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Posted On Monday, 01.09.2012 / 3:00 AM

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

My All-Stars at the season's midway point

With last week's Winter Classic and the regular season's official midway point coming at the conclusion of games Monday night, it's time for the focus to shift to the NHL's next big event, when the best in the game will take the ice together at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place.

The pieces are already falling into place as the big event approaches, with the fans picking their first six All-Stars last week and Rangers coach John Tortorella sealing up a spot as one of the bench bosses for the game on Jan. 29. Soon we'll find out the rest of the All-Stars being selected and the captains before the fun of All-Star Weekend gets underway.

Because of the NHL All-Star Fantasy Player Draft the teams won't be divided between the Eastern and Western Conferences, but with no real way to split the pool up without knowing who is going to Ottawa, I'm going to stick with the old format and give you my East and West All-Stars so far in 2011-12.

Eastern Conference

Forwards


Steven Stamkos
Center - TBL
GOALS: 28 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 45
SOG: 139 | +/-: 6
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning -- This one is a no-brainer. The No. 1 overall pick in 2008 has blossomed into one of the League's elite scorers down in Tampa Bay, leading the League with 28 goals and dishing out 17 assists to go with it. And has anyone been hotter than Stamkos lately? He has 8 goals in his last six games.

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Kessel started off as the hottest player in the NHL and he hasn't cooled off since. He's trying to lead the Leafs back to the playoffs for the first time in a long time and if they finally break the drought, it will be in large part due to his 24 goals and 24 assists. His 48 points are tied for second in the NHL, and he's scored in each of his last four games.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers -- Philly got quite a scare when Giroux was diagnosed with a concussion earlier this season and it's a pretty safe bet there was some easy breathing when he wound up missing less than two weeks. Giroux has broken out in a big way this season with 18 goals and 30 assists. Playing with an all-time great like Jaromir Jagr certainly hasn't hurt, but Giroux is looking like a star for years to come.

Defensemen

Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
-- You could talk about how Chara is a major physical presence on the Bruins' blue line, how he's the captain of the defending champions or how he's on pace to break his career high in points. But to really know why he might be the best D-man in the game, look no further than his plus-minus, which, at plus-27, is the second-best in the NHL.

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators -- Sometimes you see a player voted in by the fans because he's a hometown favorite and not because he's earned it, but Karlsson has definitely earned it. He's played solid defense all season for Ottawa and the only person with more assists than him in the entire League is Henrik Sedin. Giroux, Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Sedin, Evgeni Malkin -- those guys are all looking up at Karlsson.

Goalie

Tim Thomas
Goalie - BOS
RECORD: 17-7-0
GAA: 1.99 | SVP: 0.938
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins -- There are 21 goalies in the League who have played in more games this season than Thomas, who has been splitting time with Tuukka Rask to keep his 37-year-old body fresh for a playoff run. But despite only playing in 26 games, Thomas has 17 wins. His .938 save percentage, 1.99 goals-against average and 4 shutouts are all in the top five in the League.

Western Conference

Forwards

Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks -- Another year, another big season for each of the Sedins. Daniel isn't on pace to break his career high of 104 points from last season when he won the Art Ross Trophy, but 47 points in 41 games isn't bad either, and it's certainly deserving of a place on my Western Conference All-Star team.

Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks -- The Sedins had to play apart for the first time in last season's All-Star Game and with the player draft it could happen again, but I won't be the person splitting them up. Henrik and Daniel might be in a personal fight to see who gets the Art Ross Trophy each season and this year Henrik has the upper hand. His 49 points are the most in the League.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks -- Toews is one of the bright young stars of our game and each season, he just gets better. This year he's on pace for his best season yet, and he's among the top goal scorers in the League. He's a great scorer, but what really sets him apart from other forwards is how good he is both ways. He might be the best two-way center in the League.

Defensemen

Shea Weber
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 30
SOG: 114 | +/-: 12
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators -- After being a Norris Trophy finalist last year, Weber is probably going to be in the discussion again this summer. He's shown himself to be a leader in Music City, and his 21 assists are tied for third most among defensemen despite him missing a few games due to a concussion recently.

Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver Canucks
-- To win in the NHL, you need a solid man on the blue line and Bieksa has been as solid as they come this season. Bieksa has helped out offensively with 25 points, but he's provided a physical presence while shutting down the opposition's top players each night.

Goalie

Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings -- Detroit's having a great year and you can look between the pipes for one of the big reasons why. No one in the NHL has more wins than Howard's 24, and the only team in the League with a better goal differential than the Wings won the Stanley Cup last spring.

Those are the guys I would put out there if I was looking for the top six players in each conference. I know it isn't the same as the first six players voted on by the fans last week, but that's fine. The All-Star Game is a time for the fans to have fun watching the players they love. Anything that makes the game better for the fans I'm all for.

Here's hoping we'll be in for another great show later this month.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 3:13 PM

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

Shopping with Barry: Accessories

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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 3:12 PM

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

Shopping with Barry: Shirts

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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 3:10 PM

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

Shopping with Barry: Suit Jackets

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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 2:28 PM

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

Melrose: Top French speaking skaters, goalies

It would be an understatement to say that French-Canadians are passionate about hockey, but even more than loving the game itself, they love the French-Canadian players that have made the game great. In that vein, here are, in my opinion, the five greatest French-speaking skaters and goalies of all time.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 2:21 PM

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

Melrose: Some teams happy to see 2011 go

It was a heck of a year for hockey in 2011, but it was certainly better for some teams than others. As we saw the Bruins and Canucks battle it out for the Cup this spring, there were plenty of other teams looking at draft boards and planning how to be better in 2012 and beyond. Now that 2012 is just about here, we're going to take a look at the top five teams that wish 2012 didn't have to come, and the top five teams that can't wait for the calendar to turn over.
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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 9:35 AM

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

Melrose Matchup: Flyers at Rangers

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 4:11 PM

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

Melrose Matchup: Blackhawks at Penguins

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Posted On Monday, 12.19.2011 / 12:00 AM

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

Giving the gifts

The holidays are right around the corner with both Hanukkah and Christmas coming this week. In the spirit of the season, I'm putting on my Santa costume on and telling different teams and players in the NHL that have been nice this year what they can expect to find under their trees on Sunday morning.

Toronto Maple Leafs:
I dug in my archives and I found the parade route that the Leafs used in 1967 when they won their last title. Everyone in Toronto thinks the Leafs are going to win the Stanley Cup this year, so I want to do my part and make sure they're ready to march down Young Street like they did in '67. The people in Toronto have been long suffering, and it's not right that the last parade in Toronto was for a baseball team. I think that's got to change, so I'm going to do all I can for the people of Toronto and help out the Leafs and their fans with the actual parade route, so they'll be ready if it ever happens.

Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks:
I'm going to give these teams three free sessions with self-help guru Tony Robbins, because right now they are both screwed up mentally. Neither team has any confidence and both lose games when they have the lead going into the third period. So these teams just need mental makeovers. I know Tony and I know in three sessions, he'll be able to change both of those teams. Books will be given out and available at each session signed outside the door.

Nashville Predators:
Carrie Underwood is going to write a new song for the Predators and it's going to be called "Love and Pekka Rinne will keep us playing into May." Mike Fisher will be the tall, dark handsome guy in the video who says nothing and just smiles the whole time.

Philadelphia Flyers: I'm going to bring back Ed Van Impe to make a comeback in place of Chris Pronger. He's going to supply that nasty defenseman that slashes everything that moves around the front of the net. With Pronger out for the rest of the year, I had to do something for the Flyers because we saw last year in the playoffs that it's not the same defense without Pronger. Without Pronger I put the Flyers down in that second tier of teams. I'd put the Bruins, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Vancouver in that upper tier. The Flyers are now in that level beneath them with teams like the Rangers. The Pronger injury is catastrophic.

