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Posted On Monday, 02.04.2013 / 12:59 PM

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

Has Luongo won his job back in Vancouver?

This summer and this fall it was crazy in Canada. I was up there working for NHL Network, and I saw and read the press regarding the Vancouver Canucks goalie situation. In the end, by the time the season had started, everyone handled it the right way. Roberto Luongo handled it right, Cory Schneider handled it right, they didn't give the media any fuel, and now, as Luongo gets ready to make his fourth straight start, it looks like the situation has been settled on the ice -- the way it should be. Luongo has been the best goaltender, he plays the games.

Now, I think it's pretty clear at this point that Luongo is the No. 1 goaltender. In the last three games he's started, he's 2-0-1 with three goals against, a shutout and a .963 save percentage. Overall, his save percentage and goals-against average are the second-best in the League. I think he's taken over the job and there's just no way they can trade him now because coach Alain Vigneault just isn't playing the other guy. Right now, when wins are so important, he's going to Luongo.

You have to remember that it's not what they say, it's what they do. They can say he's not the No. 1 goaltender, but if he's playing three games in a row, he's the No. 1 goaltender.

Many people are probably surprised that Luongo might have won back his job and won it back this quickly, but he's a professional athlete, and while he kept his mouth shut and handled this whole situation very professionally, he's very proud like every professional athlete is. He's not going to take losing his job quietly. Of course, he didn't cause any problems. He didn't demand to be traded tomorrow, but he did his talking on the ice. That's all you can do when you're a pro. He's outplayed Schneider, he's earned the No. 1 job, and Vancouver, because they didn't pull off a trade, might be the luckiest team in the League right now.

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Posted On Monday, 01.28.2013 / 1:10 PM

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

Melrose: Which teams are over early season slumps?

A week isn't always enough time to tell you which of the preseason favorites has a real shot at winning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it can be enough time to tell you which preseason favorite might not. This season several top contenders have exploded out of the gate (Boston, Chicago, San Jose), but others that we thought would be there right to the end have struggled early on.

Which of these teams are over their issues? Which of them still have reasons to be worried? Here is my take on which struggling contenders have righted the ship and which have tough sailing ahead.

Philadelphia Flyers

This is a team that really looked like it was having some problems after it lost to New Jersey last week to give it three straight regulation losses to open the season, but I think they're on the way back now. Yes, Scott Hartnell is out for an extended period, and so is Andrej Meszaros. And yes, I know they lost to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, 5-1. But this team also just got Danny Briere back and if you look at Saturday night when the Flyers beat the Florida Panthers 7-1, you'll see that the guys they were counting on to score started putting the puck in the net. Guys like Matt Read, Sean Couturier -- the young players the Flyers got so much out of last year. They had to start scoring and we saw that on Saturday.

Now, I don't think this is a team that's going to get in a groove and rip off 10 in a row. Just look at Sunday. But I do think they'll go through a stretch where they win two games and then lose one, or win three and then lose two. I don't think they're a team that will take off because of their injuries, but they are clearly a good team and I think they're certainly a playoff team. Another big reason to be positive is that Briere's return gives Claude Giroux someone to play on a line with that can finish. With the work ethic and talent they have on their team I think the Flyers are through the worst part of their slump.

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Posted On Monday, 01.21.2013 / 4:53 PM

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

Melrose: My take on start of 2012-13 NHL season

At long last we are back, and we're back in style, too. This season kicked off with a fantastic weekend of great games and great performances, and I think we can all agree that it feels good to be watching hockey again. In all of the games we saw there was plenty to take note of, plenty of players that impressed and plenty of reasons to feel good -- or feel worried -- about your team.

Here's my take on the major things I noticed during the 2012-13 NHL season's opening weekend.

The game isn't the only thing that's back

The first thing that jumped out at me Saturday night was how the fans have come back in droves. Every interview I did before the lockout ended, everyone was saying, "They won't come back, there will be demonstrations and buildings will be empty. People are going to send a message to the NHL." That was entirely the opposite of what we saw Saturday. We had record crowds, buildings that aren't usually packed were packed and the atmosphere was electric. The people have come back bigger and better than ever, so that was the one thing that really grabbed me opening night: the love affair between these fans and the NHL.

