player and he should have been in the All-Star Game this year, but the Coyotes need a marquee player.

The first name that comes to mind is Jeff Carter from Columbus. I know he has a big contract, 10 years and millions still left on his deal, and he has not played his best as a Blue Jacket. But this could be one of those cases where desperate times call for desperate measures.

If they want to get into the playoffs, they need a marquee guy that is going to score on a nightly basis. And I don't think they're going to be able to get a consistent, marquee goal scorer on the cheap.

The Coyotes are a very difficult team to play against because of their defensive structure and hard work, but they always seem to lose in overtime or by one goal. And by getting a marquee goal scorer, if they can, I think the Coyotes can make the playoffs and therefore make some extra money that would greatly enhance the interest in Phoenix.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.25.2012 / 10:42 AM

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

Roenick: All-Star Game will be great, but needs Ovi

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick offers sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

All-Star Weekend is upon us, so naturally this blog entry has to do with all things All-Star related. There is so much to appreciate at this time of the year, but there's also one storyline this week that really disappointed me:

What's clicking?

It is really cool that with Ottawa hosting the All-Star Game, the fans there really got behind their players by voting and getting four of them onto the rosters. That shows a lot of commitment and a lot of loyalty from the fans to their players, and you can tell that they're really excited about having the All-Star Game come to their city.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 3:51 PM

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

Roenick: Credit to Kovalchuk, concern for Leafs

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick offers sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

I have to give some kudos and offer my respect to one of my least favorite players, but I also have to get critical with one of my favorite teams. Read on to find out what I'm talking about:

What's clicking?

Ilya Kovalchuk is really playing like the player that he should be, and that's a really good sign for the New Jersey Devils.

One of the reasons this team is winning is because their best player is doing the little things he's supposed to be doing to allow his team to win. He's working harder defensively, and his coach is playing him more in penalty-killing roles because of his speed and because of how well he's playing. When you play well, your coach is going to reward you with more ice time.

Kovalchuk is very focused on scoring goals and being one of the best players in the game, and that's pretty commendable for him.

I've been all over him in terms of his team mentality. I've called him selfish. I've called him a lot of different things, but I've been impressed with his dedication to Pete DeBoer's system and how he's been playing to the system. You know what, he's scoring goals and he's one of the hottest guys in the League right now because of it.

I can be mean, but when you're playing well and playing properly, within the team rules and the team concept, I can appreciate that, too. And I need to give a lot of respect to Kovalchuk for his recent play. I hope he keeps it up because if he does, the team will continue to do well and creep up the board to secure a playoff spot.

Hey, I will say that Kovalchuk is not one of my favorite players. I have no problem telling you that, but I do appreciate his dedication to the team and that his work ethic seems much more focused. I recognize good, solid hockey when I see it. He has more success when he plays a team-oriented way.

What's missing?

I'll go on record and say the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of my favorite teams because of their fan base, their history, and it was also one of my favorite places to play because of the fans, their knowledge, and the history behind the Maple Leafs.

But Toronto's last playoff appearance was in 2004 when we [the Philadelphia Flyers] knocked them out with one of my favorite goals of my career against Eddie Belfour. Since then, it's been a downhill spiral.

The Maple Leafs started off so hot, but they've lost three in a row and now they're ninth in the Eastern Conference.

At the beginning of this season it looked like they were on the right path to getting out of that playoff funk. They started out so hot and Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul were off to career years, but now the Leafs have lost three in a row and they're again flirting with the possibility of missing the playoffs.

One of my favorite coaches, Ron Wilson, just received a contract extension and some people might have scoffed at that, but this is less about coaching and more about putting enough talented players on the ice. Brian Burke is a very savvy, smart GM, but because of Toronto's inconsistencies in winning hockey games and with missing the playoffs looming again, he needs to make a trade.

Burke needs to get somebody that will help the Leafs secure a playoff spot for this year, and he needs to do it now because time is running out for the Maple Leafs. How much are the fans and the media going to allow with this team missing the playoffs?

It's funny, though, because I don't know if it's goaltending, defense or offense. It befuddles me as to why this team can't find consistency.

