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Picking playoff heroes in West no easy task

by Dan Rosen

Scott Niedermayer has scored 22 goals and dished out 64 assists in 183 career playoff games. Scott Niedermayer video
The choices were limitless. The debates here at headquarters raged.

In the Western Conference, there are the obvious selections for your ultimate playoff performer (goalies not included), and then there is a list of at least 10 players who deserve to see their name in bold below.

However, in sticking with the format we used for the Eastern Conference, only five true postseason heroes can make our list. This means fans of worthy candidates will be left scratching their heads when they reach the italicized e-mail tagline below.

We had to be picky.

Agree or disagree? That's why the e-mail address is there.

Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks: The FOUR-most authority

Nobody is more deserving of being on this list than Niedermayer, who is the active leader among all NHL players with four Stanley Cup championships. Niedermayer won three with New Jersey, in 1995, 2000 and 2003. He picked up the Cup for the fourth time last season, when he also was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

He has scored 22 goals and dished out 64 assists in 183 career playoff games. However, his numbers pale in comparison to his leadership abilities. For instance, Niedermayer recorded only 11 points in 21 games during last year's playoffs, but he won the Conn Smythe because of his leadership and near-flawless play in all three zones.

The Conn Smythe was a personal award for the ultimate team player who has won championships at every level he's played at, including the Memorial Cup, World Junior gold, World Championship gold, Olympic gold, and the World Cup.

Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche: The king

Captain Colorado has been a playoff hero for as long as there has been a Colorado Avalanche organization. Sakic is a genuine playoff performer, with 178 points in 162 career games. He won his first Stanley Cup in 1996 when he also was the Conn Smythe winner, with a remarkable 34 points in 22 games. He won another Cup in 2001 after a dramatic seven-game championship series against New Jersey. The Avalanche were a win away from going back to the Final in 2002.

Sakic also has a history of sending daggers into the opposition. He holds the NHL record with seven playoff overtime goals. His 178 points and 82 goals lead all active players. The Avalanche are an amazing 47-14 in playoff games when Sakic scores a goal and 73-27 in games when he records a point.

Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche: The welcome addition

The drama that unfolded this season around Forsberg's decision (or is it indecision?) about returning had fans across the League on the edge of their seats. Funny, because that's where they usually sit when Foppa is on the ice in the playoffs.

Forsberg's playoff numbers are striking: 63 goals – including 16 on the power play and 14 game-winners – and 103 assists for 166 points in 144 games. With Sakic as the captain, Forsberg helped Colorado to a pair of Stanley Cup championships, although he missed the final two rounds in 2001 after having his spleen removed, which kept him out for the entire 2001-02 regular season. Miraculously, Forsberg returned for the playoffs in 2002 and led the Avalanche with 27 points in 20 games before they eventually fell to Detroit in a memorable seven-game Western Conference Final.

He's one of the most clutch players in League history, and if healthy he could be that again this postseason for Colorado.

Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings: The super Swede

The Red Wings have won three Stanley Cups since 1997. They wouldn't have if Lidstrom was wearing a different sweater. If Niedermayer is the FOUR-most authority on playoff hockey, Lidstrom is one step behind. He remains the only European-born player to have won a Conn Smythe (2002). He has piled up 39 goals and 97 assists for 136 points in 192 career playoff games.

Lidstrom, who has won the Norris Trophy five times, has been an elite power-play performer in the playoffs – 21 of his 39 goals have come with a man-advantage. He also has scored nine game-winning goal. Of course, when you consistently go to the playoffs – 17 straight seasons for Detroit now, 15 with Lidstrom – and you play nearly 30 minutes a game like Lidstrom, you're undoubtedly going to get chances to win games.
Jarome Iginla made it out of the first round only once, in 2004, but he also went to the Stanley Cup Final that year.
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames: The power forward

In Iginla, we're discussing a player who has made it out of the first round only once, but that year (2004) he also went to the Stanley Cup Final and was a dominant force in every one of the Flames’ 26 games. Iginla led the NHL with 13 goals during the 2004 tournament, including four power-play goals, two shorthanded scores and three game-winners. He finished with 22 points and a remarkable plus-13 rating.

Iginla had four goals and a plus-6 rating in the Western Conference Final, and led the Flames with five points in the Stanley Cup Final. In Game 3 he completed a Gordie Howe Hat Trick with a goal, assist and a memorable fight with Vincent Lecavalier. He's a true superstar, one of the best in the game. Now he has another chance to make a huge impression in the playoffs. Chances are he will, win or lose.
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