I think it maybe caught everybody by surprise. We knew Toronto would be packed and we knew Boston would be packed, but Tampa was packed, Florida was packed and Philly set a record for its biggest crowd ever. We could see this even before the season openers when we looked at attendance at training camp scrimmages. Minnesota had 13,000 people in the building for theirs. The way the fans have come back and showed their loyalty and their passion for our sport is just amazing.

Don't worry about the Kings … yet

Los Angeles was supposed to come out and celebrate raising its first Stanley Cup banner in style, but that didn't really happen thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks. That said, while the score was lopsided, this is one you just have to write off, and that's exactly what Darryl Sutter will do. Coaches hate that banner raising. It's emotional and a bit of a distraction, which makes winning your home opener after winning the Cup that much harder -- and the numbers bear it out. Of the last 10 Stanley Cup champions including the Kings, only three of them (and just one in the last five) has won the night it raised its championship banner.

Sutter will just write that off, but L.A. had better be good in its second game. Sutter won't be writing that one off.

Here come the Hawks

I think that opener in L.A. said more about Chicago than it did L.A. -- the Blackhawks looked great all night. Marian Hossa was not just back and healthy, but he looked unbelievable. He had the puck all night long, and so did Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who were all over the ice.

That said, Corey Crawford is the big unknown with Chicago, and he looked OK against the Kings. You know Chicago is going to score and move the puck. If Crawford and Ray Emery -- who looked shaky but got the win against Phoenix on Sunday -- can give the Blackhawks adequate goaltending, that team could be at the top of the Western Conference standings.

Broadway blues

The Rangers are staking an early claim for the most disappointing start to the season. In their opener they had very little going five-on-five against Boston, which looked like the better team Saturday by a mile. That was a game in which the 3-1 final score almost flattered the Rangers with how they played. Things didn't get much better in New York's home opener on Sunday when the Rangers got beaten by a very strong Pittsburgh team.

In that opener against Boston there were some things that could be chalked up to it being early in the season, like sloppy line changes, but Henrik Lundqvist was the best player on the ice for the Rangers by far, and that isn't supposed to be the case for the Rangers this year. Lundqvist wasn't going to have to win games 1-0 or 2-1, but if you watched the opener, that's exactly what happened. I thought Rick Nash has looked OK so far, but with all of the offense this team is supposed to have, I'm expecting much more than what they showed this weekend.

Trouble in Vancouver

If anyone has been more disappointing than the Rangers through two games, it's probably the Canucks. Cory Schneider is going to take some heat after a poor first performance, particularly since Roberto Luongo came in and looked a heck of a lot better, and was solid in a start against Edmonton the next night as well. Add into that that Vancouver's offense didn't create a lot of chances or a lot of pressure and there is definite cause for concern. People also forget that David Booth and Ryan Kesler aren't playing for Vancouver right now, either. Those guys are big, physical forwards that Vancouver is counting on for a lot of points.

I think a little of the problem with Vancouver was that with the talk of the goaltending situation, they may not have been mentally prepared. If a goaltending controversy really gets sparked that could hinder the Canucks' preparation significantly. Schneider will get a couple of games before he completely loses the job, but it will be interesting. It's very different being the lead dog than being the backup. Usually when you come in as the backup the game is over, there's no pressure on you and you go out and stand on your head and everyone says, "This is great." When you're the No. 1 goaltender and it's your job to go win games, it's an entirely different mindset and an entirely different way of playing.

Schneider flunked his first test. That was his opportunity to put an exclamation point on the situation. All he did was get people thinking the Canucks can't trade Luongo. One game means nothing at this point, but Schneider missed a great opportunity to make it clear he was the No. 1 goalie in Vancouver.

Feeling Minnesota

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are the big names in Minnesota now, but Dany Heatley was the guy who stole the attention Saturday night with two goals in the Wild's opener. That's a sign that this could be a special season in Minnesota, and the Wild's win Sunday night only adds to it. What happened in the Wild's first two games is exactly what I've been talking about. Parise is going to make those forwards better. He'll make Heatley better, he'll make Devin Setoguchi better and he'll make Mikko Koivu better. People forget that Minnesota was the first team to 20 wins last year and then they ran into an unbelievable amount of injury problems.

They also forget that Koivu is probably the best player in the NHL no one knows about. When I coached Tampa Bay and we played Minnesota he was the most dominant player on the ice. He can do that and he's done that at times when he's healthy. Then you throw in Mikael Granlund to give them a new weapon. Then you look at what Suter is going to do to make that young defensive corps better. Here's a guy that's going to be on the ice basically half the game, and that takes a lot of pressure off the young defensemen they've got there. Also, Backstrom is a heck of a goaltender.