It has to be the players, and Burke, being as smart as he is and being this close to the trade deadline, he has to start shopping people around and getting on the "I need" list for players to help his team get into the playoffs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs need something, and they need it now.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 5:58 PM

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

Roenick: Handing out some midseason hardware

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick usually offers his sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League, but with this being midseason week in the NHL, J.R. decided to hand out some hardware.

Everybody has their own list, so I thought I'd give you mine. Here are my midseason picks for the six big trophies in the NHL:

Calder Trophy

It's not a big secret that it's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers.

It still amazes me that Edmonton thought about sending him back to juniors. He's dazzled with his ability to handle the National Hockey League, and he seems way older and more mature than his age would suggest. Boy, oh boy, does he have a bright future, and he definitely gets the early nod for rookie of the year because of the amazing pace with which he has started his career.

Norris Trophy

This is a real close one for me. The two guys I believe are right there are on teams that aren't at the top of the League, but they're good teams and they're going to be in the playoffs.

The first guy is Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.

Brian Campbell
Defense - FLA
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 33
SOG: 67 | +/-: 2
Karlsson has been fantastic all season. He has been consistently strong offensively and defensively. He's been excellent, especially on the power play. On a team that has struggled through parts of the year, Karlsson has not really had many low points. He's been a model of consistency, which is both impressive and totally necessary in Ottawa.

Nipping at Karlsson's heals, and people may think I'm crazy for this, is Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers.

There's not much hype or attention down in Florida, but the Panthers quietly had a fantastic first half of the season and Dale Tallon bringing Campbell there is a big reason why. He has enhanced the Panthers' overall production. His coast-to-coast rushes have been exciting to watch. He's a defenseman that can control the game. And he seems to be having a lot of fun.

Right now for the Norris it's a push between Karlsson and Campbell. It's still up in the air.

Vezina Trophy

This has to go to Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, but this is a close one. In fact, because of Lundqvist, Tim Thomas and Brian Elliott, I think this is going to be as close a Vezina race as we've seen in the last decade.

The goalies this year have just been phenomenal, but Lundqvist has allowed the Rangers to not only become the No. 1 team in the League, but he has allowed them to win games this year regardless of whether the forwards score goals. That is a pretty impressive feat.

Thomas is again defying the laws of age and continuing the highest level of play, but he did have a tough start at the beginning of the year so I'm going to give Lundqvist the nod because of his consistency night in and night out.

Jack Adams Award

This is going to a guy that didn't even start the year as a coach. It's Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues.

Hitch has done something that not many people have the ability to do, which is go into a team that is struggling, a team that couldn't win any games, that was battling with its confidence, and totally turn it around. In fact, I think the term total remodel is an understatement for what Hitchcock has accomplished in St. Louis. Their structure, their system, and their overall attitude and desire to win -- it's all different. This team believes it can win every single night and works hard every single night.

I feel bad for any team that has to play the Blues in the first round of the playoffs because they seem to be on a roll and playing like warriors.

Selke Trophy

Joe Pavelski
Right Wing - SJS
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 30
SOG: 121 | +/-: 13
This is always a tough one, but I'm putting someone down here that will surprise a lot of people. It's Joe Pavelski from the San Jose Sharks.

Todd McLellan trusts this guy in every aspect of the game. He puts him on the power play. He puts him on the penalty kill. He starts him in overtime. He uses him in the shootout. Pavelski is so smart in his defensive play, but he doesn't get any credit out there in San Jose because of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns. Pavelski is, without question, a guy that should be getting attention for being one of the best defensive forwards in the League that can also play offensively. It's a lot like Ryan Kesler was last year. He's just a great player.

A close second would be Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. He's such a good penalty killer and he's so smart defensively with his positioning that he makes the Selke race close, but I still like Pavelski by a hair.

Hart Trophy

Claude Giroux
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 18 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 48
SOG: 103 | +/-: 5
The big one is an easy one. Hands down the most exciting player for me to watch this year all the way around the boards has been Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.

His toughness, grit, goal-scoring, playmaking, work ethic and importance to the team have all been such important elements for the Flyers this season. He's really benefited from Jaromir Jagr being there, learning from a veteran, but Giroux's confidence seems to be off-the-charts high right now. Some of the moves he makes, the timing of them, the timing of his goals, show he's a big time player that rises to the occasion. And I love his mentality. He plays the game with a lot of grit, an edge, and he's in the perfect place in Philly because the people there can appreciate his game.

