2011 NHL Playoffs: 5 Players That Have To Step Up for the Boston Bruins

Jack HilbrichContributor IIApril 13, 2011

2011 NHL Playoffs: 5 Players That Have To Step Up for the Boston Bruins

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    Heading into the playoffs, this year's Boston Bruins will be facing the adversity that high expectations bring. GM Peter Chiarelli made some significant moves prior to the trade deadline, acquiring the likes of Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. The idea was to re-emphasize that the Boston Bruins' goal was to make it to the Stanley Cup Final and anything less could be considered as not meeting expectations.

    Especially considering the monumental letdown last year.

    This Bruins squad has some very versatile players that will need to step up, especially in this first-round series against Montréal, and produce offensively, play with tenacity, heart and silence the critics.

    A few veteran players on this team have faced a lot of scrutiny throughout the regular season for poor play, questionable hits and controversial comments being made to the media.

    All of this is in the past now, the playoffs are a new season and the players have an opportunity to redefine this team.

    In order to do so, veteran players will need to step up and be on-ice examples for their fellow teammates. Here are five players that will need to elevate their game throughout Boston's playoff run. 

Tim Thomas

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    The 36-year-old netminder has had an incredible season. After losing the starting job to Tuuka Rask last year, and coming off offseason hip surgery, Timmy Thomas was virtually a write-off this season. But he came back this year with something to prove and won back the starting position. He finished the season with a 35-11-9 record, 2.00 GAA, .939 SV percentage and nine shutouts.

    After an outstanding season where he set the new record for best save percentage in NHL history, he is one of the favorites for this year's Vezina Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding goaltender during the regular season.

    Thomas' ability to rebound after last season, especially this late in his career can be attributed to his work ethic and desire to win.

    In order for Boston to succeed this postseason, Tim Thomas is going to have to continue playing his game by frustrating opposing forwards with his unorthodox style of play, with his spectacular ability to keep the puck out of the net and his team in the game.

Milan Lucic

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    Lucic's style of play is meant for playoff hockey. His tenacious, hard-hitting style is the type of game other players try to elevate to during playoff games. He can change the momentum of a game by putting the puck in the net, laying out an opposing player or winning a big fight.

    His strength in the corners and strong physical play makes opposing defenders cringe. Not to mention, not many players can score 30 goals and then fight another team's tough guy.

    So after posting career highs in goals (30) and points (62), he will be relied upon and expected to produce this postseason. Increased production results in increased expectations.

    This player epitomizes the Boston Bruins historical style of being a tough team to play against, so expect to see this fan favorite prosper in a playoff environment.

Mark Recchi

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    This veteran player displayed an incredible team-first mentality, and unparalleled leadership when he spoke up earlier this season and tried to take some of the heat off of Zdeno Chara for his controversial hit on Max Pacioretty.

    Very few players would have done what he did, which says something about his character and his respect for the game, his opponents and especially his teammates.

    At 43 years old, and a two-time Stanley Cup winner, Recchi is no stranger to the pressure and excitement of playing meaningful playoff games in April. While his ability to produce has declined late in his 21-year career, the knowledge, experience and leadership he brings will most certainly benefit a relatively young offensive core.

Zdeno Chara

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    The 6'9" behemoth captain will be heavily relied upon this postseason. His monstrous and physical presence on the blue line is unmatched in the NHL, and his ability to shutdown opposing teams best players will give his team the opportunity to win every night.

    This season he matched his point totals from last year (44), but doubled his goals (14); this postseason he will need provide production from the back end.

    He will need to bring his presence night in and night out if this team plans on making it to the Stanley Cup finals. He will also be relied upon to convert on the PP with his booming shot from the point.

    Chara must continue to be a vocal presence on the bench, in the dressing room, and lead by example on the ice in order for this Boston Bruins team to meet expectations.

Tomas Kaberle

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    After GM Peter Chiarelli shipped off young Joe Colborne and Boston's first round pick, the Bruin's acquired the likes of Tomas Kaberle from the Toronto Maple Leafs. There is no doubt that Chiarelli paid a premium for Kaberle, who could turn out to be a rental player if he chooses not to re-sign at the end of the season.

    Chiarelli's plan was to retain Kaberle, who has been one of the more productive defenseman this past decade. But after being acquired before the trade deadline, Kaberle's production has dropped, scoring only nine points (eight assists) in 24 games with the Bruins.

    Known for being a "pass first" defenseman, and great at leading the breakout and power play, Kaberle hasn't been the player they expected in terms of production.

    But a top power-play unit with Kaberle quarterbacking it is always dangerous, especially with big Zdeno Chara just waiting with anticipation to blast one on net. Success on the power play is vital to postseason play. Teams will focus on capitalizing on those opportunities, and the tandem of Chara and Kaberle will need to dominate in order for the Bruins to have postseason success.