I think Minnesota, with Parise and Suter, when you look at the West, they're as good as any team in the West. When you look at what they've done so far in their first two games I have to say I feel pretty good about my Stanley Cup pick so far.

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.16.2013 / 2:45 PM

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

Barry's Prediction: Atlantic winner is?

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.16.2013 / 2:44 PM

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

Barry's Prediction: Southeast winner is?

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Posted On Monday, 06.11.2012 / 11:00 PM

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

Kings' Stanley Cup win will have lasting impact

This is great for the city of Los Angeles.

There are no two ways around it. After finally defeating the Devils in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, the Kings, at long last, are champions -- and for the city of L.A., as someone who knows what it's like to live and coach there, that's just a great thing. It's always great any time you do something for the first time and this franchise has been in the League since 1967, so it's a great reward for the city to finally get one after 45 years.

I also think this is a lesson to other teams. Several franchises in this League have been around for years without ever winning the Stanley Cup. The St. Louis Blues have never won the Cup. Neither have the Minnesota Wild, the San Jose Sharks, the Vancouver Canucks or the Phoenix Coyotes. The Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres? All still waiting to touch the Cup for the first time.

For fans of those teams, though, seeing the Kings finally win it all after 45 years is proof that no matter the wait, it can happen. If L.A. can win it, Minnesota can do it. St. Louis can do it. All of those teams can do it, and what's more important is the Kings have done it the right way. They've traded well, they've built through the draft and groomed their prospects well. They've made the right moves in the front office, too and it's all paid off -- and it can all pay off for those other teams, too.
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Posted On Sunday, 06.10.2012 / 6:29 PM

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

Melrose: Can the Devils do it?

When the Kings took a 3-0 lead, this series looked like it was over. When the Devils won Game 4 to make it 3-1, it looked like they had saved some face but the Kings were still due for a date with the Cup. Now that the Devils have won two games in a row (something no one else has done against the Kings this postseason), however, we have a Game 6 Monday night in L.A.

If New Jersey wins that one, suddenly we've got a winner-take-all Game 7 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night. All of this begs one simple question.

Can the Devils actually do this?

The first three games of the Stanley Cup Final this year just seemed like more of the same for L.A.'s postseason. Whenever the Kings have needed a big goal or a big save or a big penalty kill, they always got it. In Games 4 and 5, however, it's started to roll the other way. Now the Devils are starting to get the breaks and one has to wonder if they're starting to feel what the Kings felt at the start of the series.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 1:11 AM

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

Kings' success brings back memories of 1993

I remember one morning I walked into the office in 1993 and I saw Kings owner Bruce McNall and he looked completely dejected and I said to him, "Bruce, what the heck's wrong? We're going to the Stanley Cup Final!"

"I just got requests for 500 tickets for Hollywood," he said. "And I've only got 300 available."

That was Bruce's biggest problem. He had to find 200 extra tickets for the Stanley Cup Final for Hollywood stars. It was an unbelievable time to be part of the Los Angeles Kings. Every night, there were stars all over the place. President Reagan and his wife Nancy were at all of our games and they were in the dressing room after the game meeting the players. After a game, I would walk into the dressing room and Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn would be in my office with Goldie's daughter Kate Hudson, who was just 14 then. The dressing room would always be full of Hollywood stars wanting to meet the players, outside limos would be lined up along the Forum to pick up guys at the Forum Club after the game, and the Forum Club was just a who's who of Hollywood stars. James Woods, was a big hockey fan and he was at all the games. Mary Hart from Entertainment Tonight was a huge hockey fan and she was always there both in the regular season and the playoffs. During the Final that year the Forum was the place to be, the place to go and the place to be seen at.
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Posted On Monday, 05.21.2012 / 1:32 PM

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

Melrose: Lundqvist the difference so far for Rangers

The Devils and Rangers will play Game 4 tonight at Prudential Center in Newark, and if New Jersey plays its game it may very well get back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 Wednesday night with a 2-2 series split. One thing might literally stand in the Devils' way, though, and it's the thing that's stood in their way throughout the series' first three games.

Henrik Lundqvist.