He has been by far the most valuable to his team.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 9:30 PM

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

Still in awe over Winter Classic

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

It's been a few days since the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, but I'm still in awe over the entire event. Plus, the problems that the Buffalo Sabres have been having all season are still mystifying to me. Read on to find out more of my thoughts on both:

What's clicking?

I've done a lot of cool things in my lifetime and have been involved with a lot of really neat events, including All-Star games, the Olympics and the Stanley Cup Final, but the Winter Classic was one of the coolest things I've ever done. The best thing I've ever done was go to the Vancouver Olympics, but last weekend's Winter Classic was one of the most fun and best-run events I've seen in a long time.

My hat goes off to the NHL for putting on a first-class event. My hat goes off to the Rangers and Flyers for the support they gave the Winter Classic. And, I certainly tip my hat to the fans that came out, all 45,000 for the alumni game and the 47,000 for the big game. That just goes to show you how supportive these fans are in both of these cities.

The buildup to the even was spectacular, too.

For both teams to open up and allow HBO's cameras to go inside and get up close and personal not only in the locker rooms, but on the buses, on the planes, in the hotel rooms and in their homes was just phenomenal. Those are forbidden territories to media, but the coaches and the teams allowed that to happen and by doing so allowed people to get up front with the National Hockey League and its players from their living rooms.

Getting to play in the alumni game was tremendous. To be in the same locker room with Bernie Parent, Bob Clarke, Mark Howe, Eric Lindros, Mark Recchi, Rick Tocchet -- it was a true treat. To be on the ice with 45,000 people watching, I can't remember being in an environment that took my breath away, and that really took my breath away. It's the only way I can describe it.

Seeing the amount of sweaters that were worn out there, it was inspiring.

Again, the NHL really succeeded in pulling off another great celebration of the game. The Winter Classic is a huge hit and a huge bonus for the NHL and its fans.

What's missing?

I remain perplexed by the struggles of the Buffalo Sabres. I really just don't get it. I don't understand why this team has struggled to win consistently. They have solid, strong forwards, good defenseman and in my opinion a guy who should be one of the best goalies in the NHL in Ryan Miller, but it's not working.

What is wrong with Miller, both physically and mentally? He just doesn't seem to be the same guy I'm used to watching. He's letting in a lot of shots that in past years he would have stopped. He seems to be struggling in the crease with his positioning. I think he's battling a confidence issue right now, and I don't know why it has been going on for so long.

Maybe it's because Ryan Miller got married in the offseason and his wife lives in L.A., so there is that separation. But, that's personal stuff that you have to deal with, that you have to put aside and forget about when you're on the ice.

Lindy Ruff is a good coach, but for some reason the guys and him just aren't connecting with the work aspect that needs to be done. They're struggling to win the games they do win, and they're not beating teams they should beat.

They barely beat Edmonton on Tuesday because the Oilers came out and totally dominated them in the work aspect. That leads me to wonder why the Sabres aren't working hard enough for Ruff.

They do deserve some benefit of the doubt because their injuries have been immense, and now Christian Ehrhoff is out as well. They have used 33 different players in the lineup and they have lost 173 man-games to injury. It is hard for the coach to find any cohesiveness with all those injuries because he is forever mismatching combinations, so you can't get into any kind of groove.

But there is still the work ethic problem and the issues that Miller seems to be having.

Let's hope that Buffalo can get everybody healthy, working hard, and clicking so they put together the push to the playoffs that those fans deserve. It is a really good fan base and it's always good to see the Sabres battling come playoff time.
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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 7:17 PM

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

Roenick: Alumni game provided return to young days

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com every Wednesday during the season. Roenick, though, couldn't limit himself to one blog this week.

He suited up in the Molson Canadian 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game on Saturday and wore No. 97 for the Flyers. Roenick finished a plus-1 in 12:48 of ice time. He was introduced after Eric Lindros, who received the loudest and longest ovation from the 45,808 at Citizens Bank Park. He was robbed by Rangers goalie Dan Blackburn. But, the experience was magical and Roenick fulfilled some childhood dreams.

