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Posted On Monday, 10.31.2011 / 3:06 PM - Melrose Minute

Melrose Matchup: Sharks at Rangers

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Posted On Sunday, 10.30.2011 / 7:35 PM - Melrose Minute

Melrose Minute: Noteworthy Beginnings

It's been a wild first month of the season and the haves and have nots are starting to show their colors. Here are my best and most noteworthy performances for the month of October.

Best Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

I think what this team's done with the injuries they have -- obviously Sidney Crobsy is out, Evgeni Malkin has missed a number of games, Brooks Orpik wasn't ready to start the season, now Zbynek Michalek's hurt, Kris Letang was suspended for two games -- is just amazing. They're right there for No. 1 in the NHL. The way they're playing: Marc-Andre Fleury's been great in net, they're getting goals from everybody, everybody's contributing, Jordan Staal's off to a great start, you've got James Neal off to probably his best start as an NHL player, Steve Sullivan is rejuvenated there -- it's just a great job. I really think with what they've overcome and what they've accomplished they've been the best team in October.

If everyone continues to play the way they are when Crosby returns, you've got to think they're the best team in the NHL. Sometimes that's not the case. Sometimes when a star player comes back other guys think, 'Well I don't need to play as hard now because obviously Sid is going to play 25 minutes and I won't get the amount of ice time I did or be as important as I was'. That's what Dan Bylsma has to make sure happens. When they add Crosby to that lineup, keep everybody playing as hard as they are. Then you've got something special.

Best Forward: Phil Kessel, Toronto

He's leading the NHL in points and goals, and Toronto's one of the best teams in the NHL. He's scoring a lot of big goals for Toronto, too. It's not like he's scoring goals when the Leafs are already winning 3-0 and he scores goals 4, 5, and 6. He's scoring game-winning goals and tying goals. He's really playing well 5-on-5 -- just an excellent job. There are a lot of other great jobs done by forwards so far at the start of the year, but nobody matches up to Kessel right now.

He hasn't met expectations for his career yet, but he's still a young guy. He's still maturing. He's better 5-on-5 now. He's competing harder defensively. He's accepted the role of go-to guy. I think he's realized that he's scored 30 goals a number of times in the NHL and yet he's never won anything. Brian Burke wanted him, gave up a lot to get him, and now Kessel is rewarding Brian Burke's thinking. I think a lot of it is just that some guys mature later than others and it's taken him a few years to really "get" the NHL. Scoring goals isn't enough for him anymore. You want to be scoring goals on a good team. You want to make the playoffs. You want to have playoff success. That's what the NHL is all about.

Best Defenseman: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh

If you look at Letang's numbers he's up there with the top scoring defensemen of the NHL. He's up there with most assists in the NHL. He's a plus player. He plays against the other team's top line every night. At the start of the year Orpik wasn't playing and now Michalek's not playing and night in night out this kid is playing the power play, playing good 5-on-5, killing penalties and just doing everything for Pittsburgh. Most nights if he's not the best player on the ice he's one of the best two or three players on the ice. He's done it since Day 1, he got a two-game suspension and he's done it since he's come back. This guy is expected to do a lot in Pittsburgh and in October he's done everything they could have hoped for him to do for them.

His suspension is obviously a bit of a concern, however. He plays on the edge. There's no doubt about it. He's not a big kid, but he's very physical and if he stays on the right edge that's a bonus. That makes people keep their head up when they play against you. Another suspension would be at least four games though, because he's a repeat offender, and Pittsburgh can't afford to lose him for an extended period of time so he's got to be careful. Play on the edge but make sure you don't cross that edge.

Best Goalie: Kari Lehtonen, Dallas

This was my toughest pick. It came down to between Jonathan Quick and Kari Lehtonen, but I'm going to pick Lehtonen. I don't think he's on as good a team as Quick, he's won eight games, he's starting just about all the games, and Dallas is a big surprise. They're not supposed to be where they're at, and if you look at his numbers they're just fantastic numbers. The only place that Quick has him beat really is shutouts, and he's got Quick beat on wins.

What's the most important stat in hockey? It's wins. I think Kari Lehtonen in October has been the best goaltender in the NHL.

You worry because he has had injury problems in the past, but this is as good a stretch as he's had in a long time. He's played in 11 games, and played great. I'm sure Dallas would like to rest him a little bit because he's playing all the time and he's had injury problems. They must be monitoring him very closely. You certainly hope that he'll have an injury free season because he came into the NHL with such high expectations. At times he's looked great, but the majority of his career has been average. Last year when he went to Dallas he played great as well, almost getting them to the playoffs. His injury problems would be a worry to me, however, if I were a Dallas Stars fan.

