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Rangers Bring Wealth of Experience Into Playoffs

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Playoff experience is not something the Rangers are lacking heading into their first-round matchup with the Canadiens that begins Wednesday night in Montreal.

In fact, the Rangers head into the playoff with 951 games worth of playoff experience on its active roster. Henrik Lundqvist leads the way with 116 postseason contests, while Dan Girardi leads all skaters with 110.

Despite that, there are several players on the roster, including rookies Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich, who will be experiencing the postseason for the first time. 

Veterans like Derek Stepan said while experienced players can offer advice to younger ones, nothing can compare to seeing it first-hand.

"I wouldn't say it's a huge piece to it, but I think it definitely helps," said Stepan, who comes in with 85 playoff games under his belt. "Each game the intensity level and the nerves and however you want to rate the game and how it starts, if you've been there before you kind of understand what it's going to be like. If you haven't been there, you have to experience it to know what it's like."

Rookies this year have the added benefit of experiencing the playoffs for the first time in one of the more hostile arenas in the NHL at Montreal's Bell Centre. Lundqvist, who picked up two wins there during the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, said the key for any player - young or older - is use that adrenaline and excitement in a positive way and not let it put too much pressure on you.

"Going into the playoffs, everything goes up: what you feel, the pressure, the excitement," he said. "It comes down to controlling that and use it in the right way and try to enjoy the moment. You work really hard to get in [to the playoffs], and I think people watching this league, they understand how hard it is to get in."

Coach Alain Vigneault said it's important for his veterans to be there for the younger players throughout the season, not just during the playoffs. Veterans, he said, know to focus on the smaller details of a playoff series and looking at games on a shift-by-shift basis rather than trying to view the big picture all at once.

Vigneault has often used the phrase that talent has no age, and he said that rings true in the playoffs. He said he'll deploy his players based on how they're playing, no matter if they have 100 games of playoff experience to fall on or zero.

And while players like Vesey and Buchnevich may not have a wealth of NHL playoff experience on their respective resumes, each have played in high-pressure games throughout their careers, including World Junior Championships, World Championships and the Kontinental Hockey League playoffs.

"You all need one another at this time and you need that experience to help out, but there's no one player on our team - Jimmy or Pavel - who hasn't been through a pressure situation growing up in their minor hockey, playing for a championship," Vigneault said. "They all have, we all had when we played. This is obviously different; this is the NHL. At the end of the day, it's about not looking ahead. It's about looking right now. Guys are usually pretty good at doing that."

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