Here is his experience, in J.R.'s own words:

There I was, standing on the top step of the Phillies dugout, waiting to be introduced and listening to the roaring ovation that Eric Lindros was getting. It was such a great introduction for him. He deserved a really good ovation for what he's done for this city and the city acknowledged what he's done. It is a class move by this town and I think Eric really appreciated it.

And, it was nice coming after him because there was still some of the residual applause. That was great.

When you're out there at the start of the game, first of all you're thinking that you just can't get hurt. I was like, 'Oh please, don't pull anything.' A lot of us haven't played for a long time.

We had to make sure there was respect, and there was a lot of it on both sides.

The ice was expectedly just OK, so we weren't going to have very crisp passes or plays, but the intensity was actually pretty good. I honestly thought the guys worked hard, and I was especially impressed by watching Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Bill Barber because they were moving the puck well and had a couple of great chances to score.

But, I don't think anybody can disagree that our goaltenders stole the show.

We have to start with Bernie Parent. He played well and didn't allow a goal in his four minutes of ice time, but it wasn't just the way he played -- it was so much more. After not being on the ice for 34 years, for him to come out and get the ovation that he had; it put chills up my spine. What a wonderful man and the way they acknowledged him here, you know why he's such an icon in this city.

Then Mark Laforest and Neil Little shut the door for us. It'll probably be the lowest scoring alumni game in the history of alumni games, and it definitely was Neil Little's best game as a Flyer. Especially at the end, he kind of looked like Denny Lemieux, he was getting peppered so much.

Overall, it was just amazing to be out there. To be down on the ice and look up in the stands and see the amount of people in this building all standing up, it was inspiring. I really was in awe. It was such a great experience. I have never been in something like this and I'm very proud I got to do it, especially in a Flyers uniform.

What it also did was give me a new appreciation for the Winter Classic because it felt like I was a kid again, playing outside with my buddies, playing a little shinny game on the pond. It really brought me back to those days -- even though it was a little warmer than I remember.

To look up and see the blue sky, the clouds, the people around and a lot of familiar faces that brought me back to my days here, it was just really awe-inspiring to me.

And, being on the ice with Clarkie, that was amazing. I'm just happy he kept his stick down, though he did clip one guy so at least we saw some of his old antics again.

It was also nice playing with Kenny Linseman, 'The Rat.' I grew up watching him play and just loving it because I was a big Bruins fan growing up, and I remember him just driving people crazy when he played for the Bruins.

I'd like to think we played pretty well together.

One of the great things I'm so happy I did was right before we came out for the third period a couple of us got all the boys to sign our jerseys. I mean, if you're in a room with all these legends and you don't get some kind of memorabilia from them shame on you. This jersey is something that I'll hang in my living room.

This experience is going to live with me forever.

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 9:29 PM

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

Blues are clicking, Habs are missing -- a lot

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season.

Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

On my mind this week is a Western Conference team on the rise and an Eastern Conference team that appears to be on the cliff, in danger of falling over. I'm talking about the Blues and the Canadiens. You should read on to find out why:

What's clicking?

Ken Hitchcock came into the perfect scenario in St. Louis, with his style matching the makeup of the Blues. This team doesn't have any superstars, so they all listen, are very attentive and are clearly responding very well to Hitchcock's hard style of coaching.

Alexander Steen
Left Wing - STL
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 24
SOG: 113 | +/-: 20
The Blues the last five years have been built on speed and defensive mentalities. They don't have any big goal scorers, but they have guys like Alexander Steen, David Backes and David Perron, among others -- and these are all good two-way players, which is perfect for Hitchcock. The trade they made last year in getting Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk really bolstered this team to have more of an all-round competitive aspect to it. That also has helped Hitchcock.

I think they're one of the hardest working teams in the League for the way they attack the puck and play the puck with so much aggression. Hitchcock's defensive mentality, in-your-face, hard-work mentality also works well with the makeup of the players who already were on the team when he got there in early November.

It was like a match made in heaven for Hitchcock and the St. Louis Blues, and that's why they've been so successful.

