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Posted On Friday, 05.18.2012 / 3:45 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose's Mullet of the Week

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 1:09 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose's PHX-LAK Game 3 Preview

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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Defense, goaltending point toward Rangers in 6

When I look at this matchup between New Jersey and New York in the Eastern Conference Finals, there's one thing that clearly sticks out to me: One of these teams was supposed to be going into the third round and one was not.

Anyone who has watched hockey this season knows which one is which, and I for one am unbelievably impressed that the Devils have gotten this far, especially considering how they played against Florida. After going seven games in the first round, I didn't think they had a hope of beating the Flyers, but the Devils didn't just beat them -- they dominated them. I'm very impressed by New Jersey and if you told me they could beat Philly without Marty Brodeur being unbelievable, I'd have laughed at you. Marty didn't have to be unbelievable. The Devils are just peaking at the right time and getting better and better. Against Philadelphia the Devils were great everywhere on the ice -- their six-man defensive unit was great, and their stars played great. Ilya Kovalchuk is playing some of the best hockey he's ever played, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias are great just like you'd expect them to be, but Petr Sykora's playing well, Travis Zajac is fired up and David Clarkson looks good.

The Devils are just awesome right now. The style of play is great -- it's an aggressive style, but you give up nothing. Right now they might be the most aggressive forechecking team of the four teams left, and they're definitely more aggressive than the Rangers. This team is fun to watch, playing great and generally a total departure from what the New Jersey Devils used to be.

That said, however, if the Rangers play in this series like they did Saturday in Game 7 against Washington, I don't think the Devils can beat them. That game I just sat back and watched and it was darn near perfection. The forwards were awesome, there was no space for Washington, the Capitals had no time to make plays and the Rangers won all the physical battles. The defense joined the rush and was great in its own end, the first pass most of the night was right on, and when there was a breakdown -- which was very rare -- Henrik Lundqvist made the saves. It was their best game of the playoffs and by far the most impressed I've been with them all playoffs. If they can string together a number of these games, it will cause a lot of problems for the Devils. They were great Saturday. I just sat, watched and thought, "This is how hockey should be played."

Most importantly, you knew it was good because Rangers coach John Tortorella actually was sort of happy at his press conference at the end of the game.

I like the Rangers to keep playing like this and win the series in six games, but there definitely are some things you need to watch out for if you're New York and New Jersey. Perhaps most importantly, the Rangers scored very early in Game 7 against Washington and that allowed them to sit back and play defense the rest of the game. Any team that's great defensively wants to score first. How many times have we seen New Jersey win the Stanley Cup with that same premise over the years? Dallas was that same way when they won in 1999. If they scored first, the game basically was over. That's definitely got to be part of New Jersey's game plan. The Devils have to score first to put the pressure on New York because if you don't score first against the Rangers, they can really clamp down on you. We've seen it over and over again and it's certainly something they did in Game 7. That's something the Devils have to be talking about. Any time you play a defense-first team, you've got to score first. It changes the dynamic big time, and while I don't know if it will be a weakness for the Rangers in that they have to score first, defensive hockey is what they're going to live and die by. And if you noticed, the team that scored first won every game in the Rangers-Capitals series.

The other big thing to note is that the Rangers play a tough, physical style, and they've also gone seven games in each of the first two rounds and won't have much rest before the start of this series. That's something New Jersey needs to take advantage of. There have to be guys that are hurting in that Rangers dressing room, especially after how physical that Capitals series was. If the Devils can come out and jump on the Rangers, I think they can take advantage of that. They've got to play a physical series and keep pounding these guys because they've played so many games in such a short period of time. That's got to be part of the game plan and I'm sure the Devils are talking about that -- making the Rangers play a high tempo game and forcing them to play wide open.

When I was coaching in L.A., I would talk to Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri and Marty McSorley and I'd ask them about their Edmonton days and what made them special and why they were able to win all those years. One of the things they always said was important was that in the early rounds they won quick. They thought it really helped them in later series to have that extra energy. It was always important to win in five games or four games in the early rounds while the teams they wound up playing later on already had gone seven or six. You have to wonder if after 14 games there will be a point at which the Rangers run out of gas. The longer this series goes the more it favors the Devils, who have had a big rest, gotten their guys healthy and are ready to go.

No team ever has won two Game 7s in the first two rounds and won the Cup, which is strange since to win two Game 7s you have to be a good team. It makes you think there has to be a reason, and the physical toll just might be it.

