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Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Tuesday, 04.14.2015 / 1:04 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Banking on Senators to pull an upset

After 1,230 regular-season games, the best part of the year is here. The 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday, and while there are certainly favorites -- I'm looking at you, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks -- the field is as wide open as ever. Most first-round series are tough to read and I wouldn't be surprised if all four in the Western Conference went seven games.

The best part about the playoffs, though, is that no one really knows how it's going to shake out, including me, but I'm going to take my best stab at it anyway. Here are my picks for the first round of the 2015 postseason.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Ottawa Senators over Montreal Canadiens -- I always talk about how the way you're playing is more important than where you finish, and no one on this planet is hotter than the Senators right now. Andrew Hammond is playing great, they're getting goals from a lot of different guys, Erik Karlsson has been great and they've just got that youthful exuberance that can be so dangerous come playoff time. Montreal is capable of beating anybody with Carey Price in net, but if Price struggles the tables can turn fast. Don't forget, Max Pacioretty's status will have a huge impact in this series. If he's not 100 percent, that's a huge issue for the Canadiens. Even if he is, it may not be enough to stop Ottawa from achieving the upset. The Senators just have one of those auras about them right now.

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Posted On Monday, 04.13.2015 / 3:28 PM

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

Melrose: Time for Shanahan to make mark in Toronto

There was big news in the NHL on Sunday, when the day after the regular season ended the Toronto Maple Leafs fired general manager Dave Nonis and interim coach Peter Horachek. While this signals significant changes coming for Toronto, you can't be surprised to see it happen. You can't be bad and finish the way Toronto did and not have something like this happen in response.

This was a season that started with optimism for the Maple Leafs. They had a relatively decent start and it looked like former coach Randy Carlyle had things going well and then the whole team just blew up. I don't think anyone in the hockey world is surprised that this is the response. Now it's on Brendan Shanahan to remake this team in his mold and with his guys. He's going to put his mark on this franchise with the hires he's about to make in the front office, and when that happens it will fully be his team.

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Posted On Monday, 04.06.2015 / 2:08 PM

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

Melrose: Slumping Penguins could miss playoffs

The last few years we've talked about the Pittsburgh Penguins and generally said they had to prove it to us in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The thing is, though, the "in the playoffs" part never seemed to be a question. Even as recently as two weeks ago the idea of the Penguins missing the postseason might have seemed ridiculous, but suddenly they've lost nine of their past 12 games and we now have to ask it.

Could the Pittsburgh Penguins actually miss the playoffs?

With the Boston Bruins streaking and the Ottawa Senators playing very well despite their overtime loss Monday, Pittsburgh's tumble down the standings is suddenly making it seem very possible. The Penguins' loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday must have been an especially tough pill to swallow. Pittsburgh dominated the opening period and ended up outshooting Philadelphia 47-20 only to lose 4-1 to its hated in-state rival.

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Posted On Monday, 03.30.2015 / 1:30 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Panthers would be wise to keep Jagr

Last week word came out of south Florida that the Florida Panthers were interested in bringing Jaromir Jagr back for the 2015-16 season. Jagr turns 44 next season, but despite his age he's proven to be a valuable commodity, and I said back when the Panthers acquired him in February that I thought he could be a valuable addition to the team. So far it looks like he has been.

The Panthers aren't entirely out of the mix for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, particularly after a big win Sunday night and with a big game against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNW, FS-F, NESN), but making the playoffs will probably mean running the table. That's tough to do. Jagr's impact, however, doesn't have to be limited to this playoff race. The Panthers have plenty of young kids, but what's the use in having 12 good young forwards without anyone showing them how to win? Someone has to teach the young players in Florida how to be pros, how to play hard every night, how to take care of yourself off the ice.

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Posted On Monday, 03.23.2015 / 1:55 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Richards exactly what Kings need

I watched the Los Angeles Kings lose to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday saw a team that just can't score right now, and gets more chances from its fourth line than its second or third. I thought to myself, "This team needs to do something to right the ship. Are they ever going to call Mike Richards up?"

Funny how that happens sometimes.

By the time the Kings called up Richards on Sunday, it seemed pretty clear that this was a move they had to make. Regardless of his struggles this season, you know Richards has the experience of winning the Stanley Cup twice and that he plays hard every night. Maybe he can give them the juice or the spark the Kings need because that's the way he plays. Maybe he'll be so fired up to be on planes instead of buses that he'll bring a whole new energy to their lineup. That's something the Kings desperately need right now if they're going to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs and have a chance to defend their title.

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Posted On Monday, 03.16.2015 / 2:22 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Kings need to pick up the pace

The Los Angeles Kings have developed a reputation for being one of the best, most-clutch teams in the NHL over the past few seasons. With two Stanley Cup championships in recent memory, who is going to argue?

