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:
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.
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.
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.