Barry Melrose is an NHL studio analyst for ESPN, and he’s in town as the Penguins host the San Jose Sharks for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final. After our own Josh Getzoff spoke with the former NHL player and head coach for Tuesday’s off-day update (watch it above), we asked Melrose a few follow-up questions.
From a national perspective, what makes the Penguins so special? “The big thing for me is, if you remember back in 2009, (Sidney Crosby) and (Evgeni) Malkin were 1 and 2 in scoring for the playoffs. They needed those two to have big nights, but they’re not like that anymore. Sidney is tenth in scoring right now and Malkin is lower than that. They’re much deeper and have many more weapons. The (Nick) Bonino line, out of nowhere, has put it together at the end of the season, and now it’s one of the best lines in the NHL. (Bryan) Rust comes up from the American League, and in Rust we trust. He’s on fire right now. (Conor) Sheary, another player who was in the American League at the start of the year, is playing with Sidney on the top line. The defense, they have no one on defense and they’ve beaten every defense they've played. They just make plays. (Kris) Letang hops in the rush and makes a great play for the winning goal. I think just how different they are than in 2009. Even on a star-studded team, the stars don’t have to carry the team on their back. They’re much more dangerous now.”
What did you think of the crowd at CONSOL Energy Center for Game 1? “CONSOL is fantastic. If it isn’t the best hockey town, then it’s tied for the best in the NHL. The sidelines are good; the ice is good which helps skilled players. Pittsburgh gets nicer every time we come. It’s just nice being in a hockey city. Everyone is wearing jerseys downtown. It’s a great place to be for a hockey team.”
What will it take for the Pens to win this series? “I think it’ll be the goalie (Matt Murray), of course. He’s 22 now. It’s supposed to be Marc-Andre Fleury but now he’s the backup. That’s certainly going to be a key. They have to do exactly what the formula has been. Everyone scores, everyone checks, everybody blocks shots, everybody plays defense and everybody plays offense. That’s what has made this team very competitive.”