NHL Playoffs 2011: Five Key Players for the Detroit Red Wings

Adam Rickert@adam_rickertAnalyst IIApril 13, 2011

NHL Playoffs 2011: Five Key Players for the Detroit Red Wings

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    The Red Wings have been the most successful team in the National Hockey League for 20 years. In fact, this year marks their 20th consecutive season in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    However, after a lackluster 2010 and a rugged ending to the 2011 regular season, some fans are wondering how the Wings will fair in this year's playoffs.

    Five players, however, need to stand out and make contributions in order for the Stanley Cup to be brought to Hockeytown for the 12th time in history.

5. Danny Cleary

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    Danny Cleary had a breakout season in 2011 as he scored 26 goals, which was good enough for second on the club. He had injury issues during the season, but still managed to rack up 46 points and proved to be a key player for the Wings.

    If Cleary, a perennial playoff standout, can keep up this success, he will add even more depth to an already deep Detroit roster.

4. Pavel Datsyuk

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    Danny Cleary stated that Datsyuk is "the best hockey player in the world" at the beginning of the season, and he may very well be right.

    Datsyuk's hands may be the best in hockey, as he is famous for his amazing takeaways and "Datsyukian" dekes. He has proven to be one of the most dynamic two-way players in the game, and if he can play to the best of his ability, he is obviously a major asset to the club.

3. Henrik Zetterberg

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    The main concern about Hank is his health. He will be out for at least Game 1 against the Coyotes, which is not a good thing for Detroit. The 2008 Conn Smythe winner is an essential part to the Red Wing lineup, and the sooner he gets back the better it will be for the Wings.

2. Johan Franzen

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    The Mule has been one of the most dominant playoff performers in the past three seasons, and he finished as the top goal scorer for Detroit during the regular season, including a five-goal outburst in Ottawa.

    The problem is that since that five-goal outburst which occurred the game after the All-Star break, Franzen has only scored two goals. He needs to get going; it's his favorite time of the year and if he puts some pucks in the net, he can be a huge boost to Detroit's Cup chances.

1. Jimmy Howard

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    Like most other teams, most of the Red Wings' success is based on how well their goaltender performs. In Howard's second playoff season, he has a lot of expectations to live up to and he will need to be more consistent than he was during the regular season.

    The Red Wing offense and defense has proven to be stellar, but the goaltending situation has been a question mark the entire season; especially with backup Chris Osgood injured.

    Howard will need to prove that he is worthy of the starting goaltending position by coming up and making the big saves when need be, and ultimately carrying his team to a long playoff run.