Players to Watch in the NHL Playoffs
Jonathan Toews, center, Chicago Blackhawks
The youngest captain in the NHL, Toews -- who turns 21 on April 29 -- led the Hawks to their first playoff appearance in seven years. His 34 goals and plus-12 speak to his stature as one of the league's finer two-way forwards.
TJ Oshie, center, St. Louis Blues
Among the Blues' crop of talented young players, the rookie forward can alter the course of a game with a huge hit or big goal. He was a robust plus-16 this season with six of his 14 goals coming on the power play, and he also scored once shorthanded.
Chris Osgood, goaltender, Detroit Red Wings
After an inconsistent and sometimes shaky regular season, no player is under greater scrutiny in the playoffs than Osgood. If the Wings fail -- or succeed -- it'll be on his shoulders.
Joe Thornton, center, San Jose Sharks
He may be under as much scrutiny as Chris Osgood. Thornton is aces in the regular season, but has never proved capable of being an impact player in the playoffs. After three straight second-round flameouts, the Sharks need Jumbo Joe to truly come up big.
Ryan Getzlaf, center, Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim's top line enters the postseason as the hottest in the league. Getzlaf (22 goals, 91 points, plus-5), Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry will be tasked with shutting down Joe Thornton's unit as the Ducks take on the top-seeded Sharks.
Steve Mason, goaltender, Columbus Blue Jackets
After a sensational rookie season (33-20-0-7, 2.29 GAA, .916 save pct., 10 shutouts), Mason will face a stern test against the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings, as the Blue Jackets make their first playoff appearance.
Phil Kessel, right wing, Boston Bruins
Benched during last year's first-round series against Montreal, Kessel rebounded with his best pro season (36 goals, 60 points, plus-23). His ability to carry that over into the postseason will be critical to Boston's offense.
Carey Price, goaltender, Montreal Canadiens
Last year's rookie sensation had an often brutal 2008-09 campaign, but he's recently shown flashes of his old brilliance as well as restored confidence. Price needs both if the Canadiens are to have any chance against the Bruins (who won five of six regular-season meetings) and redeem themselves in a tumultuous centennial season that saw their coach fired and their best player (Alex Kovalev) benched.
Sean Avery, left wing, New York Rangers
Say what you want about Sideshow Sean -- you know the opposition will be game-planning around him. The NHL's premier pest will find a way to make his presence felt.
Bill Guerin, right wing, Pittsburgh Penguins
Veterans Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts were critical to the Penguins' playoff success last spring. Guerin brings the same leadership, but also poses a legitimate first-line scoring threat.
Cam Ward, goaltender, Carolina Hurricanes
The hottest goaltender coming into the playoffs, the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner gives the Hurricanes a legitimate chance to go deep.
Jose Theodore, goaltender, Washington Capitals
He's never lost a first-round series (4-0), but he's never won a second-round (0-4) series. The Caps have high hopes this year, so he needs to break one of those streaks. Preferably the latter, of course.