It will be a long, hard-fought series, but I still think it will come down to goaltending and defense. In this case I think the Rangers have the better goaltender because Henrik Lundqvist is in his prime and Brodeur isn't. It's just a fact -- and it may be the first time I've ever said that in a Rangers-Devils series. That will be a factor if the games are tight, but as I watched Saturday, I couldn't ignore New York's defense. It makes me wonder how guys like Adam Henrique or Sykora will get to the net. Clarkson and Parise will because that's their game, but you have to wonder about the other guys. Also, after watching how well the Rangers handled Backstrom and Ovechkin, why won't Kovalchuk have trouble finding space?

Because of all those factors, I think the Rangers will win this in six games.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 2:41 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

The wonder of Marty Brodeur

The Devils' timely scoring and amazing forecheck are two of the biggest reasons they're leading this series, but we also can't forget how Martin Brodeur has played, and the fact that he won Game 4 on his 40th birthday is just incredible.

I think Marty is one of the remarkable stories in the NHL. Goaltenders notoriously develop later and here's Marty coming in and being a star when he's young, staying in the same city all these years, which doesn't happen anymore, and being as good as he has for so many years. His longevity is just as remarkable considering how physical and big the NHL has become and how they crash the nets now. It's amazing he's been hurt so few times.

We also can't forget how amazing he's been playing the puck. The NHL changed the rules of the game because of Brodeur. I always say that that's a sign of greatness, when they change the rules because of you. The trapezoid is behind every net because of Marty Brodeur.

I think we're talking about one of the five or six greatest talents that has ever played in the NHL, and with the Devils getting this far in the playoffs, it's definitely time to talk about them as a legitimate Stanley Cup threat. If they managed to win the Cup this year, it would be pretty remarkable both because they were unexpected and because of what kind of a sendoff that could be for Brodeur. A lot has been made of how he has been getting older and how this could be his last season. It's very difficult to watch the greats get older and to see them hang on for as long as they do sometimes.

I will say this from my perspective. I don't want to watch Marty Brodeur be a good goaltender. I want to watch him be a great goaltender. I don't want to watch Marty being OK. I don't want to see great players hang on to be OK. It's OK for guys like me to hang on and play as long as they can, but I don't want to see great players hanging on just to be average. I don't think that's right. No one wants to see the greats of our game look like Willie Mays falling down in the outfield. I would have loved to play until I was 40, too, but I just think players like Marty are too special to see them play beyond when they're great anymore. I hope they know when to hang them up.

If the Devils wind up winning the Stanley Cup this June, seeing Marty skate with the Cup one last time and then head off into retirement would be an appropriate ending. I won't say this from his shoes because he has to make his own decisions, but if that happens, I hope he decides to call it a career. I want my last picture of Marty Brodeur to be him carrying the Stanley Cup around. I think that is the ultimate, ultimate way to go out. It's like John Wayne in "The Shootist." I want to remember Marty at his greatest.

I would love to see him carry the Stanley Cup around his last time on the ice.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 2:40 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: Devils are shocking the Flyers

When New Jersey and Philadelphia began their playoff series I'm sure most people had their predictions for how it would go -- mine was Flyers in six or seven -- but I'm not sure many people thought we would see it this way. The Devils have a chance to close out Philly in Game 5 at Wells Fargo Center tonight and the fact that New Jersey is in this position, and the way the Devils have gotten there, really isn't a surprise.

It's a complete shock.

Coming off their first-round win against Pittsburgh the Flyers looked like world beaters and Claude Giroux looked like he might be the best player on the planet right now. The Devils, meanwhile, escape the weakest division winner in the East on a double-overtime goal in Game 7 and had to play two games facing elimination to advance.

Now it looks as if the roles are completely reversed. Giroux won't even be in the lineup Tuesday because of his one-game suspension for a high hit on Dainius Zubrus, but he's been struggling in this series anyway. Giroux has just three points in four games of this series after having 14 points in six games against the Penguins.

Philadelphia's power play was so good against Pittsburgh that it's still the best-ranked unit in the playoffs, but against New Jersey the power play has looked terrible. Just look at Game 3, when the Flyers had not one, but two power plays in overtime, and mustered all of one shot on net.

This is even crazier considering New Jersey, though it had one of the greatest penalty-killing units in NHL history, was abysmal against Florida's power play in the first round. This time around New Jersey's defense has looked great. And what's wildest about this is that Bryzgalov has been great this series. The only way this should conceivably be 3-1 for the Devils right now is if Bryzgalov has been terrible and Marty Brodeur has been good, but it's been the other way around. Marty has still been good, but Bryzgalov has been great and his teammates and his defense have been terrible.