What also matters is that goalie Jaroslav Halak has been a whole lot better since Brian Elliott has been on this major tear. You love to see that goaltender competition, two guys fighting for the No. 1 job. That always brings out great numbers in goaltenders. The same thing happened in Minnesota, and now it's happening in St. Louis.So, I tip my hat to Hitchcock and the Blues for the massive turnaround they've made in the last month and a half. They've put themselves in the top four teams in the West and are looking to put themselves in the top two or three teams in the League.

What's missing?

With injuries and a shortage of talent, Montreal Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier has to take a big part of the responsibility for the way the team is struggling. Defenseman Andrei Markov being injured for the last couple of seasons is one of the biggest blows that any team has had in terms of injuries in the last two or three years. He's such an important part of their team. But it's kind of crazy to watch this team struggle when they have a goalie as good as Carey Price. That tells me they have too many weak points.

The Canadiens don't have a playmaker every night that sets up their goal scorers, among them Michael Cammalleri. He's one of the best snipers in the National Hockey League, but Cammalleri needs to get fed the puck and use his quick release to his benefit. Tomas Plekanec, who might be their best playmaker, is two games on, one game off, two games off, one game on. And, unfortunately he doesn't appear to have the speed or strength to be that playmaker for Cammalleri every single night.

Erik Cole
Left Wing - MTL
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 25
SOG: 114 | +/-: 2
Erik Cole has had a decent season, but he doesn't have anybody to play with that can match his speed. He needs someone to keep up with him, but instead he's finding himself having to slow down a lot to be effective.  Max Pacioretty is having a very solid season, but he's more of a workhorse, a defensive-style forward that is being forced into scoring goals because the rest of his team doesn't do that very well.

The Canadiens also are a very small team that gets pushed around too much. Their lack of size and speed in the big and fast NHL forces them to work extra hard to win games. That's never a recipe for extended success. It becomes way too tiring emotionally and physically on a team.

When they have breakdowns defensively and the puck goes into the back of the net, they can't find the offense to counter that. So it's up to the GM to make a move very quickly to get somebody in there with size, somebody that can put the puck in the net and stand in front of the net to become that presence on power plays. The Canadiens are in a situation where if they continue to sputter the way they are, they're going to be out of the playoff race by the end of January. That is just unacceptable in Montreal.

It's nice seeing the blue, red and white playing in the playoffs and not battling these offensive demons they have right now. For crying out loud, Cammalleri and Cole need some help.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 5:35 PM

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

JR: Rangers, Flyers seek upper hand in Classic preview

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

The Flyers and Rangers have at it Friday night in a preview of the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic while a team on the other coast is going through a coaching change that better get them steered in the right direction. It's all on my mind this week, so read on …
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 7:26 PM

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

League needs help from players to limit concussions

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is blogging for NHL.com this season. In today's blog, Roenick provides his personal opinions about what's proved effective in reducing concussions and preventing further symptoms among NHL players, plus what the League and its players still need to do.

With so many star players now sidelined with concussions or concussion-like symptoms, the topic has to be explored. Here are my thoughts:

What's Clicking?

The game is different today. It's not the same game it was when I started in the late '80s, and it's still not even the same game from the early 2000s. This is a big-business sport where you have extreme physical contact, extreme speed and extremely talented players that are in peak athletic condition.

For those reasons, concussions seem to be more rampant nowadays. We can put the blame on the speed and ferocity of the game, because whether you get hit in the head or you don't, the surge and the way your body is jolted every time you make contact with somebody rattles your brain. That is very important to understand.

Back 20 years ago we didn't think of it that way. We didn't think about hurting ourselves. We thought of it as pain and something we had to play through. Actually a lot of guys thought it was honorable and manly to play through concussions, broken bones and pulled muscles -- but in actuality the damage we did to our bodies could end up being life-altering down the road. That remains to be seen.

But let's take it back to the present. Due to all the research that has been done on concussions and considering what the National Hockey League now knows about concussions and how it plays in part to your brain, this is an issue that must be taken very seriously. Your brain and heart are the most important parts of your body. If they go, there's no sense in going on.

I applaud the NHL for doing all it can to protect the players from injury, not only current injuries but future injuries. And, yes, sometimes the players need to be protected from themselves.

