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Five for Fighting: Most important players for Game 7 in Chicago

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Focus will be on Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Toews and Henrik Zetterberg in Game 7. (USATSI)
Focus will be on Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Toews and Henrik Zetterberg in Game 7. (USATSI)

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Every day, we'll have a top-five list that is pretty self-explanatory, all in this man's opinion. Today: The five most important players in Wednesday night's Game 7 between the Blackhawks and Red Wings.

No. 5: Niklas Kronwall. The Blackhawks have got the offense going in the past two games, scoring four in each contest. Kronwall, as the leader on the defense now, will have to turn in a great game and hound the Hawks as he was helping do when the Wings were rolling to a 3-1 series lead.

No. 4: Jonathan Toews. It's certainly true that he gets too much credit when things go well and too much blame when they go bad, but the fact is Toews is still their best all-around player. He has been bottled up well by the Wings all series so his ability to get away from Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson/Kronwall will be important. That last change that Joel Quenneville has should help.

No. 3: Corey Crawford. Any doubts that people have about his ability to be the goaltender they've been looking for in Chicago can be shot down or confirmed; that's the fickle nature of Game 7. But in an emotional environment like this will surely be, great saves can give just as much of a lift as a bad goal can take away. Just look at Jonathan Quick on Tuesday night to see how crucial good goaltending is to winning a one-game scenario in hockey.

No. 2: Henrik Zetterberg. He is Detroit's captain. This season when the Wings have been in must-win situations, he has been at his very best. He has just three asissts and no goals in this series, so they really need the best that Zetterberg has. Not only does that mean continuing to make life uncomfortable for the Blackhawks offensively but getting in on the action for his own offense as well.

No. 1: Jimmy Howard. It's easy to pick the goaltender. But if this game goes anything like Game 5, the most recent one played in Chicago, Howard will have to play the best game that he has ever had. The Blackhawks will have a lot of the advantages and will likely come out firing and won't stop. If the Red Wings are able to pull off the Game 7 upset, then it will almost assuredly have to be because of Howard first and foremost.

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