Biggest Surprise: Dallas Stars

They lost Brad Richards, they didn't get anything back for him, they're a small market team now that can't spend money the way they used to, and here they are at the top of the Western Conference ahead of the Red Wings, the Blackhawks, the Canucks and the Kings. They're just playing great hockey. They're playing very good offense, they're getting great defense, obviously good goaltending, but nobody at the start of the year thought the Dallas Stars at the end of October would be leading the Western Conference.

They're showing that they quietly had a solid offseason. I like the guys they added. Sheldon Souray's been great. He's been running a good power play, he's a big man, he still shoots the puck a ton, he's a plus-player, he's come in and given them good minutes. I've always like Vernon Fiddler. He's a heck of a hockey player. I know he's not getting a ton of points right now, but he will. He's a very solid two-way guy. Radek Dvorak is also a good solid veteran. That is how they're building their team: on cheaper free agents and good two-way guys. Obviously guys like Brenden Morrow, Jamie Benn, Mike Ribeiro -- those guys have to score. They have to put the puck in the net for Dallas and they have been. But if you look at the reason Dallas has been winning you've got to look at timely goals and the guy in net. He's been fantastic and they've been playing great in front of him.

Biggest disappointment
Eastern Conference: Boston Bruins

They're sitting at 3-7-0, they just lost back-to-back games to Montreal, they're not scoring goals, not playing particularly good defense, not particularly playing good anything. This is the team that won the Stanley Cup and their record is 2-5-0 where they've played the majority of their games: at home. That isn't good news for the Boston faithful. This is a team that obviously hasn't jelled yelled, and the crazy thing is Tyler Seguin is off to an unbelievable start. You'd think with that kid playing like this Boston would be sitting high on the hog, but so far not so much. Lucic is starting to go now, but they need to get Horton going, and they need to get Krejci going. They take a lot of bad penalties right now, too. They're very undisciplined and that's got to stop. I didn't think they were as good as Pittsburgh or as good as Philly, but I certainly didn't think they'd be last in the East after one month.

The Stanley Cup hangover could be the culprit. It happened to Chicago last year, too. They had to play great down the stretch just to get into the playoffs. Look at Vancouver, they're off to a slow start also. It's hard with three months off. Obviously, you have other things on your mind and sometimes you forget why you won the Stanley Cup. You think, well we won it last year, we'll win it again. That's not how it works.

Western Conference: Columbus Blue Jackets

I didn't think they'd win the Cup or have a chance of winning the Cup like Boston, but they're the team that went out, made a lot of changes, spent money, got James Wisniewski, made the trade to get Jeff Carter, really sold it to your fans that they were doing what it takes to win and this was going to be the breakout year. But now they've won one game. They won that one game against Detroit and then they lost the next two. They're sitting with three points in that western conference. We never expected them to be great, but we certainly expected them to be fighting for a playoff spot. If you look at Columbus compared to Ottawa, they're a much better team than Ottawa. More mature, bigger, solid, and here's Ottawa with six wins. Columbus is sitting there with one.

They missed Wisniewski, and Carter getting hurt affected them, but look at all the injuries Pittsburgh had? They're still finding ways to win. Injuries aren't an excuse. Other teams are using injuries as a chance for someone else to play more and get off to a good start. It looks like Columbus is using them as an excuse for losing. Beating Detroit should have been a catalyst for a nice little streak, but instead they've lost two in a row again. A month into the season, there aren't a lot of positive signs in Columbus.
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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 2:09 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Barry's Best: The top plays of the week

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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 12:24 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Melrose Place: Penguins impressing early on

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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 12:24 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Melrose Place: Should visors be mandatory?

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Posted On Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 3:58 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Barry's Best: Phaneuf, Sedin Twins and Quick

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Posted On Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 1:24 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Barry Melrose Mullet of the Week goes to...

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Posted On Monday, 10.24.2011 / 10:00 AM - Melrose Minute

Melrose Minute: Five greatest teams ever

Former NHL head coach and player Barry Melrose starts a new gig this season: He will be blogging for throughout the 2011-2012 season.

Some great teams have played in the history of the NHL, but in the 118 years people have been battling for the Stanley Cup, these, to me, are the five greatest teams to have ever lifted it.

5. 1970 Boston Bruins

Bobby Orr led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup on 1970, scoring one of the most iconic goals in NHL history along the way. (Photo: Getty Images)
This team is on the list because Bobby Orr had to be on this list. It had the best power play I had ever seen with Orr and Phil Esposito. It was fun to watch. They scored a ton of goals, they were in a ton of fights, they had a bunch of free-spirited guys and they loved to play. You could tell just by watching. When they won the Cup in 1970 I think a lot of people thought we might have another dynasty in the making -- a team that would win five or six Stanley Cups.