Hockey players are proud people. They want to be looked at as tough, as guys who can play through injuries and do what is best for the team. Doing that at times can be a serious health risk, so I'm glad the NHL has taken such an aggressive stance in making sure that when guys get their bells rung they go to a quiet room, get evaluated and either go back in the game or sit out to rest.

I hope it doesn't go too far to the point that every time players get hit they go down and call for suspensions. I hope the guys are tough enough to play through the injuries they think they can play through and they think they should play through. The concussion issue is front and center now, and with so much attention on it players are fearful for their well-being and teams are fearful for their players.

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are the main subjects behind that -- but like the NHL, I applaud the Penguins for how smart they've been in treating Crosby's injury as cautiously as they are. Their approach is what is best for the player, but I worry about Crosby's future in the National Hockey League. The fact that he had a setback after a seemingly normal body-contact situation that happened in a game arguably sets off more alarms than the 10 months he sat out.

The Penguins and Crosby will have to evaluate how bad this is and whether his body is capable and built to withstand the contact that professional hockey demands night in and night out. I'm concerned because I really enjoy watching Crosby play, and I would like to see him play for the next 15 years and dazzle us.

What's missing?

We can no longer ignore the stupidity of the hits that are still happening today despite the fact that the players know the concussion aspect is such a big part of the game and sports in general.

You saw Chris Stewart get suspended for hitting Niklas Kronwall from behind. You saw Andy Sutton get suspended for jumping in the air -- a 6-foot-6 and 240-pound defenseman jumping in the air -- to hit Alexei Ponikarovsky. These hits are absolutely unnecessary and the stupidity is beyond belief.

Brendan Shanahan probably never thought he would be so busy doling out suspensions because of the lack of intelligence of so many players in very dangerous situations.

NHL players have to understand that it is a different game, a more powerful game in a different era, and the respect of the players' well-being has to come into play at every area of the ice.

There are too many hits from behind near the boards. There are too many elbows to the head. There are too many blindside hits.

It's one thing to hit strong and hard, but it's another thing to throw elbows, have knee-on-knee hits, hits from behind, cross checks on defensemen who are four feet from the boards.

I'd like to know when is the respect factor is going to come back into the game.

Let me also be clear -- I wasn't the fairest hitter. I left my feet. I hit guys from behind. I had my fair share of dirty hits and cheap hits. I hit to inflict pain at times, without question. I needed that intimidation factor because of my size.

Shame on me, but it was a totally different mentality when I played the game. This game today is much faster, much stronger and more scrutinized because it is bigger business. These players are worth much more than they were when I started, and they better start adapting to the new era of the National Hockey League by respecting each other.
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Posted On Monday, 12.12.2011 / 4:05 PM

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

Roenick builds his team of top American talent

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com this season called, "World According to JR." It runs every Wednesday and will again this week. However, with the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday night in Chicago, Roenick decided to write a special blog entry catered to Americans in hockey. Roenick was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame last year.

Let me start by saying what an honor it is to have Gary Suter, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Ed Snider and Mike Emrick join me in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. All five are truly legends not just in the American hockey world, but the entire hockey world.

It is an annual tradition at the time of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductions to debate the best American-born players. But what about the next generation of U.S. Hockey Hall of Famers? More appropriately, what about this generation of American hockey stars?
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.07.2011 / 9:45 AM

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

Roenick: Nugent-Hopkins clicking, Ovechkin missing

NHL Network analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

A rising rookie and a falling superstar highlight my blog this week. Read on to find out what's on my mind:

What's clicking?

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Center - EDM
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 29
SOG: 55 | +/-: 4
With the instant impact of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, it just amazes me that the Edmonton Oilers even considered sending this kid back to junior instead of keeping him for the season. At 18 years old and being the No. 1 draft pick, and then to come in and make such an instant impact while making things look so easy is totally amazing to me.

This kid has impressed me with his maturity, with his sense of the game, with how knowledgeable he is, the way he reads the game. For a rookie to have 29 points in 27 games, with 12 goals and 17 assists -- I don't know if we've seen a rookie this good in a long time. 
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 5:04 PM

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

Roenick weighs in on recent coaching changes

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday.

