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.