NHL Playoffs 2012: 7 Most Important Players in the Canucks vs. Kings Series

Jason Lewis@@SirJDLCorrespondent IIApril 10, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: 7 Most Important Players in the Canucks vs. Kings Series

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    In the regular season if a player has a stretch of two or three bad games, it's okay—it happens. But this is the playoffs now.

    This is a whole different animal.

    Two or three games could cost you everything you've worked so hard for all 82 games this year. It's a lot of pressure. But that's why GMs work so tirelessly to try and find those particular players who will bring playoff success and leadership.

    The players you can count on. The players you need.

    Who are these players in the Kings and Canucks' first-round clash? Realistically, I'd be making a 40-frame slideshow, because every player has to be important. But here are just a few who will really be most important to their teams.

Jonathan Quick

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    If the Kings want to even have a chance in this series, Jonathan Quick is going to have to be lights out.

    There is no more important player on this list for the Kings. He is the kingpin. If Jonathan Quick plays like he is capable, it could give the Kings a competitive edge.

    Quick should now be used to this kind of pressure with two playoff series under his belt. And Quick is a gamer. Knowing the odds are stacked against the team could fuel his fire that much more.

Roberto Luongo

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    Let's go to the other side. Two hundred feet down the ice, Luongo is going to have to be strong as well.

    Luongo isn't going to have to be better than Quick, honestly. He is just going to have to hang in there and come up with big stops when the team needs them.

    And in the past, Luongo has risen to the occasion. Check out this beauty down 1-0 in game six of the Kings-Canucks' 2010 playoff series. Or this save in Game 4, arguably the turning point of the whole series. (3-2, 13:00 left in the third period, Kings leading the series 2-1 on home ice.)

    That's what Vancouver will need from him. They don't need him to outplay Quick, because let's be fair, you're asking him to outplay a Vezina favorite. He's just got to be there when they need him.

Jeff Carter

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    The Kings struggled all year and came into the trade deadline with the worst offense in the league. Enter Jeff Carter.

    The Kings went on a stretch after the deadline as one of the highest scoring teams in the league. Coincidence?

    Obviously, Jeff Carter is going to be huge for the Kings. They need him to score or, at the least, they need him to be healthy enough so that his line becomes a threat.

    What we saw from the Kings' offense shortly after Carter''s acquisition was not Carter or his line scoring a ton of goals. It was teams reacting to the threat of Carter's line—and allowing Kopitar, Brown and Justin Williams to run utterly wild.

    It's about scoring depth. Carter brings it, and they need him to bring it in this series. 

Daniel Sedin

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    Is he healthy? Will he be 100 percent? Will he be the same player he was before the injury?

    According to this article from The Globe and Mail, Henrik says his brother is "100 per cent."

    Bold statement, especially about a concussion. It's tough to know how one feels until you get back to the full intensity of a game—a playoff game at that.

    For the sake of competition I hope that Daniel is 100 percent healthy and is able to compete in this first round. I am sure Canucks fans are hoping the same.

    If he is healthy and ready, it's go time for the Canucks' offense.

Drew Doughty

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    When these two teams last met in the postseason, Drew Doughty was coming off a spectacular sophomore season that would earn him a Norris nomination.

    He also had a monster series with seven points in six games and was a prominent quarterback on a Kings' power play that was playing out of their minds good.

    Two years later, and I think it's safe to say Drew has struggled a little. But Doughty is a competitive player, and he has always woken up for playoff series. (Career postseason numbers: 11 points in 12 games)

    The Kings definitely need Doughty out there playing his game to full capacity. Swift puck movement on the breakout, good power play coordination and—most importantly—intelligent plays away from the puck.

Ryan Kesler

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    Ryan Kesler was also a player who struggled this season. In fact, Kesler had his lowest point total since 2007-2008, registering just 22 goals and 29 assists.

    But Kesler has also always been a player who shows up for the playoffs.

    The Canucks desperately need their second line of Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler and David Booth to come up big. And it starts with the play of Kesler.

    Things become so tight in the playoffs that the Canucks cannot afford to rely on scoring from just their top line.

    They have been fortunate enough to get great seasons from Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins, but if they want to make this first round easy and have a better chance of winning the cup, Kesler has to lead the charge with his recently under-performing line mates. 

Mike Richards

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    Here is where the Kings are hoping they get what they paid for with Mike Richards.

    After an underwhelming and frustrating regular season, which also saw Mike post his lowest point totals since 2006-2007, he comes into the playoffs being the single most experienced player on the roster in terms of postseason games.

    So forget the regular season. This is where the Kings need Richards to show his savvy and veteran leadership. And simply do things like this