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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Monday, 05.28.2012 / 3:46 PM

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

Kings-Devils should be an exciting Final

Well, after 1,230 regular season games and 80 more in the playoffs, here we are. In a matchup not many people could have seen coming, it'll be the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings facing off in the Stanley Cup Final, which will start Wednesday night (8 ET, NBC, CBC).

Here is how I see the matchup shaking out:

Forwards

When I look at these teams up front, there are a few things that stick out to me about the Kings. First of all, they've been on fire. They've played 14 games so they're healthy and rested, they're playing great in general and getting scoring from everybody. Anze Kopitar is scoring, Dustin Brown is scoring, Mike Richards is scoring … even Dwight King had four goals against Phoenix in the Western Conference Final. Every night, someone else puts in a goal for the Kings. With that scoring depth, I have to give them the edge.

I also give the size edge to the Kings. I don't think the defense of the Devils has seen a forward unit like this that can skate and is that big. The Rangers, apart from Mike Rupp, didn't really have any big forwards and especially physical guys. I think that's going to catch the Devils by surprise.

Overall, when I look at the 12 forwards, the Devils' forwards just don't match up to the Kings to me. I think Ilya Kovalchuk, of course, is dangerous offensively and Zach Parise's going to give you offense. But are they going to get two goals out of Ryan Carter this series? Can Stephen Gionta be as effective against L.A. as he was against New York? I don't know. I think this is probably where the Kings have the biggest advantage.

I will say this, however -- with the aggressive forechecking style these two teams have, I'm hoping it creates some great entertainment value. If they both play the way they can it should be fast, there should be a lot of hitting, there should be a lot of mistakes created because of the speed they forecheck with and when you forecheck, you're giving up goal-scoring chances because of turnovers. So, I'm hoping that this will be an exciting brand of hockey. Again, I think I give the edge to L.A. I just think that they're able to forecheck better because of their size. When you've got guys who are 6'3" or 6'4" forechecking they should be more effective than teams with smaller forwards, so I really think that we'll all benefit from the style of play, but I think size will definitely be a factor. That size plays into the Kings' hands. Advantage: Kings

Defense

Both teams have solid defenses and New Jersey's has been underrated throughout the playoffs, but to me, Drew Doughty is the only real difference maker in the lot. The Devils have nobody like Doughty, a guy that can run the power play. The Devils use Kovalchuk at the point on the power play because they don't have another D that can run it. Doughty, meanwhile, has been great and he's really been raising his play as the team has gotten deeper into the playoffs. Once you get by Doughty on L.A. you've got Rob Scuderi who's won a Cup, Alec Martinez and Slava Voynov who've both played well, Matt Greene, who is a big physical presence and Willie Mitchell is probably playing the best hockey he's played in his life. It's a big defense and it's mobile, but Doughty is the X-Factor.

The Devils have nobody like that. Marek Zidlicky's been great for the Devils, everything they'd hoped he would be, Bryce Salvador has been creating offense but also rock solid defensively, Andy Greene has been a bit of an unsung hero and I think and Pete Harrold has come in and given them good minutes taking over for Adam Larsson, who I think was somewhat caught by surprise by the intensity of the playoffs. You've also got Mark Fayne, who's been playing solidly. You may not know some of the names, but if they aren't making mistakes their names aren't showing up in the newspapers. Sometimes that's what you want from a defenseman.

Still, I think the Devils need more help from their forwards and have to play more as a five-man unit defensively. They've played three solid teams and controlled strong offensive players like Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, which is not easy to do. Apart from a few tip-ins, they haven't given up many goals. I do think the Devils' defense is very underrated, but I think because of Doughty the Kings just have a little more oomph. Advantage: Kings

Special Teams

Let's be honest here. Neither team's power play has set the world on fire so far this postseason. I don't see any reason to think the Kings or the Devils are going to suddenly turn it on with the extra man, particularly considering both teams have been great on the penalty kill. The Kings have put the pressure on and scored five shorthanded goals, and the Devils in general, apart from their series against Florida when the Panthers mysteriously just ate them up, have been very good. Frankly, we might get to the point where each team scores more shorthanded goals than power-play goals. In a series like this though, it may not be how many power-play goals you score. It might be when you score them. Still, I don't expect either team to get much of a push or an edge from their special teams. Advantage: Push

Goalies

Marty Brodeur's been great. He outplayed Henrik Lundqvist the last two games, so if you do that, you're a pretty good goalie. What's more is that he's been here before. Nothing's going to faze him. Nothing's going to happen that hasn't happened to him before. He's been to the Stanley Cup Final touted as the best goalie in the world and he's been to the Stanley Cup Final being a young goalie no one knew about, so he's just going to come to the rink and he's going to play. He might let in a crazy goal somewhere, but then he'll make a great save like that double-pad stacked stop he made on Brad Richards in the slot in Game 6 or he'll make a save with his heel or another save with his toe. Also, he's still an unbelievable puck handler. It will help L.A. that they've already played against Mike Smith, who is similarly good at handling the puck. They know about keeping the puck away from a player like Marty and limiting his ability to set up plays and clear the puck past your forecheckers, and that's really the only edge he has against Jonathan Quick, though it is a big one if the Kings don't play it right.

