2010 NHL Playoffs: Five Guys Who Must Step Up To See Round Two
We're at the mid-point of most of the NHL's first round playoff series, and there are very few things determined in the Western Conference.
In the East, hope is not completely lost but, with all three series now sitting at 3-1, the trailing teams are going to need a special effort to see more than a fifth game.
There have been some special players stepping up (Sidney Crosby), and other players struggling (Roberto Luongo).
However, there are five players that need to step up their game above the rest if their teams are going to see more than the first round.
Let's take a look at, in no specific order, the five most critical players to their teams' success the rest of the way in round one.
Joe Thornton, San Jose
The leader of the Sharks all season, Thornton and the rest of his high-powered Olympic line has disappeared in their series with Colorado. Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley have all been held to just one point in four games, with Thornton's minus-three rating being the worst of the three (Heatley and Marleau are at minus-two each).
If San Jose wants to avoid another epic collapse, it'll need this line to come up big.
Dan Boyle's mistake won't be the only mistake in this series that's remembered by Sharks fans for a long time if they lose to the Avalanche.
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey
The Legend finds himself chasing the hated Philadelphia Flyers now, down 3-1 despite being the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have owned every aspect of the game through four games, and the Devils are in dire straits.
Which is why Brodeur, arguably the best netminder ever, needs to step up and steal a few games. If the rest of the team isn't going to show up around him, unfortunately it falls onto the shoulders of Brodeur to win games.
At this point, the Devils need Marty to bring it.
Jimmy Howard, Detroit
Howard stepped up to the challenge in Game Four and pitched a crucial shutout at home against the Coyotes, but his stellar work to close out the regular season disappeared at the beginning of his first playoff series.
Even including the shutout, Howard has a 2.78 goals against average in the series. Ilya Bryzgalov has been equally up-and-down, which could make this series come down to which netminder makes a crucial stop in Game Five in Phoenix.
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver
The Canucks and Kings are tied after a thrilling Game Four on Wednesday night because of Vancouver's forwards, not Luongo. The gold-medal winning hero was even pulled in Game Three because of the beating he was taking from the Kings.
If the Canucks want to slip past the Kings into the second round, they're going to need their captain to step up and play to a level deserving of his title.
If Luongo doesn't do that, he'll have to listen to more than Don Cherry asking questions.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago
Everything I said about Thornton is true about Toews. The youngest captain in the NHL, who played huge in the Olympics, has disappeared in the first three games against the Nashville Predators.
Toews and Marian Hossa are both minus-three through three games, and have only one assist each. For the third-ranked offense in the regular season, to have two of their best players nowhere is a major problem.
Toews has shown in the past that he plays big on the biggest stages, and Thursday night's Game Four is perhaps the biggest of the year for Chicago.