Evgeni Malkin: I'm going to continue to give Malkin superpowers until Sidney Crosby comes back. Malkin's been just great every game since Sidney's been gone. He had a hat trick Saturday night, Wednesday night he was fantastic in a losing effort. He's just playing awesome hockey right now. Pittsburgh is certainly a playoff team, but to be a Stanley Cup team, Malkin's going to have to be the guy that leads them. Arguably Pittsburgh's got its two best players out right now in Crosby and Kris Letang, but they're still scoring in bunches every night, and to keep doing it Malkin will have to keep playing at a high level.

Boston Bruins: I'm giving these guys nothing. I gave them the Stanley Cup last year and I also gave them Tyler Seguin, so I think that's enough to hold them over for another Christmas.

St. Louis Blues: I'm giving the Blues the exact same thing. I already gave them Ken Hitchcock and Brian Elliott, which has completely turned the team around. They have been overserved already. Right now, Brian is the most confident he's ever been and he's played well for stretches before with Ottawa. With a guy with his history, you're certainly taking a sigh of relief after each good game, but St. Louis is playing a good style of hockey right now and Elliott and Hitchcock are big reasons why.

Teemu Selanne and the Winnipeg fans: These two got their Christmas present this weekend when I gave them Teemu's emotional return to Winnipeg Saturday night. It was a magical night, the city came out and responded, a lot of great memories were rekindled and Teemu was cheered every time he touched the puck. The Winnipeg fans certainly loved the win, but I think they would almost have loved to see Teemu score a hat trick in a win for Anaheim just as much. It was a great night for Winnipeg, a great night for Teemu and a great night for the NHL.

New Jersey Devils: I'm going to give this team a return to their previous glory for Ilya Kovalchuk and Marty Brodeur. I think Kovalchuk is starting to come out of it, but for New Jersey to make the playoffs, these two guys will have to be the players of old, so that's the Christmas present I'm going to give the fans and players in New Jersey. If you really sit back and look at the play of Marty and Johan Hedberg, Hedberg should be playing more. You want to play Marty, but when he struggles you feel bad when you pull him. As a coach you don't want to put him in that situation, but hopefully with Santa's help, Marty will regain his greatness for the last 50 games of the season.

Detroit Red Wings: I'm going to give them access to the Fountain of Youth for one more year. They had that six-game losing streak at the beginning of the year, and boy did it wake them up. They look like the old Detroit Red Wings. Jimmy Howard has been good all year long -- probably their most consistent player -- but not Datsyuk's back, Zetterberg is flying, Franzen is scoring and Lidstrom and Kronwall and Stuart are giving them good play and the team looks great.

Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders: I know it's been a tough year for them, but I'm going to give them a great Christmas present: a lottery pick. Those will be the three teams that have the best opportunity to get a lottery pick come next June. I think the Islanders are a team that isn't ready to compete for a playoff spot just yet, Columbus is just in too big of a hole and Carolina is just a mess right now, particularly with Skinner and Pitkanen out. But if you're looking for a silver lining, these three teams are all going to get very good players next June -- and in the case of New York and Columbus, it might be the piece that finally pushes them into the top eight consistently.

New York Rangers: I'm going to give them the return of Marc Staal. I really like the Rangers. I think they're really close to being a really good team. Richards is becoming a bigger factor every game, Girardi is one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL, they play with some grit and some character and they've always had the goaltender. If you put Staal back in that lineup, I think this will be a team that can do some damage come playoff time.

All in all though, this has been a great season so far for the NHL and only people like Jacques Martin or Randy Carlyle have gotten any coal. Bruce Boudreau got an exception. With a glance into Santa's crystal ball, the gifts I'm giving this holiday season will make sure the rest of the season is even better than what we've had so far.

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Posted On Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 10:53 AM

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

Melrose Matchup: Bruins at Flyers

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Quote of the Day

I think everyone left it out there. Every game this season, regular season and playoffs, we played as hard as we could. We're not out of the playoffs right now because of lack of effort, and that's all that we can ask of each other.

— Predators defenseman Seth Jones after Nashville was eliminated by Chicago in Game 6 on Saturday