If I'm the Devils, there is some good news here in that Quick looked human against Phoenix. In the first two rounds, he just ate every puck up. They can take some solace from that, but there's still no reason to think he'll suddenly become a bad goaltender. I think you've really got to concentrate on getting your second shot high if you're the Devils because Quick gets those pads on the ice and plays like a crab. If you're going to beat him, you're going to put the puck up under the bar. Quick is going to be great in this series like he has been all postseason, and I don't think the pressure will bother him because he's beaten the top three seeds and hasn't lost yet on the road.

Really, I think goaltending is a wash. When you make the Stanley Cup Final, you've played three excellent teams, you've battled, you've proven you can play, proven you're mentally tough and I think the way these two guys have played I don't think anyone sees one of them faltering. Advantage: Push

Coaches

One could look at Darryl Sutter and Peter DeBoer and easily give Sutter the edge on experience. That's the kind of thing that always makes me laugh, because when we went to the Final with L.A. in 1993, every paper had me outcoached in every series because I coached against Dave King and Pat Quinn and then Pat Burns. All three of those guys were going to outcoach me. But once you've come up the coaching ranks and you've coached for a Memorial Cup or a Calder Cup, the reason you're in the NHL is because you're a good coach. You don't get to the NHL by failing, you get there by succeeding. These coaches have both already been tested. DeBoer has won a Memorial Cup and coached a Game 7 in the NHL, Sutter's been to the Stanley Cup FInal before, so nothing's going to happen that these coaches aren't prepared for and neither one is going to outsmart the other one. It's going to come down to the guys on the ice. Execution of the play, who's going to want it more, who will pay a bigger price -- that's what will decide it, but both of these teams are going to be well-coached and well-prepared. Advantage: Push

Intangibles

If you look at L.A. and New Jersey, they both have a few guys with rings, so they've both got Cup experience. I don't really see an edge for either team there. If you look at intangibles I'd probably say the karma, if there is such a thing, around Marty is an intangible because a lot of people probably want to see him win as a sentimental favorite so he can ride off into the sunset on his great career. Really, though, it will come down to execution and doing the little things right, like blocking shots and getting the puck out around the wall. It's the same things hockey always comes down to. Advantage: Push

Prediction

People know that I'm a Kings guy. I've still got friends in the organization, I love the way they play and I've watched them play 14 times now and they're just really good all around. I don't see a weakness in their team right now. The forwards are a little better than New Jersey. I think their size will create some matchup trouble for the Devils and I'm not sure that Kovalchuk and his teammates can score consistently against Quick, and I just see L.A. with the edge in the end. Pick: Kings in 6
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 1:17 AM

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

Can anyone stop the Kings?

Now that Los Angeles has knocked off the Coyotes and won the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl for the first time since 1993, the Kings will sit and wait to find out who their opponent is. Waiting isn't something these Kings aren't accustomed to, either. They've won their series in five, four and five games each, meaning a lot of sitting around waiting to find out who is next, but winning three postseason series in a grand total of 14 games is simply remarkable -- and something that doesn't happen often. After all, the Rangers played 14 games in the first two rounds alone. You don't advance to the Stanley Cup Final playing just two games over the minimum without being a pretty great team on an impressive hot streak, and that all leads us to one very important question:

Can anyone stop these guys?

Well, I don't really think so, but there are a few things to take into account. First, the Kings look very powerful right now. Their style of play looks better, and their players look better, but I temper it with the fact that the West is always more wide open. The West, since the 1970s and 80s, has always been a more wide open conference. It goes back to the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames and all of those other great teams of the 1980s. So when I look at the two conferences, I always take the style of play into consideration. The east is much closer to the vest, it's much more defensive-minded and it has been forever, so the teams don't look as good or as flashy or as talented. Saying that, I do think the L.A. Kings have the best team right now. When you put the L.A. Kings' lineup in there with Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll -- and you almost have to put Dwight King in there now, too -- it does look like a more talented team when matched up with the Devils and the Rangers.
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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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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 Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 7:30 PM

NHL.com - Melrose Minute

In an evenly-matched series, I'm taking the Kings

I would be lying if I didn't admit I was pulling for Los Angeles to beat Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals this season. Being an ex-coach of the team and having had success there, I'll always have a soft spot for L.A. and I still have friends in the organization.

That said, despite my own emotional connection, I have a hard time seeing any differences between these teams. They're basically even in every category. Each team has been phenomenal lately and they're both great stories. I think L.A. is a little better offensively, but I think Phoenix is a little better defensively, and the goaltending is basically a push.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 8-1-0
GAA: 1.55 | SVP: 0.949
Even if the goaltending of Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith is a push, those are the two guys that seem certain to take center stage in this series. The Kings and Coyotes have the hottest goaltenders in the playoffs and each of them has gotten stronger each round. Both of them have had tremendous seasons and outstanding postseasons and that should continue this time around, though there might be some rust. Rust is going to be a problem for both sides, of course. Each team has been off for a while, but the goalies are the people who I'm really going to keep my eye on for that reason. Both Smith and Quick finished their previous series on such a hot note that as a coach, you hate not playing right away when your goalie is playing that well. When your goalie is playing so well and so confidently like each of these guys are right now, you just wish you could keep playing every two days from then on so they do lose the momentum.
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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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It's hard to walk into that locker room and look those guys in the eye when they've played -- clearly, that was our best game we've played in the series -- and I thought we deserved a better fate tonight.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on his team's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 on Sunday