New York Rangers: Does playoff experience matter?

When it comes to postseason experience, the New York Rangers are novices.

It’s well known that the New York Rangers are one of the youngest teams in the league.  They are also one of the teams with the least amount of postseason experience.   In the qualifying round they will be facing a team that last spring was very similar to this season’s Blueshirts squad.

Last year, the Carolina Hurricanes made the playoffs and made it to the Conference Finals.  They beat a much more experienced Washington Capitals team in seven games in the first round before sweeping the Islanders in the second round.  The dream ended when they were swept by the Boston Bruins.

How much postseason experience do the Rangers have?

Going into this postseason, players on the Rangers have played a grand total of 517 playoff games.   Here’s how they rank in terms of experience:

  • 128 games – Henrik Lundqvist
  • 104 games  – Marc Staal
  • 77 games – Chris Kreider
  • 39 games – Jesper Fast, Brendan Smith
  • 28 games – Mika Zibanejad
  • 27 games – Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba
  • 15 games – Greg McKegg, Ryan Strome
  • 13 games – Micheal Haley
  • 5 games – Pavel Buchnevich

There will be at least 12 players making their postseason debuts and that number could be even greater with the expanded  rosters.

Here are players who haven’t seen any postseason action: Filip Chytil, Anthony DeAngelo, Phil De Giuseppe, Steve Fogarty, Adam Fox, Julien, Gauthier, Alexandar Georgiev, Brett Howden, Kaapo Kakko, Brendan  Lemieux, Ryan Lindgren, Igor Shesterkin.

No player with the Rangers has had the joy of lifting the Stanley Cup.  The same goes for the Blueshirts’ coaching staff.  In fact, the only person in the organization in a hands-on management job who has won an NHL championship is Assistant General Manager Chris Drury who won a Cup with Colorado in 2001.

It’s important to note that if Igor Shesterkin gets the nod in goal and you subtract Lundqvist’s record, the roster will have 389 playoff games under their belt.

How important is playoff experience?  Let’s look at their competition in the qualifying round, the Carolina Hurricanes.

The 2018-19 Hurricanes

The similarities between this season’s Rangers squad and last year’s Hurricanes are striking and should encourage Ranger fans.

The Hurricanes went into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with only 358 playoffs games experience.  With 213 games between them, Justin Williams and Jordan Staal accounted for over half of the playoff experience on the team.

If you think the 12 playoff rookies on the Rangers roster is a lot, the Hurricanes had 14 players who made their postseason debuts last year.

The one big difference between the two teams is championship experience.  There were four players on that team who had won gone through the playoff wars and won the Stanley Cup.  They were led by Justin Williams who won with Carolina in 2006 and twice with the Los Angeles Kings.

Other Cups belong to Jordan Staal who won in 2009 in Pittsburgh and Teuvo Teravainen and Trevor van Riemsdyk who were both with the Blackhawks in 2015.  That’s six Cups to zero for the Rangers.

The leadership of team captain Justin Williams cannot be underestimated.  Though a hockey senior citizen at age 38, he has long been recognized as one of the best postseason performers.  Ranger fans remember Williams from his 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy winning performance.  That year he totaled 25 points in 26 playoff games.  Against the Rangers he won Game One with an overtime tally and had three assists in Game Two.  He finished with two goals and seven points in the five game series.

What a difference a year makes

If you want to see how much playoff experience matters, it will be interesting to watch the 2019-20 Hurricanes.  With their long playoff run last season they are going into this postseason with 597 playoff games experience on the entire roster.   They have only three postseason rookies on their current roster in forwards Martin Necas, Morgan Geekie and goalie Anton Forsberg.

They made one important addition this season in defenseman Joel Edmundson who came over in the Justin Faulk trade with St. Louis.  Edmundson played in 22 games for the Stanley Cup  champions last spring and brings some playoff experience to a young blueline corps.

If the Hurricanes can go deep this season (at the Rangers’ expense in the qualifying round), it will reinforce the belief that playoff experience is invaluable.  If the Blueshirts can knock them out in the first series, that will hurt that theory.

About the Rangers

The best news for the Rangers is that Chris Kreider is back on the ice and fully recovered from his broken foot.  With his 77 games of playoff experience, the team will need to rely on him for leadership as they try for a deep playoff run.

One other encouraging fact is that Artemi Panarin has shown no signs of slowing down in the playoffs. Despite only 27 playoff games on his resume, he has nine goals and 17 assists in those games, almost maintaining his point-a-game pace , at a time when it is tough to score.  Mika Zibanejad has scored only four goals in his 28 playoff games, but he hasn’t had any postseason opportunities since he has become a prolific goal scorer over the last two seasons.

It’s also important that in Trouba, Staal and Smith the Rangers have a blueline corps with a decent amount of playoff experience to offset the three playoff rookies, Fox, Lindgren and DeAngelo.

And if Ranger fans are looking for one more positive sign, look no further than last year’s Stanley Cup Champions.  They were led be goalie Jordan Binnington, who had never played in a Stanley Cup playoff game and their Conn Smythe Trophy winner was Ryan O’Reilly who came into the playoffs with all of 13 playoff games experience and hadn’t had any postseason experience in five years.

If Igor Shesterkin can channel Binnington and the cadre of Ranger playoff first timers can emulate the Hurricanes of last season, it bodes well for a deep playoff run, despite the lack of experience.

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