NHL Playoffs 2012: Ranking Boston Bruins' Most Critical Players for Cup Run

Sean Delorge@@sdelorgeCorrespondent IIIApril 17, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: Ranking Boston Bruins' Most Critical Players for Cup Run

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    The Boston Bruins need to get back to what won them the Stanley Cup last year. They need to play physical, in your face hockey.

    The offense has been a major disappointment in the first two games against the Washington Capitals. Despite going up against an unproven goalie, they have only managed to score a single goal in each game.

    Tim Thomas and the defense have held Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals in check, but the offense needs to start winning more battles in the corners and fighting for position in front of Braden Holtby.

    Here is a list ranking the seven most critical players in the Bruins quest to repeat.

No. 1 Tyler Seguin

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    The offense has struggled, particularly the top two lines and Tyler Seguin needs to take control and become an offensive force. Seguin has shown the speed and the shooting ability in the first two games, but he has repeatedly taken outside shots through traffic.

    With Dale Hunter’s new defensive strategy, outside shots are getting blocked, so Seguin needs to either cycle the puck down low and get closer or pass the puck and move around to create space for other players.

    Seguin increased his physical play during the regular season, yet in the first two games he took a step back. I don’t expect Seguin to grind it out as much as Milan Lucic, but he needs to put in the work down low in order to get opportunities.

No. 2 Brad Marchand

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    During last year’s Cup run, Brad Marchand was a great agitator for the Bruins. During the finals he even got under Daniel Sedin’s skin when he repeatedly punched him in the face, and Sedin failed to respond.

    Marchand took his offensive game to the next level during the regular season by scoring 28 goals, but this Bruins team needs Marchand to be the feisty forward that he was during the playoffs last year. He not only helps the team when he gets under the oppositions skin, but he opens up opportunities for himself on the offensive end as well.

    Marchand's antics draw penalties and cause opponents to wonder what he will do next. He skates a thin line most of the time, but right now the Bruins not only need Marchand to be on the line, they need him to go over it.

No. 3 David Krejci

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    Krejci signed a contract extension in December, making him the highest paid offensive player on the Bruins, but so far Krejci hasn’t been that player against the Capitals. The problem with Krejci is when he struggles, his entire line fails to produce.

    Neither Milan Lucic nor Rich Peverley are known for creating their own offense, so Krejci needs to be on his game now more than ever and generate chances for his wingers.

    With the Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin line matching up against the Capitals top line, Krejci is under increased pressure to produce in the offensive end.  After leading the league with 12 goals and 23 points during the playoffs last year, the Bruins need Krejci to regain his form as a clutch performer during the playoffs.

No. 4 Milan Lucic

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    With all the physical play on display, Milan Lucic has yet to capitalize on his physical ability and take over as the power forward that Bruins fans think he should be. Lucic needs to be in the corners and in front of the net and win the one-on-one battles.

    Lucic needs to allow more crafty players like linemates David Krejci and Rich Peverley to skate around and create. He has the strength to go along with the instincts to take advantage of garbage goals caused by loose pucks in front of the net.

    However, if Lucic wants to score more and help the team he needs to get into position. Lucic can also be more physical to help grind down the Capitals defense and hopefully open up opportunities for teammates.

No. 5 Rich Peverley

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    Even though Peverley was crucial in the Finals against Vancouver, he wasn’t on the top-line until Nathan Horton went down with a concussion. Peverley needs to step up and provide the timely goals that Horton provided during last year’s playoff run.

    Peverley has speed and a quick shot and can open things up for Krejci and Lucic. Peverley’s speed is crucial especially against the Capitals and their neutral zone trap that they utilize.

    While Peverley can’t be as physically intimidating as Horton, he needs to help Krejci out and handle the puck down low and on the half-wall, helping move the puck around the offensive zone in order to open up lanes. The Capitals have blocked an incredible amount of shots, and puck movement is one way to overcome the Capitals defensive strategy.

No. 6 Zdeno Chara

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    The Bruins defense has been great, and that has to do with the outstanding play of Zdeno Chara. However, with the offense struggling to score, the defense can’t afford to take their foot off the gas.

    Chara is the engine that drives the Bruins. If you think it is Tim Thomas you are kidding yourself. Without Chara disrupting shots and knocking opponents off their mark, Thomas’s job would be impossible.

    Big Z has shut down the Capitals top-line and kept the Bruins in both games, even with the offensive struggles.

    Chara needs to maintain his control over the opposition and when possible, help the offense out with one of his thundering slap shots. When Chara’s shots reach the net good things happen.

No. 7 Tim Thomas

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    Zdeno Chara may be the engine that drives the Bruins, but Tim Thomas is just as important to their success. Despite letting up the overtime goal to Nicklas Backstrom, Thomas has played great.

    Last season Thomas made exceptional saves in almost every single game. Fortunately, it looks like the offense has improved even with the early struggles against the Capitals, and that may make things easier on Thomas once they hit their stride.

    Thomas may not need to stand on his head like he did last year, but whenever he makes a great save he seems to light a fire under his teammates and helps get things going offensively.

    The only downside for Thomas right now is the Bruins can’t afford for him to slip up. Last year Tuukka Rask could have come in, but with his recent injury, Thomas is basically the only reliable option the Bruins have in net.