Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: The 10 Top Players Whose Team Had an Early Exit

John B MathesonCorrespondent IJune 1, 2012

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: The 10 Top Players Whose Team Had an Early Exit

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    The playoffs can be heartbreaking for some players. Such as those who despite their best effort, don’t advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

    For some teams their success in the early rounds can depend on one or two players. Unfortunately their shoulders may not be wide enough to carry the team all the way.

    For the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils, it has been a full team effort to see them to the Final.

    Some of the teams that fell short still saw great play from a few of their players.

    Taking into account the plus/minus rating, the goals and assists and of course the shots on net and save percentage, the following players were among the best on their team.

Henrik Sedin: Vancouver Canucks

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    The Canucks were victims of one of the biggest upsets in this year’s postseason when the Kings took them out in five games.

    One of the few Vancouver players that was able to beat Kings netminder Jonathan Quick was Henrik Sedin.

    Henrik was also one of only two Canucks who was able to notch more than one goal against the Kings.

    The team captain managed an average of one point per game, with two goals and three assists. His plus/minus was among the team best, even though it was breaking even.

    No player from Vancouver had a plus stat by series end.

    Henrik started early, notching an assist in the first two games in a losing effort.

    The only game in which he, and the rest of the Canucks for that matter, would be silenced was Game 3 in a 1-0 overtime loss.

    Game 4 was the only Vancouver victory and Henrik played a large role in that game with one goal and one assist. He would also manage Vancouver’s lone goal in the fifth and final game.

    Despite the losing effort, Henrik Sedin was clearly the best Canuck in the series. He was unable to rally his team to the success they had the season before, but that should not take away from his talent.

Joe Thornton: San Jose Sharks

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    During the five game series with St. Louis, Joe Thornton showed why he was the team captain.

    He amassed an average of one point per game in the Sharks' losing effort.

    Tied for the team lead in both goals and assists, Thornton notched two goals and three assists through the five-game series.

    His first point would not come until Game 3 with an assist on Brent Burns’ goal in the first period.

    He added his second and third assist in this game as well, with both coming in the third as the Sharks rallied to stay in the game.

    He scored his first goal in Game 4 and it was the Sharks lone goal in the game. As was his second goal of the series in Game 5.

    While his efforts may not have been enough to keep the Sharks alive, Thornton showed that his skill is still among the best on the Sharks when it comes playoff time.

Jason Spezza: Ottawa Senators

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    In another surprising series, the eighth-seeded Ottawa Senators took the No. 1 seed New York Rangers to a hard-fought seven games.

    One of the players that led the Sens to this feat was, the most likely candidate to be captain should Alfredsson retire, Jason Spezza.

    In seven games Spezza notched a team high five points, unlike the previous two players in this article, he had three goals and two assists.

    While the media talked mainly about the team rallying around their team captain, amid speculation of his possible retirement, it was Spezza who led the team’s offense on the ice.

    His first point came on an assist for a Daniel Alfredsson goal in Game 1. He would then be held pointless until Game 4 where he would notch another assist in a victory.

    His personal best game was Game 5, where he would score two of his three goals. They would be the lone markers that would see Ottawa take a lead in the series against New York.

    His final goal would come in a losing effort in Game 6, as he would be silenced in Game 7.

    After being the point leader through the series with the Rangers, Spezza has proven that should captain Daniel Alfredsson retire, the Sens will be in good hands.

Jordan Staal: Pittsburgh Penguins

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    In the six-game series between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the first round, Jordan Staal was exceptional.

    Staal had at least one point for the first five games of the series. He end his playoff run with a team high nine points and also finished the series plus-2.

    In the first two games, Staal gained one assist in each. His scoring started in Game 3 where he notched two goals for the Penguins.

    Game 4 was his personal best with a hat trick as the Pens fought to stay alive in the series.

    He would add one more goal in Game 5, but he was unable to get a point in the final game that would end Pittsburgh’s season for 2012.

    He outscored both Malkin and Crosby in this series by doubling their goal count. They each had three to Staal’s six.

    Jordan Staal proved he is a valuable commodity.

Francis Bouillon: Nashville Predators

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    He may not have been the leading scorer, nor had the most assists. Yet defenseman Francis Bouillon showed Nashville fans that should they lose Suter or Weber, or both. He can step up.

    When it comes to assists Bouillon was among six players who had three for through the two rounds of play. Including team stars like Mike Fisher, Martin Erat, and Ryan Suter.

    Unlike the other defensemen, however, Bouillon’s plus/minus was extremely impressive.

