Playoff performers you can count on

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Former NHLer and Stanley Cup winner Brendan Shanahan gives a hearty ho-hum to the whole idea of pressure making certain players wilt.

Shanahan is one of a select few who has won a Cup, an Olympic gold medal and a world championship (the Triple Gold Club), so he knows a thing or two about facing the heat.

Former NHLer and Stanley Cup winner Brendan Shanahan gives a hearty ho-hum to the whole idea of pressure making certain players wilt.

Shanahan is one of a select few who has won a Cup, an Olympic gold medal and a world championship (the Triple Gold Club), so he knows a thing or two about facing the heat.

"Players at this level are used to these moments," he said recently.

"I probably felt the same amount of pressure playing a high school playoff game (compared to the Olympics and playoffs).... Pressure is pressure. You learn how to play with it."

Shanahan would certainly fit in well with the following list: Players you can count on to play at an exceedingly high level at playoff time.

1. Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings

A latter-day Claude Lemieux.

Franzen is like Lemieux in that they're both players who generally post modest regular-season numbers and follow up with sensational playoff performances.

Franzen scored 13 goals in 16 playoff games in 2007-08, and followed up with 12 goals and 23 points in 23 games in 2008-09. His size, determination and blistering shot can wear down a defence in a long series.

2. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

Mr. Unflappable looks like he could play another five years.

Lidstrom, 40 at the end of April, handles playoff pressure like he's making a sandwich.

His playoff numbers are always good; his calm and cool demeanour even better.

3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin get the headlines, but Fleury's sometime spectacular play is as big a reason why the Penguins made back-to-back trips to the final.

One thing about Fleury, he no longer has any really flaws. He used to have trouble with rebound control and positioning but those days are long gone.

Playoff pool's golden nuggets

There are many philosophies when attacking an NHL playoff pool.

Pick a star player from each of the teams; predict the final four and load up on their players; predict the final two; throw a dart at a board.

Regardless of which way you go about it, there are some legitimate gems out there - players who always collect big points in the post-season.

Here's a few to consider.

1. Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

The perpetual bridesmaid. The last two Cup finals, Marian's been there... and lost both times.

This bodes well for pool players who get him. Not so much for Hawks fans though.

2. Franzen, Detroit Red Wings

He's hockey's Criss Angel - an eerie ability to elevate with no strings attached.

Franzen's totals: 25 goals in his last 39 playoff games.

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin has 24 goals and 62 points in just 49 playoff games.

4. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin's teammate is remarkably similar in point production. Sid also has 24 goals but his 63 points is one better. Can't go wrong with either.

5. Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils

Old reliable doesn't slow up when the playoffs roll around. Elias is a steady performer, averaging about .85 points-per game during the regular season in his career, and at the same rate during the post-season.

If the Devils go far, Elias is a sturdy selection.

Organizations: Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Triple Gold Club NHL Chicago Blackhawks New Jersey Devils

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