2012 NHL Playoffs: Players Who Will Carry Their Teams to Next Round
Playoff time means hero time in the NHL, and there are four players who will carry their respective teams to the conference finals.
Some are known stars while others will come out of the woodwork to drive their team to the next round.
Four teams will have one warrior in this year's NHL playoffs.
Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes
A top performance this season by the former Tampa Bay Lightning netminder didn't earn him a Vezina Trophy nomination.
But lately he's shown opponents why he should have been on that list.
Smith allowed just two goals in the final five games of regular season to give Phoenix home-ice advantage
He continued the dominance into the postseason, recording the most saves of any goalie.
Nashville won't be able to score enough on him, and the Coyotes will advance to the Western Conference finals.
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Not only was Claude Giroux Philadelphia's points leader this season, he'll also carry the team to the next round.
The 24-year-old boosted his regular-season numbers to 93 points a year after breaking out as a star for the Flyers.
And Giroux has been on fire in the playoffs.
The center has the most points of any player in the postseason this year, with 15.
Currently knotted with the New Jersey Devils after two games, the Flyers need Giroux to continue his hot streak.
Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings
Already called the face of the playoffs by Sports Illustrated, Kings captain Dustin Brown will continue his brilliance into the Western Conference finals.
Up 2-0 on the St. Louis Blues, the Kings could potentially ride Brown and Co. to a series sweep.
The center has tallied a point in every regulation Los Angeles victory this postseason.
He also has the best plus-minus in the league these playoffs.
Beside his numbers, Brown brings energy and leadership to the underdog Kings.
Those traits are huge in his influence on a team which has made a surprise run that will continue to the next round.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Though he hasn't yet played a regular season NHL game, youngster Chris Kreider is essential to the Rangers' success.
Kreider saved a potential Game 1 loss to the Washington Capitals, scoring the go-ahead goal and assisting on another in a 3-1 victory.
His offensive spark needs to continue for the Rangers to advance. New York has the worst offense in the postseason of the remaining teams.
Kreider is an unexpected hero, for sure.
But his skills and experience at a high-energy level (BC won the national championship this year) will make him one as the Rangers move on to the conference finals.
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