That said, we have 14 games left on the schedule and the defending champs are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I don't like to use the word panic with this team because I don't think the Kings panic. They've been in too many big games with this current group of players.

But the Kings also are aware of the schedule and where they sit in the standings. And you have to think they're starting to get worried, if they haven't been for a while. I think most people expect the Kings will find a way to get in, myself included. After all, L.A. has a game in hand on the Winnipeg Jets, their closest competition for the final wild card spot into the playoffs in the Western Conference. But the Kings know they need to get on a hot streak and win some games, and maybe get some favors from the rest of the conference. The last 12 or 13 games of a season go fast. They need to get hot now and I imagine their intensity level will be up big time over the final few weeks of the season.

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Posted On Monday, 03.09.2015 / 1:58 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Metropolitan race heating up

Every season the NHL features thrilling races down the stretch, but this spring the best race is looking like the Metropolitan Division. The New York Islanders have owned first place in the division for most of the season, but they've started to fade recently while the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins have surged.

The Islanders still are in first place, but I think the Rangers will end the season there. The rivals will play Tuesday (7 pm ET, NHLN-US, SN1, TVA Sports) in a game that will have massive implications. By the time it's done the Rangers could be sitting in first place.

The one thing the Rangers have to be wary of as they navigate the race is just how tight their schedule is. The Rangers have three games in hand on the Islanders -- a number that will grow to four after the Islanders play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday -- but will play their final 18 games in a 33-day span.

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Posted On Sunday, 03.01.2015 / 11:45 AM

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

Melrose Minute: Bracing for a busy trade deadline day

The NHL Trade Deadline is always a busy day on the NHL calendar, but I have a feeling this one could be busier than most. The reason for that is simple. There are just too many tight races both at the top of the standings and at the bottom, too many teams in contention, but at the same time there are several teams that already know they're sellers. You put those two things together and what you get is a lot of movement.

Obvious candidates to make moves are ones just outside the Stanley Cup Playoff field or clinging to one of the wild-card spots. Teams like the Florida Panthers or the Minnesota Wild have already started to make trades in hopes of bolstering their chances. At the same time, though, the teams at the top will all be aggressive and that's because while we know there are some prime suspects, there doesn't appear to me to be one single bona fide Stanley Cup favorite. Are we ready to say the Nashville Predators are the team to beat? Are the Chicago Blackhawks going to be the same contender without Patrick Kane for three months? Are the Montreal Canadiens or Tampa Bay Lightning ready to take that next step?

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Posted On Monday, 02.23.2015 / 2:10 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Look out, Kings have flipped switch

For weeks we've been talking about the precarious situation of the Los Angeles Kings. This is the team that has won the Stanley Cup two of the past three seasons and it has spent most of 2014-15 on the outside looking in, waiting to turn on the switch. Well, after seven consecutive wins, it looks like the switch is back on. I hate to use a cliché, but the Kings just seem like a team that, when its back is against the wall, when it gets to a point where it just absolutely has to win, it somehow manages to pull wins out of its hat.

They look like the L.A. Kings again. Their 2-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game on Saturday was an example of what we've seen over the previous six games. There was very good defense, Jonathan Quick made a few key saves, Drew Doughty was excellent and a different guy stepped up offensively. Saturday it was Kyle Clifford and Marian Gaborik. The next night it'll be Jeff Carter and Jordan Nolan. The next night it'll be Dwight King and Dustin Brown.

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Posted On Monday, 02.16.2015 / 1:34 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Wild's Dubnyk playing like an MVP

Lately, I've been asking myself this question: If the Minnesota Wild make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, is goalie Devan Dubnyk suddenly a serious contender for the Hart Trophy?

The Wild have been the hottest team in the NHL lately and they're climbing up the standings. If they do make it in, as far as I'm concerned, Dubnyk is going to be the reason why. He's been stellar since arriving, going 10-1-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average, a .938 save percentage and four shutouts, and as a result Minnesota is now on the cusp of cracking the top eight. Acquiring Dubnyk has completely changed the outlook of this team and completely changed its fortunes, and when you take that into account, as unheard of as it would be, I think you can make an argument that he's been the most valuable player in the League.

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Quote of the Day

I was going nuts and I saw [Subban], he was going crazy, and the ref had no idea where to go. [Subban] was skating to me, and I was skating to him and the ref was right in between us and I don't know, I kind of hit him pretty hard, I thought, but those were some emotions and I'm pretty sure he understands that.

— Montreal forward Alex Galchenyuk on the celebration following his OT goal against Ottawa in Game 2