It might have been an off day in the quest for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but that didn’t stop former nine-time All-Star and current NHL on NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick from stopping by the office to talk some pucks.
Roenick has been on NHL on NBC’s coverage of the playoffs every night of the postseason, and his knowledge of every team still remaining is second to none. J.R., as he’s referred to, spent time speaking with us about the unbelievable run the Vegas Golden Knights are on, his thoughts on Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, and several other topics.
Here are the best hits from COED’s conversation with Jeremy Roenick.
The best two words in sports, Game Seven, was the first thing that came to mind for NHL on NBC’s analyst with the game taking place tomorrow night in Nashville, currently nicknamed, “Smashville.”
“I think it’s going to be an amazing game,” Roenick said with enthusiasm. “This series has turned out to be everything that we wanted. And you know, you look at the standings in the regular season, you had Nashville number one, and Winnipeg number two. I think they are the two best teams in the National Hockey League.”
Roenick was quick to point out that it was almost destined for the two teams — the Predators and Jets — to meet in the second round, but just like many around the hockey world, he feels they should have faced off in the Western Conference Finals. “Yeah, probably. When you have the two best teams it’s nice to have that,” he added. Having Nashville and Winnipeg battling it out the way they are, Roenick believes is as fitting as any matchup in the playoffs. He also said that the winner of the pivotal game seven will be the team to hoist the Stanley Cup next month.
The team awaiting the Winnipeg-Nashville winner, the Vegas Golden Knights, continue to write the best story in professional sports. Roenick acknowledged just how special this Knights team has become.
“It’s probably one of the most impressive things that we’ve seen in sports,” Roenick said comparing the Knights unprecedented run to Leicester City who won the Premier League Championship in 2015-16. “If Vegas can match that, I think it would go down as the biggest surprise in sports history, that an expansion team in a major sport can win a championship in their first year.
I’ve never seen an expansion team gain so much traction and such a big fanbase in one year. It has been one of the best places to watch a game. The atmosphere is amazing. Who would have thought that a team in Vegas sells out every single game? The city has embraced them. The team has embraced the city. They’ve rallied around each other (referencing the Vegas shootings last year in October) and knocked the sports world on its ear.”
Another team that has flipped the script in this postseason is the Washington Capitals. After years of torment, they finally exorcised their demons and defeated the back-to-back defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The hockey world is pushing the Caps now as the darlings of these playoffs, but Roenick isn’t sold just yet.
“Listen, they’ve gotten further than they have in 20 years, is it there year to win the Cup? I don’t know.”
He seems to think that finally getting past round two and beating the Penguins along the way are big confidence boosters, but there still a dimension that could be holding them back.
“They think they can just go on the ice and play and win. That’s not going to happen against Tampa. They have to be 100% committed fully to playing playoff hockey. And playing as hard and gritty against a very good Tampa team. I still think they’re underdogs, so they can use that to their benefit. The pressure is off them.”
The series between the Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning, which gets underway Friday, Roenick says will be a great offensive display. The analyst also added that the key to this series will be the health of Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom. If he is out for any significant amount of time, the Caps will be in big trouble. As for in net, Roenick believes the showdown of Andrei Vasilevskiy against Braden Holtby is as even as you could make it.
There’s always things that catch the eye of the viewer in the playoffs, and according to Roenick, these playoffs have been just as thrilling as any in recent seasons. “Every year, everybody always says, ‘This is the best playoffs we’ve ever seen, this is the best hockey I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen playoffs this good’, and they’re saying it again this year. The fact that the people continue to be impressed with the level of hockey, but for me, it’s how it has played out. Every good team in the league is still playing.”
Aside from the best teams still in the mix, there has been an abundance of individual performances that have stood out. J.R. pointed out that Brayden Point in Tampa has quickly jumped himself up to superstar status. A point has recorded in each of the Bolts ten playoff games.
“This kid, he carried Tampa through the second round to beat Boston. The fact that Tampa beat Boston without their top line going, shows me how good Brayden Point is,” Roenick explained.
With the Jets still fighting for a chance to possibly lift the Stanley Cup, Roenick feels that not only if they make it, but win it all, time would stop for a little bit. The Jets could be in the Cup Final, but if he had to predict who he would like to see in the Finals, Vegas and Washington would be Roenick’s matchup.
“I love Alex Ovechkin. I think it would solidify his legacy,” Roenick expressed. “That Stanley Cup would solidify his career. Solidifies his greatness. He’s a guaranteed Hall of Famer for sure, but that Stanley Cup puts a stamp on it. For Vegas, it just speaks for itself. It would be crazy if an expansion team won it all.”
Getting away from the playoffs and talking about the locals, Roenick didn’t mince words.
“Trouble for both the Islanders and Rangers. Promising for the Devils.”
As for working with “Mad Mike”, J.R. shared both the good and bad of the enigmatic analyst.
“I’ll tell you, if you take Mike Milbury and put him in a social setting, he’s one of the best entertainers and one of the best storytellers. One of the best buddies that you can have. You put him in front of a camera and make him work late nights, and you try to battle the different mentalities, it can get pretty hairy.
There’s times when I love Mike Milbury, and there’s times I can’t wait until he’s gone. Just like me, sometimes we don’t get our point across as nicely as we want too.”
You can check out the full interview with Jeremy below.
You can also listen to the interview here as well.