I put them at five because they underachieved, but if you look at the team that beat them twice and stopped that dynasty it was the Montreal Canadiens. This was a real fun team to watch. It was Bobby Orr in his prime, it was Espo in his prime, Derek Sanderson in his prime, Johnny Bucyk in his prime -- it had everything. It was an awesome team to watch. You never missed an opportunity to watch the Boston Bruins in 1970.

4. 1982 New York Islanders

I always said about the Islanders that if you walked into the rink in the second period, you couldn't tell if they were winning or losing. That was how they played. They were just a machine. They had no weaknesses, they could score with Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies, they were great defensively, great in net, and just very deep. They were tough because they had to come up during the Flyers Broad Street Bullies era, but they could also beat you with skill. They were so consistent. They never went into a slump, they never had any breakdowns.

They were just a great, great team.

3. 1987 Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers had five Cups in seven years. Can you imagine that 1987 team? Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Coffey, Lowe, McSorley. It was just phenomenal how talented that team was. The '87 team won it in seven games against Philadelphia, which was just a great series, but this team changed the way the game was played. It was wide open then, it was end to end, it was fast and no one did it better than the Edmonton Oilers. It was a phenomenal group they had together for those seven or eight years when they were the dominant team by far in the NHL.

I picked the '87 team because the early teams that won the Cup were a little bit younger and by 1987 they had matured. They were winners. They expected to win and everyone was scared of them. It may be the most talented group ever assembled on one team. If that team stayed together and Pocklington didn't sell Gretzky, how many Cups could that team have won? In 1993, I had Kurri, Gretzky and McSorley in Los Angeles and they were still great players.

2. 1978 Montreal Canadiens

The 1978 Montreal Canadiens dominated the NHL, with Ken Dryden keeping the crease clear for his Habs' teammates. (Photo: Getty Images)
They had four straight Cups, and this group of guys was losing maybe seven or eight games a year in a 72-game season. It was such a dominant group of players: Lafleur, Cournoyer, Lapointe, Savard, Robinson, Kenny Dryden -- what a team. Just an awesome, awesome group of talented players. Looking over this, there are so many great Montreal teams, but this 1978 team was just an unbelievable group of players with an unbelievable coach in Scotty Bowman.

1. 1958 Montreal Canadiens

If you win five Cups in a row, you've got to be great. I picked the '58 team, coached by Toe Blake, because it's in the middle of the five straight Cups so you have the maturity, all the guys have been together for a long time. They would have been stronger than the team that won the first won in 1956. Maurice Richard, Doug Harvey, probably the best forward and defenseman in the game, and Jacques Plante in net, probably the best goalie in the game.

To win five Cups in a row, to have that hunger and be that amazing is just a phenomenal feat by that organization.
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Posted On Sunday, 10.23.2011 / 8:19 PM - Melrose Minute

Melrose Minute: 5 greatest defensemen

Former NHL head coach and player Barry Melrose starts a new gig this season: He will be blogging for throughout the 2011-2012 season.

Scorers get the glory, but defensemen are often the backbone of a team -- and some of the greatest players in the League's history have been on the blue line. Here are my five greatest defensemen of all time:

5. Paul Coffey

Maybe, if you look at the list, maybe he's not a great defensive defenseman, but his numbers are staggering. He's got 396 goals, 1,531 points and he was a plus-294 in his career. He won four Stanley Cups and played in the Final seven times. He was great on the power play. He was arguably one of the greatest skaters that ever played our game. I've looked at other guys like Denis Potvin, Larry Robinson, Brad Park, or Brian Leetch, but I just couldn't overlook Paul Coffey's offensive numbers and the fact that he won all those Stanley Cups.

Paul Coffey racked up four Stanley Cups to go with his 396 goals and 1,531 points over a 21-year NHL career. (Photo: Getty Images)
In Edmonton, Gretzky and all those forwards needed a defenseman like Coffey. He opened up so much room for them. For that free-wheeling offense Edmonton had, they needed that defenseman that joined the rush and was dangerous, and Coffey was the perfect defenseman for that style of play. In Pittsburgh he went to an offensive team, and the same when he went to Detroit. It's no use putting a thoroughbred with fallow horses, so he was always with wide open offensive teams. That's one of the reasons his numbers are great, but those types of teams fit his style. The coaches on those teams were smart enough to realize what they had and they didn't try to change him. They let him go and he was dangerous. On 5-on-5 he was dangerous, shorthanded, on the power play -- he was scary. With him Edmonton's power play was even scarier. Yeah, Gretzky was on it, Messier was on it, Kurri was on it, but Coffey was usually the guy bringing the puck up the ice on the power play.

