2012 NHL Playoffs: Players Who Will Carry Their Teams to Next Round

Daniel Mano Herberholz@danielmanoherbCorrespondent IMay 2, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 29:  Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action against the New Jersey Devils in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on April 29, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Playoff time means hero time in the NHL, and there are four players who will carry their respective teams to the conference finals.

Some are known stars while others will come out of the woodwork to drive their team to the next round.

Four teams will have one warrior in this year's NHL playoffs.

Those heroes will be Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux, Los Angeles Kings center Dustin Brown and New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider.


Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes

Goalie Mike Smith was the first star in Game 2 against the Nashville Predators, and he will be the star of the series. 

A top performance this season by the former Tampa Bay Lightning netminder didn't earn him a Vezina Trophy nomination.

But lately he's shown opponents why he should have been on that list.

Smith allowed just two goals in the final five games of regular season to give Phoenix home-ice advantage

He continued the dominance into the postseason, recording the most saves of any goalie.

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 23:  Mike Smith #41 of the Phoenix Coyotes makes a save against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 23, 2012 in Chicago, Illi
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Nashville won't be able to score enough on him, and the Coyotes will advance to the Western Conference finals.


Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Not only was Claude Giroux Philadelphia's points leader this season, he'll also carry the team to the next round.

The 24-year-old boosted his regular-season numbers to 93 points a year after breaking out as a star for the Flyers.

And Giroux has been on fire in the playoffs.

The center has the most points of any player in the postseason this year, with 15.

Six of those points came in Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which made Giroux one of just four players to tally that many in a playoff game.

Currently knotted with the New Jersey Devils after two games, the Flyers need Giroux to continue his hot streak.


Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings

Already called the face of the playoffs by Sports Illustrated, Kings captain Dustin Brown will continue his brilliance into the Western Conference finals.

Up 2-0 on the St. Louis Blues, the Kings could potentially ride Brown and Co. to a series sweep.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 15:  Dustin Brown #23 of the Los Angeles Kings and Kevin Bieksa #3 of the Vancouver Canucks collide against the boards in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The center has tallied a point in every regulation Los Angeles victory this postseason. 

He also has the best plus-minus in the league these playoffs.

Beside his numbers, Brown brings energy and leadership to the underdog Kings.

Those traits are huge in his influence on a team which has made a surprise run that will continue to the next round.


Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

Though he hasn't yet played a regular season NHL game, youngster Chris Kreider is essential to the Rangers' success.

After being selected in the 2009 draft, Kreider spent three years at Boston College before joining the Rangers this postseason—where he's prospered. 

Kreider saved a potential Game 1 loss to the Washington Capitals, scoring the go-ahead goal and assisting on another in a 3-1 victory.

His offensive spark needs to continue for the Rangers to advance. New York has the worst offense in the postseason of the remaining teams.

Kreider is an unexpected hero, for sure.

But his skills and experience at a high-energy level (BC won the national championship this year) will make him one as the Rangers move on to the conference finals.