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NHL Playoffs: Postseason players to watch

Ilya Bryzgalov – G Philadelphia Flyers: After performing poorly in February and being the talk of the Philadelphia Flyers’ problems, Bryzgalov picked it up in March. As of late, Bryz is an unstoppable force in between the pipes.

Bryzgalov won seven games in a row in the first half of March, posting four consecutive shutouts and notching a save percentage over .950. Bryzgalov will need to keep up his stellar play between the pipes for the Flyers to advance deep into the playoffs. 

Brian Elliot – G St. Louis Blues
The surprise of the NHL this season, the St. Louis Blues are atop the Western Conference looking to head into the playoffs strong and healthy. Brian Elliot is the main reason the Mark Buckner/Getty ImagesBlues are for real. Although Elliot splits time with Jaroslav Halak between the pipes, Elliot leads the NHL in goals against average (1.62) and save percentage (.937 percent) by considerable margins. He also has six shutouts on the season. If the Blues want to head deep into the playoffs, Elliot will need to be as consistent as he has been all season. The Blues have a balanced offensive attack, but their defense, with Elliot as the anchor, is the reason why they’re poised to make a run for Lord Stanley.

Marian Gaborik – F New York Rangers
Being healthy is the number one priority for Marian Gaborik. For one of the first seasons in quite some time, Gaborik is 100 percent healthy and Bruce Bennett/Getty Imagesleading the Rangers in two offensive categories: points (66) and goals (35). The Rangers currently hold the first playoff spot in the Eastern Conference courtesy of their offensive prowess and stellar goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist. Gaborik has been solid all season for the Rangers and is not looking to let up heading into the playoffs. Putting the puck in the net is what he does best, and the Rangers will need every goal they can muster against goaltenders like Tim Thomas, Marc Andre Fleury and Martin Brodeur.

Matt Cooke – F Pittsburgh Penguinsphoto by Chuck LeClaire
After completely transforming his game this season and becoming one of the Penguins’ most important players, Matt Cooke has the potential to be a key asset to the Pens come playoff time. With the return of Sidney Crosby, Cooke and Tyler Kennedy have been given the chance to play with Sid and become bigger offensive threats. Cooke had seven goals and three assists in Crosby’s first seven games back—including three two-goal games—and is quickly closing in on the 20 goal plateau as the season winds down. Cooke has refined his game and needs to be taken seriously when the Penguins are in the offensive zone.

Evgeni Malkin – F Pittsburgh Penguinsphoto by Chuck LeClaire
Not enough can be said about Evgeni Malkin’s play this season. Out on the ice, Malkin looks just as good, if not better, than he did during the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run in 2009 when he took home the playoff MVP trophy. Malkin is the current NHL points leader, a near-lock for the Art Ross Trophy and the clear front-runner for the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Widely regarded as the best player in the NHL right now, Malkin dominated during the absence of Sidney Crosby; with Crosby’s return, Geno’s game may very well reach a once unfathomable level.

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