    He led the team for plus/minus with a plus-7. For a defenseman, the plus/minus rating is one of the main stats looked at when determining their play.

    Through the two rounds of play Bouillon’s presence on ice saw fewer goals against than any of his defensive counter parts.

    So unlike the others on this list thus far Bouillon’s play was less about his ability to score and tally points, and more about his ability to keep the opposing team from scoring.

    A job he did quite admirably.

Claude Giroux: Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Flyers offseason rebuild had many name them as favorites to make the Stanley Cup Final.

    Unfortunately they were outplayed in the second round by the New Jersey Devils, who sent the Flyers home in five games.

    Claude Giroux however, played extremely well in the first round which saw him amass a playoff leading 15 points.

    The Flyers as a whole were dominant in the first round of play against division and state rival Pittsburgh Penguins.

    By far, his best effort was in Game 2 where he amassed a hat trick and two assists in an 8-5 victory over the Pens.

    He would have a goal and an assist in the Game 3 victory before doing the same in a crushing 10-3 defeat in Game 4.

    He would have only one point in Game 5, but added three more in the Game 6 victory in the form of a goal and two assists.

    In the second round, the Devils quickly figured out Bryzgalov. This enabled New Jersey to take the Flyers out in five games.

    Giroux was still able to add two more points during this series, though he was not the force he had been in the first round.

    His eight goals and nine assists still has him as the leading goal scorer, and has him in second for total points. This is a feat as he only played in two rounds. 

Braden Holtby: Washington Captials

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    The Washington Captials managed to upset last year's Stanley Cup champions, the Boston Bruins, in seven games.

    They would then take the No. 1 seed New York Rangers to the brink of elimination in seven games as well.

    The main reason for the Caps success rested in the hands of young goalie Braden Holtby.

    Holtby was called up due to late season injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. The Caps had not expected to start the young netminder.

    After his performance in the first two rounds, they are probably quite glad they did.

    During 14 games of postseason play, Holtby would face 459 shots on net, turning away all but 30 of them. This is a remarkable feat for an inexperienced player.

    The young netminder would end his first playoff run with a .935 save percentage that has granted him third on the league leaders list.

    After his incredible play, it seems that Washington is looking at keeping Holtby on the main roster for next season—a well deserved spot even if he is a backup for a few more years.

Dan Girardi: New York Rangers

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    The Rangers had two tough-fought series go to seven games in the first two rounds, before being knocked out in six by the New Jersey Devils.

    While Brad Richards may have led the team in goals and points, he still finished the playoffs at minus-2.

    These are not horrible stats at all, but the play of defenseman Dan Girardi seemed to outshine Richards, at least to this writer.

    Richards had six goals and nine assists for 15 points. The 28-year-old defenseman would manage three goals and tie Richard for assists at six.

    He still managed to be an impressive threat at both ends as he would finish the postseason with a plus-6 rating. He was second only to Winger Fedotenko for the team lead.

    The second highest plus/minus for defensemen was McDonagh, who was plus-2, showing that Girardi was the defensive leader, able to jump up and help when the Rangers pressed the attack.

    Girardi proved this postseason that he is among the Rangers best two-way defensemen.

Henrik Lundqvist: New York Rangers

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    The Rangers were the best team in the East during the regular season, and a large part of that was Vezina nominated Henrik Lundqvist.

    He was one of the best goaltenders all season and continued to be among the best in the postseason.

    In many cases, Lundqvist was the difference maker in a game or series. 

    Through three rounds Lundqvist faced 554 shots, allowing only 38 of them to get past him.

    His .931 save percentage was good enough for the fifth spot among the leading goaltenders in the postseason.

    Even though he saw an early exit, don’t be surprised if Lundqvist wins the Vezina this year. 

Mike Smith: Phoenix Coyotes

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    Much like his Rangers counterpart, Mike Smith was a major reason the Coyotes managed to go as deep into the playoffs as they did.

    His amazing play kept the snipers of the Blackhawks at bay, and helped them slide past the favored Nashville Predators in the second round.

    Smith may not have been nominated for the Vezina, but Smith’s play this year both in the regular season and postseason turned a number of heads, leaving Tampa kicking themselves for letting him go.

    Smith faced a postseason high 602 shots on net allowing only 34 to get past him.

    His .944 save percentage was topped only by Kings star netminder and Conn Smythe hopeful Jonathan Quick.

    Even though the Coyotes couldn’t figure out the Kings and fell short of their first Stanley Cup Final, Mike Smith was a shining star for the team.

    If anything, his play this postseason has secured him a place in Phoenix for years to come.