4. Nicklas Lidstrom

He might move up on this list the more he plays. He just reached 1,500 games, he's got 255 goals, 1,112 points, four Stanley Cups, he was great on the international stage at the Worlds and the Olympics, and he was a high plus-player. He always plays against the opponent's top forward and he always shuts the guy down. He's got great playoff numbers. Just a phenomenal player. He's never hurt, he's very durable, he's just so good at everything. He doesn't have a weakness.

The funny part is, apart from Bobby Orr, all the guys on this list played a long time. But Nicky, playing in this era with as many games as Detroit played -- don't forget, Detroit usually played at least 20 playoff games every year, too -- his offseason was very short. Still, the guy could do anything. He killed penalties, he could play the power play, he could play a speed game, he could play a grind and checking game. He just didn't have a weakness. You could say Coffey had a weakness -- he wasn't a great defensive defenseman. Lidstrom isn't as good as Coffey offensively, but he's still a great offensive defenseman and he's one of the greatest defensive defensemen we've ever seen.

3. Ray Bourque

The guy is phenomenal. He's got 410 goals, 1,579 points, 1,612 games, and he finally got a Stanley Cup. He's a lot like Lidstrom. He always goes on the ice against the other team's best player, he's a great defensive defenseman, and he played in that small rink in Boston, too. That didn't help a guy like Bourque. If Bourque could have gotten on a bigger ice surface he would have been a lot harder to check. I think that little rink in Boston effected him. Just like Lidstrom the guy did not have a weakness. Bourque was great offensively, great defensively, he was a great passer with the puck, he had a great shot from the point, he ran a great power play. So, so perfectly balanced offensively and defensively. Just a great, great hockey player.

As for the way he went out, the last game of his career he got to carry the Cup around. That's how stories and movies are finished. Ray Bourque was able to do that, and since it was his only Cup it meant even more to him. He knew how hard it was to win a Cup. All those years with the Bruins he couldn't do it, so knowing it was his last game, can you imagine what a moment that was for Ray Bourque? The only negative thing was that he couldn't do it in Boston.

2. Doug Harvey

Doug Harvey made 11 consecutive All-Star teams and won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo: Getty Images)
I'm a big believer in guys that changed the game and Doug Harvey changed the game. Before Doug defensemen never joined the rush, they never scored goals. Their job was strictly to get the puck to the forwards and not even cross the blue line at the far end. Doug created a little offense. He had 88 goals for the Montreal Canadiens, a number of Stanley Cups. He was Bobby Orr before there was Bobby Orr. He changed the game. The really great players changed the game, and Doug changed the game in the 50's and 60's.

Guys that know Harvey, if you talk to those guys and you ask them who was the glue of those great Canadiens teams, they all say, "Doug Harvey". Jean Beliveau was unbelievable and Maurice Richard too, but they say the real glue of that team was Doug Harvey. He was an unbelievable passer of the puck, too. One second it was on his tape and the next second it was on Beliveau's tape. It's a shame young guys don't know Doug Harvey. He played before TV was big, but this guy was just a pleasure to watch.

1. Bobby Orr

He created the offensive defenseman. There wouldn't be a Ray Bourque, there wouldn't be a Paul Coffey if there wasn't a Bobby Orr. He took what Harvey did and magnified it a million times. Not only joining the rush but leading the rush, not only joining the scoring race but leading the scoring race. He had shocking plus/minus numbers. One season he was plus-124. The Boston power play was scary with him on it. He did stuff that no one ever did. He revolutionized the way hockey was played. Anyone who changed the game like Orr is the best. There's no doubt in my mind that he was the greatest defenseman that ever played.

The only argument you could get into is "is he the greatest player that ever played? Is it Gretzky or Orr?" They both changed the game. The only knock on Bobby Orr is he only played 657 games due to injuries. Can you imagine the numbers he would have if he played as many games as Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey? In 657 games he had 915 points. He had over a point per game as a defenseman. The numbers would be shockingly similar to Gretzky's if he played the same king of time as Coffey or Bourque. Gretzky had more assists than anyone else had points. Orr's numbers would have been like that. If he played a normal career of 15 years his numbers would have been out of this world.
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Posted On Friday, 10.21.2011 / 10:07 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Barry's second 'Mullet of the Week' winner is ...

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Quote of the Day

I've been so fortunate, blessed, to play a long time with some great players and be on power plays, play in some great cities and stuff. It's been fun.

— Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla on tying Dino Ciccarelli for 46th place on the NHL's all-time list with his 1,200th career point after their win vs. the Predators on Friday