Over the years, the Penguins have learned the hard way how big of a role experience plays in the postseason.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik
cited a young Penguins’ run to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final that saw them fall to a veteran Detroit squad.
“I think when you’re young, you kind of underestimate it,” Orpik said of the role experience plays heading into Game 5. “You’re a little naïve, and kind of say, ‘Oh, experience doesn't have that much to do with it. But it’s big this time of year. Just when you get into certain situations, if you’ve been in those situations before, you know how to react as opposed to just going into it. … So I think it’s huge.”
That experience also helps in eliminations games. Forward Maxime Talbot mentioned Pittsburgh’s Game 6 overtime loss at home to Washington in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals where Pittsburgh missed an opportunity to advance.
Those are the types of scars that the Penguins will bring with them into Saturday’s Game 5 against Tampa Bay at CONSOL Energy Center, and ones that will help them stay focused against a team on the brink of extinction.
“We’ve had to do it before, so we know the importance of these games,” he said. “I remember two years ago, we played Washington in Game 6, and we couldn't close it back at home, we lost in overtime. Previous experience just makes us prepared and focused a little better.”
Part of the secret to staying focused in an elimination game like Saturday’s is respecting your opponent, according to Orpik. Tampa Bay’s battle level has been through the roof for the duration the entire series, and the Penguins expect it to climb even higher on Saturday.
“I think experience has a lot to do with that in respecting who you’re playing, which I think we have a lot of respect for the team we’re playing,” Orpik said. “I don’t think that should be a problem for us. … Going down 3-1, they’re in a pretty desperate spot. … I think we should look at it the same way they do, as a desperate situation.”