I'm very surprised that the Flyers look so slow compared to the Devils whereas the Flyers looked so fast compared to Pittsburgh, and if you know hockey, you know Pittsburgh is one of the fastest teams in the NHL. The Flyers were dominant in the first round, getting on the puck first and finishing checks first, but now they're being totally outworked and outcompeted by the New Jersey Devils and their tremendous forecheck.

The Flyers still have a chance to come back and win this series, but with this deficit, I don't think I see it happening. You don't come back from down 3-1. It happens once in a while, and the Flyers know that as well as anyone after their historic comeback against Boston in 2010, but generally you don't come back from 3-1 -- and I have a hard time seeing it in this series.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 5:05 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Barry's Best: Best of Second Round

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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 2:33 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: Kings have chance to put Blues on the ropes

The Kings beating the Canucks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was a big surprise -- but it wasn't a surprise to me. I pegged L.A. to win against the Presidents' Trophy winners and sure enough, here are the Kings in Round 2 instead of Vancouver.

But I did not think the Kings would beat the Blues.

St. Louis has looked like one of the strongest teams in the League all season to me ever since Ken Hitchcock took over, and I expected the Blues to be able to move on to the Western Conference Finals and maybe win the West, but after dropping Game 1 to the Kings on Saturday -- and not in a fluky way -- it's starting to look like the Blues could be in trouble, and they'll be in serious trouble if they wind up losing Game 2 Monday night.

I was surprised Saturday at how well L.A. handled St. Louis physically. St. Louis is a team that prides itself on being able to beat you up physically and battling physically, but I didn't see that in Game 1 against L.A. I saw at best a draw on the physical side of the game, and at worst for St. Louis, I thought maybe the Kings were the more physical team. That wasn't supposed to happen, so I think that's certainly something that has shocked St. Louis and that will have to change if they're going to turn the series around in Game 2 and once it goes to California.

I went into this series thinking, "Yeah, L.A. beat Vancouver, but I don't think Vancouver was nearly as good as St. Louis." I left the game thinking the Kings could beat the Blues -- probably for the first time this year.

Saturday night, everything clicked for L.A. Anze Kopitar was excellent, Dustin Brown started the play that led to the shorthanded goal with a strong move and Jonathan Quick, as always, was unbelievable. What's more is I really liked the L.A. defense. It's a very unknown group aside from Drew Doughty, but it's very good -- and very big. Matt Greene is 6-foot-3, Alec Martinez is 6-1, Doughty is 6-0 and Willie Mitchell is 6-3. That's a big defense, and they can handle that St. Louis forecheck. I was very impressed with the Kings in Game 1, even more so than I was in the series against Vancouver. Against the Canucks, I thought Quick won that series with his play, but Saturday night the Kings were every bit as good as the Blues.

If the Blues want to even the series Monday night and find a way to advance to the conference finals, they need to find a way to get to Quick. Vancouver was only able to do that once, so it's a tall order. When the Blues see the tape, they'll see they need that second shot on Quick to go upstairs. Quick is a butterfly goaltender.

Andy McDonald's chances in the first period of Game 1 were a prime example. McDonald had three chances and he hit the pads with all three shots. That second shot has to go under the bar, because Quick has those legs down on the ice taking away the bottom of the rink. You're not going to score against him down on the ice. The next one's got to go upstairs, so I think that's one thing the Blues can take out of it.

Also, they'll need to score some ugly goals. You're not going to score beautiful goals on Quick, so you've got to get in front of him, screen him and top it in, just like the Blues' first goal in Game 1. Quick never saw that shot. It hit Perron's stick, went up a little bit, and he just never saw it. That's how you've got to score on a great goaltender like Quick.

Every few years a goalie goes on a remarkable run and takes a team to the conference finals or beyond. It happened in 2010 with Jaroslav Halak in Montreal and it happened in 2003 with Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Anaheim. There's a chance we could be seeing that right now in the West with Quick and Mike Smith in Phoenix. This is a pair of teams riding hot goaltenders, which could easily lead them to the Cup Final.

The difference with L.A., however, and perhaps the reason St. Louis should be most concerned, is that it's not just Quick on that team. The Kings have to score goals for Quick and they've got a good cast of characters. I love their defense, I think Kopitar and Dustin Brown have been great, and you add in Jeff Carter and Justin Williams and that's a heck of a hockey team. The Kings have a great top two lines and they've got some great bangers and crashers on the third and fourth line.

