BOSTON — There are no real certainties in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Odd bounces or running into a hot goaltender can spell doom, and having the best team doesn’t always guarantee success. But it doesn’t hurt to enter the postseason with playoff experience, and that’s something the Bruins have in spades.
The B’s will begin their latest attempted Stanley Cup run Friday night against the Detroit Red Wings, and they will do so as one of the most experienced teams still standing. That experience can’t be overvalued and will play a big role when the puck drops on one of the most intense tournaments in professional sports
Recent success certainly has padded the amount of playoff games these Bruins have played in, despite the team’s core still being comprised mostly of younger players in their physical prime. Assuming players such as Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly are healthy and ready to go for Game 1, the B’s will start the playoffs with a roster (not counting backup goalie Chad Johnson) that has an average age of just over 28 years old. Those 19 players have a combined 949 games of playoff experience. That includes a handful of players that were with the club when it won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and/or when it went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013.
“Even today, today is a perfect example, if they were coming into the playoffs for the first time, it might dominate their mind all day, like, ‘What’s it going to be like,’ ” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said in a news conference Monday. “These players know what they have to do, they know kind of that you have to have a good practice tomorrow, a good practice the next day, have some rest, eat properly. All that stuff is in place, so it’s all about experience.”
Here’s how the experience breaks down when looking at the projected forward lines and defensive pairs heading into the playoffs, with career postseason games in parentheses.
Milan Lucic (84) — David Krejci (81) — Jarome Iginla (69)
Brad Marchand (54) — Patrice Bergeron (83) — Reilly Smith (0)
Chris Kelly (90) — Carl Soderberg (2) — Loui Eriksson (22)
Daniel Paille (68) — Gregory Campbell — (47) — Shawn Thornton (89)
Zdeno Chara (129) — Dougie Hamilton (7)
Matt Bartkowski (7) — Johnny Boychuk (67)
Torey Krug (15) — Kevan Miller (0)
Tuukka Rask (35)
That’s six players who have just about an entire regular season’s worth of playoff experience. That group doesn’t include players such as Paille, Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk, who have plenty of games under their belt as well.
This isn’t a team full of postseason veterans, though. That’s especially true on the blue line, where the Bruins will lean on Boychuk and Zdeno Chara, with the hopes that they can help bring the younger D-men along with them. Don’t discount the experience that those younger D-men were able to gain last season as they stepped in and had varying amounts of success in Boston’s run to the Cup final.
The experience helps, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee success, either.
“Obviously they have to get it done,” Chiarelli continued, “and they have gotten it done before, but it’s about experience and knowing what to expect and knowing that there are going to be ups and downs throughout the way and to get through it on a level even keel.”