2011 NHL Playoff Predictions: The Most Important Defenseman on Each Team

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2011 NHL Playoff Predictions: The Most Important Defenseman on Each Team
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Duncan Keith was the marquee defenseman on the 2010 Blackhawks Cup team, losing some teeth in the process.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are getting underway on Wednesday, and one facet of the tournament that fans look for year after year is the so-called "hot goalie"—a netminder who catches lightning in a bottle and takes his team on a deep playoff run.

Last year it was Jaroslav Halak, who guided the Canadiens to a pair of upset wins over the Capitals and Penguins before finally falling to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference final. What can be learned from this is that a great goaltending performance can get a team a long way, but not necessarily to the Cup.

The second example of great individual effort in the playoffs is highlighted by a team's one true workhorse defenseman—the blueliner that leads and completes a team's corps with heavy responsibilities in key situations, excellent play in his own end and most noticeably a ton of ice time.

When called upon, these great defensemen can answer the challenge of playing for 30 minutes of regulation time, let alone what an epic overtime game might take.

Here are the defensemen that may carry this role on their teams and in turn will be a big reason for any success in the postseason.

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