There are many who believe the Pittsburgh Penguins have what it takes to win the Stanley Cup.
That is largely because they have the best player in the world in Sidney Crosby.
However, we all know hockey is a team game and even the best players require support. For Crosby and the Penguins, look no further than between the pipes, where Marc-Andre Fleury hopes to shed his reputation for flopping at the most critical time of the year.
Fleury, 29, is one of a handful of playoff participants who will be under the gun to perform at a high level if their teams are to enjoy success.
Here's a list of those on the hot seat this post-season.Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pittsburgh Penguins
Fleury backboned the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2008-09, but since then his post-season performances have not been much to write home about. Last season he lost the starter's job to Tomas Vokoun in the playoffs.
Fleury's biggest problem is he'll make the highlight reel save and then let in a soft goal. That will not fly this year.Rick Nash, RW, New York Rangers
The 29-year-old Nash really doesn't have much of a playoff resume and he is coming off a so-so regular season. On one hand he led the Rangers in goals with 26 in 65 games; on the other hand he is infinitely capable of being more of an explosive player. His two goals and eight points in 16 career post-season games are very pedestrian numbers for a guy who shared the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals (41) in 2003-04.
At nearly $8 million a season Nash is paid like a superstar, but often performs like he's only a secondary scorer.
Ken Hitchcock, coach, St. Louis Blues
Hitchcock is one of the most highly regarded coaches in the NHL and already has a championship to his credit, with Dallas in 1999. That said, the stakes are high in St. Louis this year, and if the team doesn't make it to the final at the very least, the coach could be in trouble.P.K. Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens
The spotlight in Montreal is on goaltender Carey Price, who is unquestionably the team's most important player. Still, Subban is a player who must make a significant positive impact for the Canadiens to go deep into the playoffs.
As the Norris Trophy winner in last year's lockout-shortened season, Subban proved he can get the job done. And yet, he has not won the total confidence of his coach, Michel Therrien, who is not afraid to bench him when things are not going well.Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks
You knew his name would be on this list, right? Thornton would be the captain of this particular team of hot seat players. The NHL's 13th-leading scorer has 32 points in his last 34 playoff games over three season -- good numbers, but the Sharks have not won it all and he is the individual the team looks to for leadership.
Thornton is a solid candidate to make the Hockey Hall of Fame, but with no Stanley Cup on his resume it might not be as a first-ballot player.
Ryan Miller, G, St. Louis Blues
The Blues had a pretty good 1-2 punch in net with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott when they decided to upgrade with the acquisition of Miller from the Buffalo Sabres. Talk about putting pressure on one guy.
Miller demonstrated at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver he is capable of taking a team to great heights. If he is on his game in this year's playoffs the Blues could win their first-ever Stanley Cup.Corey Crawford, G, Chicago Blackhawks
There is no denying the Blackhawks are chalk-full of star talent with the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. And there is no denying that even with all that star power, they cannot survive in the tough Western Conference unless Crawford gives them dependable goaltending.
Crawford did it last year and they won the Cup, yet he still doesn't seem to get the same measure of respect that a Stanley Cup-winning stopper should.Paul Stastny, C, Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are one of the NHL's biggest surprises this season, mainly because their kids have been so good. And yet it's the 28-year-old Stastny who needs to have a solid playoff if they are to continue the fairy tale year.
In two previous playoff appearances he was just OK. If the kids get rattled by the pressure of the playoffs, Stastny needs to be both a producer and a leader.James Wisniewski, D, Columbus Blue Jackets
Like the Avalanche, the Blue Jackets are led by kids who may tremble a bit under pressure. A veteran like Wisniewski, 30, can be a settling force. He was their second leading scorer in the regular season and, like Stastny, needs to be a productive, calming influence for his young group.
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