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Posted On Monday, 03.31.2014 / 3:09 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Lecavalier rejuvenated with Flyers

Less than 10 games remain for each team in the NHL, and while some of the races for berths in the Stanley Cup Playoffs have cleared up, there is plenty to be decided as we hit the home stretch. Here are some things I've been noticing and that I'll be watching over the next week.

VINNY VIDI VICI

One of the best players from the past decade reached a career milestone Sunday when Philadelphia Flyers center Vincent Lecavalier scored his 400th (and later 401st) NHL goal. When someone hits that kind of a milestone it's hard not to look back at his career and marvel. What makes Lecavalier's career so interesting, though, is how good it's been for him to make the change he made this offseason.

He didn't come into Philadelphia playing in good form. Lecavalier had struggled his last few seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning and it didn't help that for a lot of those seasons the Lightning weren't very good. Finishing near the bottom of the standings multiple times can be good for a franchise if it can turn draft picks into Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman or Jonathan Drouin. But for an older player it can wear on you. Lecavalier had been great for most of his career. He'd won a Stanley Cup and he was the face of a new organization for a lot of years. Going from that kind of success, particularly when you're young, to being on a team that struggles can wear on an older player.

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Posted On Monday, 03.24.2014 / 3:39 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Sharks surging; Bruins are the best

With just a few weeks to go in the 2013-14 regular season, teams are starting to hit their final 10 games. Even with so little time left, so much remains to be decided. That doesn't mean some teams haven't separated themselves and others haven't fallen back to the pack, though.

Here are some things I'm noticing as the season hits its home stretch.

SHARKS COMING OUT OF THE WATER

All season long we've talked about the Chicago Blackhawks or the St. Louis Blues or the Anaheim Ducks as teams to beat out in the Western Conference. We haven't talked very much about the San Jose Sharks, but they've been there lying in the weeds the whole time. Well, they aren't lying in the weeds anymore. San Jose has now jumped atop the Pacific Division and it's pretty clear they'll be a factor in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and may even be the team that wins the West.

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Posted On Monday, 03.17.2014 / 4:38 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Blue Jackets built to last

As we hit the final 15 games of the season, races across the NHL are heating up as teams scramble to earn berths in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One team, however, is starting to make a lot of noise in the Eastern Conference and it just might surprise you who.

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Posted On Monday, 03.10.2014 / 3:41 PM

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

Melrose Minute: More on Miller, St. Louis trades

Now that the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline has passed and the dust around the League has settled, teams are gearing up for the final stretch run to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A number of big names changed addresses and several teams made additions to prime them for a run at the Stanley Cup. The big stories at the deadline are just a few of the things that caught my attention over the past week.

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Posted On Monday, 02.24.2014 / 1:15 PM

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

Melrose: Canada's defense star of the Olympics

After two wild weeks the 2014 Sochi Olympics have come to an end, and Canada was the last team standing after a convincing win against Sweden on Sunday in the gold-medal game. Obviously if you're a native Canadian like I am it makes you extremely proud to see Canada win gold for the second consecutive Olympics and third time in the last four tournaments.

Each team in the tournament made its own mark and had its own interesting story though. Here is what stuck out to me:

CANADA'S DEFENSE NEARLY WAS PERFECT

I've never seen a defense dominate as much as this one did, and when I say dominate I mean in all areas of the game. Offensively they scored almost half of Canada's goals and defensively they made life easy for goalie Carey Price. While Price did a great job, Canada went into this Olympic tournament thinking goaltending might be a weak link. I think Price got a lot of help from his defense corps. Canada's defense did a great job with puck movement, picking guys up and making a great first pass out of the zone.

If you look at the goals Canada was scoring early in the tournament, Drew Doughty or Shea Weber were scoring while the forwards struggled. But even when the forwards made plays, like on Jamie Benn's game-winner against the United States, it was set up on a great pass from the blue line by Jay Bouwmeester. The more I watched those guys the more I thought this was how defense is supposed to be played. If you build a perfect defense it has to look something like this one did. Size-wise, skating ability, puck-handling, toughness, compete-level, this defense had all of those things and it's the biggest reason Canada came away with the gold medal.

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Posted On Monday, 02.17.2014 / 2:38 PM

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

Melrose Minute: U.S. peaking, but don't forget Canada

After watching the group stage of the men's hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics there have been a lot of surprises, both good (Slovenia and Latvia have played well) and bad (Russia and Slovakia have not). With the knockout stage beginning on Tuesday, the tension will be ratcheted up another notch and so will the excitement. As we look ahead, though, the first week of the games gave us plenty to talk about.

Here are the things I've noticed so far at the Sochi Games:

THE U.S. HAS BEEN THE BEST TEAM

We all knew the Americans were a talented team and after their performance in 2010 in Vancouver they were clearly going to be a medal contender, but I know I still thought the Canadians and the Swedes would have a leg up. That hasn't been the case. The way the United States has played, its goal-scoring, its defense, I just think they've been the best all around. They're the farthest ahead, they have the most chemistry and they have the most lines clicking.

