Throughout the series against the Senators, the one word that consistently came up is experience. “The Rangers will win this series because of experience.” “The Rangers will be able to come back from down 2-0 because of experience.” “The Rangers won’t blow leads because of experience.” “The Rangers won’t panic and will come out firing in Game Six because of experience.”
What the $#&*$#&$ are you guys talking about?
None of that is true. The Rangers were a flawed team for sure, but their coaching cost them a pair of games and a series victory in five. Then their “experience” led to them not showing up for the first two periods last night –which I put solely on the players. How do you not show up for an elimination game?– which in the end cost them the series.
Experience is a cop-out term used by so-called experts to say that a team has been there before and knows how to manage the situations. That’s all well and good, but if the team doesn’t learn from their mistakes in the postseason, how can you bank on experience going forward? Their experience was their downfall.
Their experienced defensemen blew three late leads, all leading to overtime losses. Their experienced coach never learned or adjusted the blue line to account for this. Their experienced forwards didn’t show up until it was too late. I can count on one hand the number of skaters that showed up every game. Their experienced grit had a few nice games, but was that really the best choice?
But that’s what happens when you rest on your laurels the way the Rangers did. You get complacent. You get lazy. You get cocky and overconfident. And then you lose. You allow an inferior team to beat you in six when you should have won the series in five. And let’s be clear: Ottawa is not a better team. They are a .500 team led by a generational talent on the blue line, whose presence alone gives them a significant boost.
The reason why this series loss hurts more than most others in the past (excluding a few, of course) is because the Rangers were the better team. To me, this hurts more than the 2015 loss to Tampa, because at least Tampa was a great team. Ottawa is a decent team. The Rangers should have won this series. But they got lazy. Up and down the lineup they got complacent. The coaching staff didn’t adjust and leaned on a phantom adjective.
In Alain Vigneault’s own words, experience only matters if you’re effective. The Rangers’ experience was not effective. And while a lot of focus should be on AV, since he’s one of if not the main culprit here, the onus does need to fall on the players too. It boggles my mind that guys with such great experience, guys who came back from down 3-1 multiple times in previous years, could lay such an egg.
In the end, experience cost them the series.