In Game 1, the Kings looked like they really came into their own, and they have a deep lineup that can cause a lot of problems for the Blues when St. Louis isn't able to play its physical game. The Blues may be in for a bigger challenge than they expected in Round 2. And if St. Louis can't salvage a split at home tonight, it could be panic time for the top remaining seed in the West.
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: Predators looking like Cup contenders

We're getting close to the end of the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there is still plenty to be decided, and there are still plenty of storylines coming out of what has been an entertaining tournament so far. For my money, however, one of the biggest stories is the way Nashville knocked out the mighty Detroit Red Wings in just five games, and it raises a pretty real question:

Are the Predators the team to beat?

When the playoffs began two weeks ago, I think if you weren't one of the people that thought this team had a chance to win, then you didn't know much about hockey. This is a heck of a hockey team, plain and simple, and its win over Detroit shows it. The interesting thing about this matchup was that it was something of a changing of the guard in the West. The Predators will tell you that their model for this team is Detroit. They want to build their team like Detroit, build their organization like Detroit -- they even throw fish on the ice like Detroit fans throw octopi. They want a tradition just like the Red Wings have.

If you look at how they're built, the Predators have great goaltending and maybe the best goaltender playing in the playoffs right now. Brian Elliot has been good for St. Louis, but he hasn't faced the shots that Pekka Rinne has, and Jonathan Quick has been good for Los Angeles, but other than those two, I can't think of a goalie who has played as well as Rinne.

Then you look at Nashville's defense, which has two studs on the top pair with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, but it's also got this kid Kevin Klein, who had two goals in the series and played great defense. And this is all without Hal Gill, who hasn't been in the lineup. If you look at their forwards, they have four lines that can all play, their special teams are very good and they have a very good defensive system to go along with a great goaltender. This team is for real.

I think the last piece to the puzzle was getting Alexander Radulov, because they didn't have that one pure goal scorer. They had a lot of guys who can score like Mike Fisher or Martin Erat, but the one pure goal scorer that only needs one chance -- Radulov is that goal scorer now, and we saw that in that last game against Detroit.

I picked Nashville to beat Detroit, so I thought they were ready to come out of their shell and go to the prom, but I didn't think it would be five games -- and I didn't think the Predators would beat the Red Wings in Game 5 giving up just 22 shots. When you can do that to a team like Detroit, with the talent level and history Detroit has, it sends messages to the rest of the League.

Beating Detroit in five games was impressive, but how they did it, with tight checking, great defense, controlling Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for the most part, making Detroit's defense look average at times -- it all adds up to a pretty dominant win. Any series that ends in five games is a dominant win, but things like only giving up 22 shots in the last game, that's a message sender. That makes teams look at the tape and think, "Wow, how are we going to get through the neutral zone and get our chances?"

They're just solid from top to bottom.

Of course, we're only through one round right now. If Nashville is going to win the Cup they've got three more rounds to get through, but I like the way the draw shapes up for them. With St. Louis locked into facing Los Angeles in the second round, the Preds are going to face whoever wins between the Coyotes or the Blackhawks.

If you watch the way Phoenix and Chicago play, both have some question marks. Phoenix is up in the series, but they're giving up a bunch of shots and they were basically outshot 2-to-1 for a while in Game 5 Saturday night. It's not a case of Phoenix dominating Chicago. Mike Smith has been unbelievable and Corey Crawford can't stop the puck in overtime. That's the only reason this series has gone this far. Phoenix is a team that stresses defense and goaltending, very much like Nashville. Chicago will give the Predators a lot of offensive weapons to deal with, but if Marian Hossa's still out, that's a big weapon gone.

The Preds have two different matchups waiting for them, each with its own share of problems, but I think with the Predators' system, goaltending and depth, they match up well against both of them.

If Nashville gets through the second round it might very well face its division rival St. Louis. To me these are the two best teams playing in the West right now, and that would be a very difficult series for each -- and a very difficult one in which to see goals. Both of them look good, but Nashville's first-round win against Detroit has shown me something. When the playoffs began, I had Chicago coming out of the West, but with the way the field is shaping up and the way the Predators are playing, seeing them facing off in the Stanley Cup Final wouldn't surprise me one bit.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 10:49 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose's Mullet of the Week

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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 10:48 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Barry's Best of the Week

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Quote of the Day

When somebody goes out and is there to score goals, but is also there to make some big hits, fight, do all of those things, and he has a great mustache, it was great to see him get that hit and get everybody going.

— Colin Wilson on teammate Eric Nystrom, who scored a goal in Predators' win vs. Kings
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