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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    DETROIT - MAY 06: Johan Franzen #93 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his third goal of the first period with Niklas Kronwall #55, Todd Bertuzzi #44 and Brian Rafalski #28 while playing the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifina
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    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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    NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 02: Danny Cleary #11 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates after scoring the overtime game winning goal against Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators on April 2, 2011 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Fr
    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    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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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - NOVEMBER 6: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks tries to tie up Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings behind the net during the first period in NHL action on November 06, 2010 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, C
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    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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    OTTAWA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 02:  Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings skates hard towards the net looking for a loose puck in a game against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place on February 2, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Phillip
    Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

    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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    DETROIT - OCTOBER 28:  Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes looks on as Johan Franzen #93 of the Detroit Red Wings tips a shot past for a goal against Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Phoenix Coyotes during their NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on October
    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    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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    DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 08:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Nashville Predators at the Joe Louis Arena on December 8, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The Predators defeated the Red Wings 3-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    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.