That said, the United States didn't draw the ideal road for the knockout stages. The Americans will have to play the winner of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and both of those teams have been disappointing so far, but because neither Canada nor Finland won in regulation on Sunday, the U.S. can't avoid Canada until the gold medal game and instead is on track to face its rival up north in the semis.

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.11.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Melrose: Canada primed to win gold medal again

As we get ready for the start of the Olympic Men's Hockey Tournament when Sweden and the Czech Republic face off in Sochi on Wednesday, I imagine everyone just wants to know one thing after sifting through all of the analysis: Who is going to win?

Well, I can't guarantee I know the answers to that, but I have a pretty good idea. So with no further introduction, here is how I see things shaking out at the 2014 Sochi Olympics:


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Posted On Monday, 02.10.2014 / 3:57 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Things to watch in Sochi

We're just two days away from the start of men's ice hockey at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and with NHL players once again participating, it's sure to be not just an entertaining tournament but an intense one that features the best players in the world skating for national pride.

Few things can match the excitement of the Winter Olympics, and if you doubt that just ask any American who watched the Miracle on Ice in 1980 or any Canadian how they felt four years ago in Vancouver. I'll give my preview of who I think will win each group and who will take home the gold Tuesday, but there are several interesting topics that I'll be keeping an eye on throughout the tournament:

CANADA CHANGES ITS THINKING

Joe Thornton was leading the NHL in assists earlier this season and is No. 2 in the League right now. He's not playing in Sochi. James Neal is a big, physical power forward and he didn't make Canada's team. Claude Giroux didn't either. This is a sign that Hockey Canada has really changed how it makes the team. Canada has changed its thinking looking at the big ice surface and there's no doubt about it. Brent Seabrook, who was on the team four years ago, didn't make the team and he's one of the best defensemen in the NHL. This lineup definitely moves away from the more physical, grinding style Canada employed four years ago in Vancouver. If Canada was playing in Canada again you'd have those power forwards and those big, physical defensemen in the lineup. But with the international ice you don't see that now. Canada has learned in the past from its struggles on a big ice surface and that's why this team is built the way it is.

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Posted On Monday, 02.03.2014 / 4:55 PM

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

Melrose Minute: Jets making West race interesting

Since Paul Maurice took over in Winnipeg, there haven't been many teams hotter in the NHL than the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets have gone 8-2-0 since Maurice took over and while the Stanley Cup Playoffs are probably still a long shot, the Jets are starting to make it interesting.

If you look at the reasons why, you probably have to start with goaltending. The Jets have gotten some very strong performances over that stretch from Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya, and teams that can score goals by the bucket, like the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, have been held to one or two goals when they've played them. But perhaps the biggest reason for the change is just that Maurice is a good coach. He came in there, didn't panic, didn't make a ton of changes and just added some confidence and gave the players a fresh voice to listen to.

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Posted On Monday, 01.27.2014 / 3:36 PM

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

Melrose Minute: L.A. to Bronx in 24-hour whirlwind

In my career in hockey, I've done quite a bit of traveling, but I've had few experiences quite like what happened this weekend when I was in both Los Angeles and New York for the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. I experienced two wild scenes in cities 3,000 miles apart and had very little sleep in between, but if I ever had the opportunity, I would do it all over again. Here's a little taste of what it's like to cover hockey in America's two biggest cities in half a day's time.

When you were at the game between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings in Dodger Stadium, you could definitely tell there was some Hollywood to it. I was going up in an elevator and I opened the door and there was Cuba Gooding Jr. You open another door and there's Colin Hanks. Another door? Matthew Perry. This was a scene that had that Hollywood influence and that made it special. The park was beautiful too. The green grass contouring the white ice, the mountains beyond the outfield, the overlook of downtown L.A., all this combined to make the view spectacular.

Before the game you had Kerri Walsh Jennings, arguably the best beach volleyball player in the world, playing on the field, you had kids on the roller hockey rink, 10 people throwing around a football or a Frisbee. It really captured what L.A. is all about, what California is all about, and then there was hockey at the end of it. It was pretty neat, but really it was totally different. You can't do what they did in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia or Boston. Instead of L.A. trying to be those cities, L.A. was L.A. It really hit the mark. They thought of everything. That's what L.A. does. They do events all the time and they know how to do them well. This was just another example.

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Quote of the Day

I definitely think going back down helped me, I had a lot of confidence down there, I played a lot of minutes and I think that helped me a lot. With the 37 games up here, that gave me experience as well. I know what it takes to play in the NHL and now it's time for me to show that I'm capable of being a full-time NHL player.

— Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl on finishing the 2014-15 season in juniors after playing 37 games with Edmonton to begin the season