In the wake of the decisions made in Washington and Carolina earlier this week, I have decided to change up the format of my blog for this week. Instead of giving you my opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League, I wanted to give you my opinions on the moves made by Capitals GM George McPhee and Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford.

Let's first start this thing off by saying I don't think anybody was surprised by the firing of Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice. But I do think they were the byproduct of separate issues in that one team is talented enough but wasn't responding, and the other just doesn't have enough talent to be able to respond.

Here's what I mean:

Dale Hunter for Bruce Boudreau


Boudreau did a wonderful job in Washington. He was the fastest coach in the modern era to reach 200 wins. He really seemed to have a good rapport with the players and had the Capitals looking like one of the top teams in the League.

So, no, I don't know why the players stopped responding to Boudreau, but ultimately it started with Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin -- two of the most talented guys not only on their team, but in the League. For example, when Ovechkin was sat by Boudreau against Anaheim and followed that up by muttering some unflattering words about his coach, I think it was obvious then that something bad was starting to brew in Washington.

McPhee said that his players stopped responding to Boudreau, so they had to make a coaching change. One thing you never like to hear about is players not responding to the coach. That's just a total lack of respect toward a coach and toward the job he's trying to do to win games and ultimately a Stanley Cup.

But McPhee and the Capitals had to make this change. They couldn't keep wallowing in mediocrity, and worse yet, accepting it. If they continue to lose and have Ovechkin go pointless for games at a time, they're going to find themselves battling for a playoff spot come April.

Yes, I do think this was a necessary desperation move by McPhee to try to salvage the season early and spark some life and attention into his players. And bringing in a very hard-nosed, disciplinarian-style coach in Hunter seems to be a good fit.

The players have to look at themselves for why Boudreau got fired, and Hunter will make them do just that.

He was one of the fiercest competitors that I ever played against. It seemed like he wanted to eat me every time I was on the ice against him. He was always one of those awe-inspiring players. And he played like he looked -- hard, in your face, and always with either black eyes or cuts with blood on his face.

I'm sure he's going to be able to coach the same way he played. He is going to demand hard work and respect from his players.

Kirk Muller for Paul Maurice

Maurice fell victim to not being able to have the team to compete every single night. He didn't have enough horses to compete for a playoff spot.

Carolina let Erik Cole walk to Montreal. Cory Stillman retired. Joe Corvo was traded. And GM Jim Rutherford didn't bring anybody in of substance that was going to replace those players and help Maurice get this team to a higher level.

But again, just like Ovechkin in Washington, another star player in Eric Staal is having a very tough year and that did not help.

However, by no means do I think Staal's struggles have anything to do with Maurice. Staal is battling a confidence problem right now that he has to work his way out of himself. He seems to be too much on the outside and not going into those real heavy octane areas to score goals. Maurice couldn't make him do that and Muller won't be able to either.

That said, hopefully Muller does a good job with this limited team because unfortunately Rutherford did not put enough into place during the offseason.

It'll also be interesting to see how Muller deals with NHL players as a head coach considering he doesn't have much head coaching experience. He was a head coach in Milwaukee earlier this season, but that's it.

He is a tactical, smart and very easygoing coach, a great people person always with a smile on his face. His message to the boys will be something like, "Let's go have fun first, and if we're having fun and working hard we're going to win."

I'm curious to see if Carolina can have fun and win hockey games under Kirk Muller, just as I am to see if Washington can get back into contention under Dale Hunter.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:15 PM

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

Sid's amazing return and who needs to step up

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

There are a lot of guys making a lot of money in the NHL. One of them once again started to earn every penny of his salary on Monday night, but there are others that I believe just aren't pulling their weight. It's all below in this week's blog entry:

What's clicking?

We absolutely have to talk about Sidney Crosby and the much, much, much anticipated return of No. 87 to the Penguins lineup.

It was well worth the wait.

Nobody knew what we were going to get from him, and I think everybody was astounded by the level of play that Sidney showed against the Islanders.

If there was any question, any doubt who the best player in the world was before, I don't think there should be now after Sidney Crosby dominated from start to finish in his first game back in more than 10 months. To be out for more than 10 months and stay dedicated to his conditioning and dedicated to his recovery, and to come back with that confidence and in that good of shape is a remarkable feat.

