NHL Playoffs 2012: 6 Most Important Players in the Sharks vs. Blues Series

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NHL Playoffs 2012: 6 Most Important Players in the Sharks vs. Blues Series
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Stanley Cup playoffs are beautiful. There's no better way to put it.

Coming into this season, the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues looked like they could very well end up playing in the first round of the playoffs. Both teams looked like top-eight teams, and both were coming off eventful summers.

Of course, in 99 percent of those preseason projections, San Jose would be the No. 2 seed and St. Louis the No. 7 seed.

Alas, that is not how things played out. The Blues started off the season by going 6-7-0, before firing head coach Davis Payne and hiring Ken Hitchcock. Since then, they have been the best team in the NHL, going 43-16-11.

On the other side of the equation, San Jose has gone through stretches of dominance, and was sitting on their usual perch atop the Pacific Division heading into February. Then, a nine-game road trip and 17-game schedule in March proved to be more than San Jose could handle—the Sharks went 9-13-4 over the next two months.

However, a four-game winning streak to end the season secured a spot in the playoffs for San Jose. So, despite finishing with 14 fewer points (96) than they averaged over the previous five seasons (110), the Sharks are just 16 wins away from the Stanley Cup.

And despite the Blues finishing with 28 more points (109) than they averaged over the previous six years (81), St. Louis is just four losses away from watching the playoffs at home once again.

That's why the Stanley Cup playoffs are beautiful—everything from the past is thrown out. With each series an entire new season unfolds, ultimately ending with one team's season ending and one team getting that much closer to winning the greatest trophy in sport.

To be fair, there is one thing that does carry over from the regular season: the players on each team's roster. It doesn't matter that Joe Thornton had 59 assists this season or that Brian Elliott had a .940 save percentage, but it does matter that Joe Thornton wears teal and that Brian Elliott wears blue.

Whichever team moves on will be just that—the better team. That being said, there are several key players that, depending on how they play, will shift the edge in this series toward or away from their team.

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