Playoff experience could be a key advantage for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round, facing a New Jersey Devils team in the postseason for the first time since losing in the 2012 Stanley Cup finals.
"Experience is what you make of it," said coach Jon Cooper, whose team had extended playoff runs in 2015 and 2016 before missing the postseason last year. "Naturally, it's good to have gone through some of these situations before, but I look at our team in 2015, we didn't really have much experience and we were able to get through."
Video: Lightning coach Jon Cooper says of his team’s edge in postseason history compared to Devils: “Experience is what you make of it.” pic.twitter.com/8ekiZkVkMq— Greg Auman (@gregauman) April 10, 2018
New Jersey has some veteran players with extended playoff experience — former Lightning center Brian Boyle has played in 106 career playoff games, going to the finals with the Rangers in 2014 and the Lightning in 2015. Defenseman Andy Greene and center Travis Zajac played on the 2012 Devils, and Cooper said he likes that his locker room has players that have made the finals, but still have a hunger to get a championship.
"What I like about our group is we have a lot of guys who have played in a Cup final, as recently as a few years ago, and they're all playing with that chip on their shoulder," Cooper said. "That's what I like about this. There's so many players in that room that the young guys can go to."
Defenseman Anton Stralman, who was with Boyle in reaching the finals in 2014 and 2015, said experience can be a big help, so long as Lightning players show they've learned from that experience.
"I don't think an advantage is maybe an accurate word," said Stralman, one of 13 current players who were also on the Lightning's 2015 run to the finals. "I think it's a little big of a helping factor for us. I'm not saying they're inexperienced, as Zajac played in a finals, and John Moore was in the finals with the Rangers when I was there. … Andy Greene. They're leaders of that team. I'm sure all that stuff is contagious, and they have a group of players playing good hockey. I would look at this as a big chance for them."