There are no words for how good Lundqvist has been in this series, and there's no better example than Game 3 Saturday. New York ended up winning it 3-0, just as it did in Game 1, and if you just looked at the box score you might think the Rangers put together another strong, sound defensive performance, but if you watched the game, you saw it wasn't a good defensive effort. There were tons of breakdowns all over the ice and lucky for the Rangers, Lundqvist was always there to make the stop.

Simply put, the Rangers were greatly outplayed in the first two periods -- New Jersey outshot New York 26-14 through 40 minutes -- and they ended up winning a game they had no business winning because of Lundqvist. If Lundqvist plays two more games like he did in Game 3, this series is over. You can't do anything about it. If he does that for two more games you tip your hat and say, "You were great." You just can't beat a guy who stands on his head for a full series the way Lundqvist has stood on his so far.

That doesn't mean there's no hope for New Jersey, though. I do think the Devils will come out in Game 4 and Henrik will be good, but it will be hard for him to be as good as he was in Game 3. It would be hard for anyone to play like that two games in a row. I think we'll have a 2-2 series coming down to a best-of-three in Games 5, 6 and 7.

We have to remember that the Devils have shown in the first three games that they have the speed and the forecheck to tire out and overwhelm the Rangers. I think we saw in the Ottawa series that if you can skate, you can get chances against the Rangers. The Senators could skate and they attacked the Rangers with speed through the neutral zone and it became pretty obvious that speed bothers the Rangers. I think Washington would have had a better chance to win if it played faster and got the Rangers in foot races in the second round.

The Devils are seeing what Ottawa did against the Rangers and doing the same things now. There were several breakaways in Game 3 and defensive teams aren't supposed to give those up. The speed is bothering New York. The Rangers were lucky in that Lundqvist was there to make up for all the mistakes his teammates made, but it was clear the Devils were pushing the puck and getting the better of the play. They have to do the same thing Monday night, and if the Devils get as many chances in Game 4 as they did in Game 3, you have to think they'll have a good chance of winning.

The other thing you have to notice is that I think the Rangers are starting to show their exhaustion. Remember, New York has now played 17 games in just 38 days. That's a playoff game almost every other day. I think in Game 2 and Game 3 the Rangers all looked tired. No one looks fast except for Chris Kreider, who's younger and hasn't played a full NHL season because he was at Boston College most of the season. Even Carl Hagelin, who is known for his speed, doesn't look fast. I remember how fast Hagelin looked against Ottawa and Washington, and it's not there now.

The whole team is just looking tired. You don't notice it in guys like Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal, guys that play a ton of minutes on defense, because they don't play fast. Their game's not speed. But in guys like Hagelin or Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, guys that play the fast game, you can see it. They have to be tired because they play a very physical style with shot blocking and grinding on the boards. That's very tough on the body. I think they caught a break with the extra day between Game 2 and Game 3, and the fact that there's only one day off before Game 4 means it will be very interesting.

Another important thing to remember for Game 4 is that the Rangers won't have Brandon Prust because of his one-game suspension after elbowing Anton Volchenkov in Game 3. Prust isn't one of the bigger names in the Rangers lineup, but I think they'll miss him big time. He kills penalties and plays a very physical style. That's a big hitter that New Jersey won't have to worry about. He also is very underrated at getting the puck out around the boards consistently. Next time the puck might come out to a guy who'll kick it into the slot. I think Prust is going to be a big loss. I never underestimate guys like him. He may not be a glamorous name, but if you know hockey, you know what guys like Prust bring to the team.

The loss of Prust and the Rangers' general exhaustion is just going to put more pressure on Lundqvist to perform again like he did in Game 3, but this is how the Rangers play. They bend, but they don't seem to break. Whenever they get into a series like this they seem to win it. Whenever they get to a game where it's on the line, the Rangers make the play like they did in the overtime games against Washington and Ottawa.

I still think this is going to be a six or seven-game series, but you never really know. The only thing I know is Henrik Lundqvist has been the star of this series, and maybe the entire postseason so far. If he plays two more games like he played Saturday, the Rangers will be in their first Stanley Cup Final since 1994.
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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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Quote of the Day

I think everybody wanted the puck tonight. Everybody wanted to be part of the solution and it reflected on the way we played. It's tiring when you have to chase the puck but tonight was one of those nights where everyone really wanted to make a play and wanted to have an impact on the game.

— Rangers forward Martin St. Louis after a 2-0 win against the Flyers
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