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Will playoff inexperience hurt?

With the top seed in the Eastern Conference all but wrapped up (the Rangers need one point in the next three games, or a Pittsburgh loss of any kind), the attention has turned to the playoffs. The Rangers will either get Florida, Washington, or Buffalo in the first round, and it’s tough to say that the Rangers are more experienced than any of those teams in the playoffs.

The Rangers have three Cup winners (Mike Rupp, Brad Richards, Ruslan Fedotenko), and just six guys with more than 20 games experience (Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Henrik Lundqvist). Of those five players, only one has made it past the second round (Gaborik).

Everyone else on the roster has six games or less of playoff experience at the NHL level. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t have playoff experience at other levels. Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, and Derek Stepan all competed at the Frozen Four. And a number of the kids that played in Juniors have made the playoffs.

When John Tortorella’s Tampa Bay Lightning won the Cup in 2004, that team wasn’t very experienced either. They had a lot more skill of course, but they weren’t the grind-it-out team that the Rangers are. Different teams, different styles, same amount of experience. Sometimes experience can be overrated, but sometimes it’s invaluable in a pressure packed game 7 or overtime.

One thing is for certain, if experience is going to be a factor, then the Rangers are going to turn to Rupp, Richards, and Fedotenko to keep the lineup calm and composed for the playoffs. It’s why all three were brought in.

10 Responses to “Will playoff inexperience hurt?”

  1. Section 121 says:

    Experience doesn’t hurt…

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  2. Chris F says:

    Are we pretending last night’s loss to Boston didn’t happen? No recap?

    • Justin says:

      That’s my bad Chris. I got about half way through the game and a pipe from my water softener burst and flooded my furnace room. This prompted me to have to kill half the power to my house to keep fire hazards at bay. It won’t happen again :)

      More relevant to the post, I think while experience is definitely a factor, I think between the veteran presence and the high level games the younger guys have played in juniors/college, this team won’t lose because they caved into playoff pressure.

      • Chris F says:

        No worries, Justin.

        It was a very well-played game, I think, and the Rangers really put forth a tremendous effort in the third period. I really thought they would tie it, at the very least.

        I agree that the experience factor shouldn’t be too much of an issue for this Rangers team. While it seems like ages ago, we have to remember that this group of guys handled the pressure of 24/7 HBO camera crews and media-fest surrounding the Winter Classic game tremendously well. They were in top form for most of that circus and came away with a win in front of 60,000 (largely hostile) fans.

        • Justin says:

          I agree, the Girardi turnover was a tough pill to swallow on the PK. I saw exactly what he was trying to do, but he just didn’t have the room. The NBC guys were blaming Hank, but he would have been much more focused on the puck getting back to the d-man at the point or the weak side winger down low. No way he saw that coming.

  3. Walt says:

    Like you said, the first round opponent will have as little, or the same experience as us, and that should be a wash!

    This years team has shown back bone that had been lacking from many a Ranger team from years ago. Going into the play-offs this year, I have a good feeling about this group. Once we get past the first round, it will get harder and harder for this team to get beat, only because they will be proving something to the world, and they will be on a mission. It’s only a matter of time, as long as they get through the first round.

  4. The Suit says:

    Glad someone other than myself sees the value in having Rupp on this roster.

    Great post though. I am a bit worried about lack of experience as well, but particularly on the blueline. Hank can only carry us so far. If we roll out the red carpet defensively (as we did against the Caps two series in a row), this team wont go very far.