Rangers Vs. Capitals: The Experience Factor

Bruce Bennett

How much of an impact will playoff experience be in this series?

The other day I got an e-mail from a friend asking about my thoughs on the New York Rangers upcoming playoff series against the Washington Capitals. He asked about bringing up J.T. Miller and sitting another fourth-line player in his place.

This was my response:

I'm not so sure about J.T. Miller. Say what you will about Kreider, he's got 18 games worth of playoff experience from last year. That experience is invaluable. You don't want a rookie learning on the fly. Last year's team had tons of depth and no scoring, so Kreider was needed. This year's team has more scoring and also has more depth, so is it really worth leaning on Miller the same way the Rangers leaned on Kreider? My guess is we might see him for a game or two but we might not. Neither would shock me. But if he does play he's not going to be seeing 20 minutes a night.

The big question marks right now are Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore. Only Dorsett has played in the playoffs. The other two? Not one game. I'm writing a story about this tonight or tomorrow but Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky had a wealth of playoff experience. So did Marian Gaborik. Those three were moved for Rick Nash (four games worth of experience), Brassard (no games), Moore (no games) and Dorsett (three games). I make the Nash and Gaborik trades every single day and twice on Sunday, but that's one of the major downsides of the moves. Then again, that's why the Rangers made the decision to gun for Ryane Clowe (68 playoff games). He brings tons of playoff experience.

And the Rangers have Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Michael Del Zotto, Henrik Lundqvist, Anton Stralman, Marc Staal and all the other guys with last year's experience under their belt. Then don't forget about Brad Richards who came to the team with tons of playoff experience and was a major part of last year's run. That's huge, too.

Which brings me to my point/question: Just how important is playoff experience?

Some argue that you have to "lose to win." Meaning a team needs to have a deep playoff run where they don't capture the Stanley Cup in order to gain the needed experience to actually win it all the next time they go deep into the playoffs. There is a ton of logic behind being better the second time around in a deep playoff run, but I don't think any team truly needs to lose to eventually win. Either way, the Rangers made a deep run and lost last year. So they still have that experience.

Like I said in the e-mail, the Rangers lost some playoff savvy in the Nash trade. And that's OK, those things are going to happen. But the core of this team is still around from last year, and those guys have the 20 games from last year to lean on when things get tough. No Stanley Cup champion has an easy road to the Cup. It's littered with traps, potholes, ditches and a wealth of other obstacles stopping you from reaching the finish line.

Knowing where those obstacles are, what they are and how to get around them when you reach them is invaluable. Brassard, Dorsett and Moore are going to learn this year as they go. But the Rangers have a good group of guys who know what they're doing and have been here before. They'll help them out.

As for Nash? We're going to get into him more tomorrow. But he's a big-time player, who stepped up for the Rangers this year when they needed him (which was pretty much all the time), he likes the bright lights and the big stage; he'll be fine.

And the Rangers? I think in terms of playoff experience they'll be fine, too. Most of them have been here before.

They know what they're doing.

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