I loved the way the Pittsburgh fans embraced him. The emotion and the adrenaline in that building was as good as I've ever seen it in Pittsburgh, and that's a team that has won multiple Stanley Cups. That building was electric as any time I have ever seen it in Pittsburgh, and that shows me how much the fans love hockey in that city. 
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 2:25 PM

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

Roenick: OK with Lucic hit, thumbs down to 1-3-1

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from "World According to JR" every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

There are two controversial issues in the National Hockey League this week and the general managers touched on both at their meeting in Toronto on Tuesday. Now it's my turn, so here are my thoughts on goalie protection and the 1-3-1:

What's clicking?

Milan Lucic
Left Wing - BOS
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 14
SOG: 33 | +/-: 6
Let's start with one of the more controversial issues in the NHL today, the Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller.

I don't mind the fact that Lucic didn't get a suspension. I'm a true believer in old-fashioned hockey and I do believe goalies should be protected, but they are protected in their blue paint, which is the no-touch zone. Yes, there is a rule that you can't run goaltenders, and yes, you have to protect goaltenders because there are only 60 in the League, but the goalies should also have to protect themselves.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.09.2011 / 12:04 PM

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

Stars, Oilers look strong in net; Leafs have issues

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

A surprising team that just continues to impress, a goalie on a mission, and a team with its own goaltending woes are all on my mind this week. Read on to see who and what I'm talking about:

What's clicking?

The most surprising team at this point in the season is the Dallas Stars. They went into Washington last night to play the Capitals, a team that hadn't lost in regulation at home since Feb. 25, and they dominated the hockey game. The Capitals didn't even have a chance to win because of the amount of mistakes they made, but also because of the pressure, hard work and consistency that Dallas again showed on the road. 
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.02.2011 / 2:31 PM

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

Avery where he should be, Red Wings not so much

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from the "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

The Rangers recalled a guy who could and should help them, and the dynastic team in Hockeytown is going down an unfamiliar path. Read on to see what I think about Sean Avery and the Detroit Red Wings.
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Posted On Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 9:00 AM

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

Roenick: Neal, Kessel are players on a mission

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from "The World According to JR" every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

I've got two players in mind who have impressed me and two teams that have totally fallen flat to start the season. Read on for my takes on what's clicking and what's missing in the NHL this week.
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Posted On Wednesday, 10.19.2011 / 5:10 PM

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

Roenick: Avalanche proving me wrong with fast start

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from JR's blog, "World According to JR," every Wednesday afternoon. He'll offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

For my first NHL.com blog, I'm diving into the Western Conference to write about two teams that have caught my eye for far different reasons.

What's clicking?

I did not know what to expect from the Colorado Avalanche in the beginning of the year, especially after the way they finished last season. They had an atrocious second half of the season. I felt bad for coach Joe Sacco, who is a very good friend of mine, and gave his team zero chance to make the playoffs at the beginning of this season.

Semyon Varlamov
Goalie - COL
RECORD: 3-1-0
GAA: 2.17 | SVP: 0.938
Oh boy, did I make a big mistake. No team has played harder for their coach, and played within a system and a structure, as well as the Colorado Avalanche have in the first two weeks of the season. With the addition of Semyon Varlamov to give them a solid net presence, it's very impressive to see a whole team buying into the coach's mentality.

I'm glad they're making me eat my words.

The Avs are young, but they are experienced. They have kids that have been around. They started early and have been around for a couple of years, and because of that experience, they are getting it. They understand it. They know what to expect. And after the losing streak they went on last year, they don't take anything for granted.

To go on the road for five games and sweep is an amazing accomplishment for this team, but I know Sacco and the rest of the boys are not going to take this win streak for granted. They're going to understand why they won hockey games and also remember what happened to them at the end of last season, when they went 5-26-2 over their final 33 games.

That was embarrassing to them, and none of them want to go through that again.

I think they're going to do some great things this year, and it was unbeknownst to me in the beginning of the season because I was the lame brain who gave them zero chance. I like to be proven wrong, and they are proving me wrong.
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Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp