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Posted On Wednesday, 12.31.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Melrose Minute: Ice will dictate pace of Winter Classic

The Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is always a major event on the NHL calendar and this season's edition is a spectacular matchup between the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks. More importantly? It's just 24 hours away. As always, I think ice will dictate a lot of what we see. You've got two very skilled teams playing, two teams that thrive on speed, and if the ice is heavier or slow, it will affect both teams like these a lot more than it would affect a team like the New York Rangers or Los Angeles Kings. Dan Craig and his crew never cease to amaze me with how good a job they do building an NHL-quality rink in just two weeks, but it's clear that the better the ice this time around, the better the game we'll see.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.30.2014 / 11:25 AM

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

Melrose Minute: Restructured Devils at a crossroads

After a 3-1 win Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, I suppose you could say the New Jersey Devils' latest coaching experiment is off to a 1-1-0 start. It will be interesting to see what happens with the arrangement set up by general manager Lou Lamoriello, who brought on Scott Stevens and Adam Oates as defensive and offensive assistants, respectively, after firing coach Peter DeBoer on Friday. I've never really seen anything like this before, but I think if you look at the history of Lou, a guy who hasn't been afraid to make bold or unorthodox news, it's not that crazy.

Obviously, with Lamoriello himself on the bench, it's clear he's the ultimate authority now, and on some level that makes sense. The Devils are not a good team right now and they're at an organizational crossroads. Lamoriello needs to know which players to keep in the fold and build around and which ones should be sent off for draft picks at the trade deadline, and as he's said, there's no better place to find out about a player than on the bench. He's right on that point. You can't as easily learn about your player from the press box. You can't see what he's saying or how he responds in good times and bad times.

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Posted On Monday, 12.22.2014 / 12:13 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Still time, but Bruins no longer a lock

For the past four or five seasons, the Boston Bruins have consistently been the best team in the Eastern Conference. This season many of us expected more of the same. Even when the Bruins started off slowly we all thought it was just a matter of time until they got healthy and took over the Atlantic Division.

Well, the Bruins have played 34 games and they're still on the outside looking in, which begs the question: What's going on in Boston?

The thinking for most of this season was to let the injured guys get back in the lineup. Key players like Zdeno Chara and David Krejci have missed significant time. But Boston's injured players are largely back now and even after an overtime win Sunday night, the Bruins are still struggling.

I think a lot of it has to do with the talent that's left Boston in the last season or so. We all know about the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars, and you can't underestimate the importance of that move, but this is a team that also traded Johnny Boychuk prior to this season because of cap reasons, thinking a young defenseman could take his place. None of those guys have replaced the grit or snarl of Boychuk. Adam McQuaid and Chara have both been hurt and suddenly this is a totally different defense. Then you take away an injured Krejci and you let Jarome Iginla leave this offseason and suddenly you've got a lot of talent to replace.

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Posted On Monday, 12.15.2014 / 2:05 PM

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

Melrose: Penguins persevering without Crosby

On Sunday the Pittsburgh Penguins announced Sidney Crosby was the latest player in the NHL to have contracted the mumps. Now, you didn't exactly need to be Dr. Kildare to figure that one out, but this whole thing is just crazy. I've been in the NHL as a player, coach or analyst since 1979 and I've been in professional hockey since 1976. I can't remember a player getting mumps. Ever. How many do we have now?

It's a totally bizarre phenomenon, but in the case of the Penguins, what I think you'll see is another stretch that is just a tribute to the great depth this team has. Crosby has been out the past few games, but this team continues to win, dig deep and get points in the standings. It's difficult to lose one of the best players in the world, but this team has the players to weather that storm. Patric Hornqvist adds to that depth, but guys like Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz will carry Pittsburgh through.

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Posted On Monday, 12.08.2014 / 2:14 PM

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

Melrose: Injury to Ducks' Perry alters West race

There are a few individual players who have had a major impact in the NHL recently, either by being in the lineup or by being out of it. Today we're going to take a look at two guys who will have a big influence on the final standings, and another guy who is so good, you wonder if he might make a difference even if his team doesn't.

WOUNDED DUCK

Corey Perry missed the Anaheim Ducks game against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday with a knee injury and there's some uncertainty as to how long he could be out. Because the differences and the advantages each of the top teams have are so small, I think losing a 50-goal scorer like Perry will have a significant impact on the Ducks. It doesn't matter how good you are -- and the Ducks are certainly good -- Perry is a lot of offense to replace. Not having him out there also affects guys like Ryan Getzlaf and hurts Anaheim's power play.

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Posted On Monday, 12.01.2014 / 1:16 PM

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

Melrose: 'Circus Trip' shows Blackhawks are no joke

It's been another wild week in the NHL, from Martin St. Louis returning to Tampa Bay to the power going out in Detroit. Here are some things I've been thinking about.

SURVIVING THE CIRCUS

Each season, the Chicago Blackhawks "Circus Trip" is a litmus test for how that team is going to do, and this year, considering how Chicago was struggling amid big expectations, it might have been a bigger test than usual.

I think they passed.

The Blackhawks won five of six games on the trek, including sweeping the final two games on a back-to-back against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. Sometimes teams send a message to the entire League, and that was a message. I don't know that anyone doubted the Blackhawks would be in the mix this season, but after an inconsistent six weeks to start 2014-15, Chicago now looks like it will compete for the Stanley Cup this spring yet again.

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Posted On Monday, 11.24.2014 / 1:50 PM

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

Melrose: Islanders, Flames look to be true contenders

We're at the first-quarter mark of the 2014-15 NHL season. While some traditional contenders out West are still having trouble getting their footing, new ones are appearing and we just may be seeing a changing of the guard in the East.

Let's take a look.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

The Pittsburgh Penguins might have company. For most of this season the Penguins have looked like the team to beat in the Metropolitan Division, but this past weekend the New York Islanders emphatically put their stamp on the race, sweeping a home-and-home against Pittsburgh and scoring four goals in each game. Not only that, but the Islanders held Sidney Crosby to just one shot and no points during the two games. That's something not many teams in the NHL can say.

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Posted On Monday, 11.17.2014 / 2:59 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Penguins still face playoff questions

This week I'm taking a look at one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference, a surprise struggler in the West and an unsung goalie who just keeps impressing. Let's get right to it.

ARE THE PENS MIGHTIER?

The Pittsburgh Penguins have spent the past few regular seasons looking like a top-tier team only to suffer a surprising postseason flameout. This season, once again the Penguins are looking unbeatable, but the big question is: "Will this time be different?" I think the Penguins have to be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, but the regular season has never been a problem for Pittsburgh. Once again, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are going to be the big test, particularly in net where Marc-Andre Fleury will need to prove his worth after signing a big contract extension recently.

The Penguins look awesome right now. They're winning low-scoring games, they're winning high-scoring games, their power play has been phenomenal and it looks as though they haven't missed Brooks Orpik or Matt Niskanen on the blue line. It appears they're really taking to heart what coach Mike Johnston asked them to do offensively and defensively. Ultimately, the need for a new message might make the difference for this team. Dan Bylsma is a great coach, but sometimes a shakeup is necessary. Beyond that, though, Pittsburgh does look sharper on defense. They don't take as many chances and the chances they take are high-percentage chances. Fleury isn't left out to dry by as many odd-man rushes as he used to be.

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Posted On Monday, 11.10.2014 / 2:22 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Why Predators, Flames are surprising

Lately two unsung teams in the Western Conference have been surprising and holding steady near the top of the standings. This week, I'm going to take a look at what these teams are doing that's keeping them up there.

GETTING THEIR 'VILLE

The Nashville Predators made a huge statement Saturday when they beat the St. Louis Blues and took over first place in the Central Division. Now, I don't know that the Predators will stay up there all season. Are they as good as the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks? They've still got to show me that, but they've definitely looked better than the Colorado Avalanche or Dallas Stars, and they are looking like a real threat to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It seems pretty clear this team has responded to new coach Peter Laviolette. They're a different team to watch offensively, and with Pekka Rinne, who has been as good as anybody in the NHL the past five seasons when he's healthy, it's no surprise the goaltending is great every night. Add in a tremendous defense with Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Seth Jones and you can see that Nashville is still the good team defensively we're used to seeing, but now it's scoring goals.

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Posted On Monday, 11.03.2014 / 2:42 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Early contenders and pretenders

We're almost a month into the 2014-15 NHL season and not only are we seeing who contenders and pretenders are, we're seeing which teams we thought would contend are struggling to fulfill expectations.

Let's take a look at some of the teams that are impressing and some that are struggling to stay afloat.

LIGHTNING STRIKES

For a while it looked like the Atlantic Division would be a two-team race between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, assuming Boston didn't just run away with it. Well, it may still be a two-team race, but it might be Montreal and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have a lot of weapons. Steven Stamkos gets all the ink, but Ben Bishop has proved he's as good a goaltender as there is in the Eastern Conference, they have tons of scoring up front, I love the addition of Jason Garrison and his rocket shot on the blue line, and Victor Hedman's return will only make Tampa Bay better.

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Quote of the Day

I watched many times this year the series between the Russians and Canada in 1972, and he was a dominating player there. After I watched the tapes, I respect him a lot more because he turned the series around. He was the guy. In that time, he was the best in the world. It’s a big honor for me to tie him.

— Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr on scoring the 717th goal of his career to tie Phil Esposito for fifth on the NHL's all-time goals list after a 4-3 win vs. the Lightning on Sunday