The NHL playoffs start next week, and every participating team has that one player that needs to perform well or prove himself for the team to succeed. Some of the players on higher-ranked teams might be under more pressure because they have the higher expectations of winning the Stanley Cup; teams in seventh or eighth are under less pressure because no one really expects them to win anything.
As the playoffs begin, teams will count on these players to perform and if they don't, it could be a quick way to elimination.
Who are these players? Let's find out.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2007-08 with the Dallas Stars
Stats in Those Playoffs: 18 games played, 3 goals, 12 assists, 15 points
The New York Rangers brought in Brad Richards for exactly this reason. They haven't made it past the second round since the 1996-97 season and they are hoping that Richards' offense will give them the edge against Washington or Buffalo. They will probably want him to up his goal total from his last venture into the postseason.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with Boston
Stats in Those Playoffs: 25 games played, 16 wins, 4 shutouts, .940 SV%, 1.98 GAA
The defending Stanley Cup champions will once again be counting on Tim Thomas to guide them to the promised land. The Bruins have struggled down the stretch and they need Thomas to get back into the form he was in last season. If he doesn't, the Bruins could be in a lot of trouble.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with Chicago Blackhawks
Stats in Those Playoffs: 7 games played, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points
The Florida Panthers sure hope that Brian Campbell plays more than seven games this time around. Playing a part on the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks, his experience will be vital if the Panthers are to make it far into the playoffs.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with Pittsburgh
Stats in Those Playoffs: 13 games played, 6 goals, 13 assists, 19 points
It might be a lot to put all the pressure on Sidney Crosby considering his recent concussion history, but when you're known as the best player in the game today, it comes with the job. With Evgeni Malkin and James Neal backing him up, if Crosby can play to the best of his ability, anyone they face is in trouble.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with Phoenix
Stats in Those Playoffs: 4 games played, 0 wins, 0 shutouts, .917 SV%, 2.55 GAA
When the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Ilya Bryzgalov, they thought they had finally acquired the goaltender that would give them stability. Early season struggles put some doubt into the minds of Flyers fans that maybe he wasn't actually the man for the job.
While he has played spectacular as of late, the fact is that as a starter, Bryzgalov has never made it out of the first round. The Flyers need him to change that.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2009-10 with New Jersey
Stats in Those Playoffs: 5 games played, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points
If Zach Parise really wants to remain a New Jersey Devil, he will have to do his best to make sure they make it far into the playoffs. If they don't, he might change his mind on July 1 and go to a team that has a better chance of making to the playoffs.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2009-10 with Ottawa
Stats in Those Playoffs: 6 games played, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points
The Ottawa Senators have been the surprise of the NHL this season. They may only be in seventh, but when a team expected to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference makes the playoffs, it's definitely shocking.
Jason Spezza has been a big part of that, and the Senators will need him to continue to be a huge factor in the playoffs.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with Washington
Stats in Those Playoffs: 9 games played, 5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points
Quite simply, Alex Ovechkin needs to get the Washington Capitals far into the playoffs. Even with the Caps in eighth, "The Great Eight" needs to make them successful or there just might be an upcoming rebuild in Washington.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with Vancouver
Stats in Those Playoffs: 25 games played, 15 wins, 4 shutouts, .914 SV%, 2.56 GAA
Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks are seeking redemption heading into the playoffs. After coming within one game of winning the Stanley Cup last season, Luongo needs to prove that he can win the big game again, like he did with Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2009-10 with Montreal
Stats in Those Playoffs: 18 games played, 9 wins, 0 shutouts, .923 SV%, 2.48 GAA
Jaroslav Halak single-handedly carried the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference finals. If he can do that with the St. Louis Blues, he just might have the team that can get him into the Stanley Cup Finals. If he can't, the Blues will have no problem handing the reins to Brian Elliott.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with Philadelphia
Stats in Those Playoffs: 11 games played, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points
As the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers during their run last season, Mike Richards wasn't as much of a factor as he needed to be. If the Kings are to do any better in the playoffs than they have in the regular season, Richards needs to add more offense.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with Detroit
Stats in Those Playoffs: 11 games played, 7 wins, 0 shutouts, .923 SV%, 2.50 GAA
Once again, the Detroit Red Wings are going to be counting on their goaltender to take them far into the playoffs. The Wings have more than enough offense to make them successful, but it's going to take Jimmy Howard playing like an All-Star for them to make it past the first round.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2007-08 with Nashville
Stats in Those Playoffs: 6 games played, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points
Alex Radulov left Russia after the season ended to rejoin the Nashville Predators. After being proclaimed the best player not playing in the NHL, Radulov will be under a lot of pressure to help the Predators make it even further than last year.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with Chicago
Stats in Those Playoffs: 7 games played, 3 wins, 1 shutout, .927 SV%, 2.21 GAA
The last time the Chicago Blackhawks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, it was on the back of Antti Niemi. He came out of nowhere to lead the Blackhawks to a Cup, displaying skills Chicago didn't know he even had.
This time the responsibility falls to Corey Crawford to lead them. Judging by last season, he will need to play even better to make it past the first round.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with Tampa Bay
Stats in Those Playoffs: 3 games played, 1 win, 0 shutouts, .958 SV%, 1.00 GAA
Mike Smith was a huge surprise this season. No one expected that he would be able to lead the Phoenix Coyotes to the playoffs, yet he has been one of the best goaltenders in the regular season. The Coyotes will need a miracle to make it past the first round.
Last Time in Playoffs: 2010-11 with San Jose
Stats in Those Playoffs: 18 games played, 3 goals, 14 assists, 17 points
The San Jose Sharks have been the proverbial choke artists in the playoffs. Every time they have gotten close making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, they have somehow found a way to lose.
Joe Thornton is the captain of the team and will need to work even harder for them just to make it past the first round.