Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal has played 96 career Stanley Cup playoff games and won a Cup. Teuvo Teravainen has played half as many playoff games, but also has won a Cup.
Then there’s Canes forward Steven Lorentz. When Carolina faces the Nashville Predators in the playoffs, Game 1 will be his first — if he’s in the lineup.
But how valuable is Stanley Cup playoff experience? When the puck goes down Monday, does it matter how any times you’ve been there, done that? Or is it just game on?
“Having it is good because you know how hard it is and you know what you have to do,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Thursday. “You know how every game goes and how every play matters. Being involved with that over time, I think, helps you.
“But also, sometimes, being new to it is good, too, because you don’t know that stuff. You just go play. I think there may be less pressure when you’re new to it. The longer you’ve been around the more the magnitude grows because you know how fleeting it is and you know you may never get another chance at it.
“I think it’s good to have the experience, especially being kicked in the teeth a couple times.”
In the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, Brind’Amour took a bunch of playoff newbies into the first round against the Washington Capitals — Sebastian Aho, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Warren Foegele, Brock McGinn and others. Veteran defenseman Justin Faulk, who was in his eighth season, was getting his first taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Some of the Canes appeared a bit wide-eyed in the first two games in Washington. Carolina lost both. But once they got a feel for the ramped up intensity, the Canes just played. They won the opening-round Eastern Conference series in seven games against a team that was the 2018 Stanley Cup champion.
“Two years ago, we didn’t have any (experience) and we did pretty good,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who has been in 43 playoff games. “I don’t know that it matters, to be honest. Leadership is huge to help you through that stuff.”
It helps to have a captain nicknamed “Mr. Game 7” and a three-time Cup winner, and the Canes had that in Justin Williams in 2019. With Game 7 against the Caps in a second overtime, Williams centered the pass toward the net that McGinn knocked in for one of most memorable goals and moments in franchise history.
Williams has retired, but McGinn will be in the playoffs for a third straight year. After missing the last 19 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, the winger was at practice Thursday and appears good to go for the playoffs.
Jordan Staal wears the “C” for the Canes and has become more vocal this season. That can help in the heat of the playoffs — knowing what to say and when to say it.
Canes forward Jordan Martinook said the energy and adrenaline of the playoffs can overcome a lot. Players, with or without playoff experience, are excited and many rise to the occasion.
“There are going to be times when it’s not going to go perfect,” Martinook said Thursday. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have experienced that, and you’re going to have to dig in and realize there’s things that aren’t going to come your way and it’s adversity and you’re going to have to overcome that.
“Ask any team that wins the Stanley Cup (and) their ride is not going to be perfect. You’ve got to be able to manage the emotions, manage the ebbs and flows of all that’s going to happen.”
Brind’Amour knows that. He won the 2006 Stanley Cup as captain of the Canes in anything but a perfect ride. Staal won a Cup with Pittsburgh, Teravainen with Chicago and forward Cedric Paquette last year with Tampa Bay in the bubble — Paquette has been in 91 career playoff games.
The Predators, in the playoffs for a seventh straight year, have a number of players such as defenseman Roman Josi (75 games) and forward Filip Forsberg (65) who are postseason veterans and competed in the 2017 Stanley Cup final. They’ve been there., done that.
It takes 16 wins for a team to hold up the Cup. There will be ebbs and flows and some teeth kicked in.
“We put in a ton of work to get to where we are,” Martinook said. “The end goal is to win the Stanley Cup.”
Staal selected for Chiasson Award
Canes captain Jordan Staal selected was by his teammates as the winner of the 2020-21 Steve Chiasson Award. The award is given annually to the player who “ exemplifies determination and dedication while proving to be an inspiration to his teammates through his performance and approach to the game.”
Defensemen Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, and forward Cedric Paquette did not practice Saturday at PNC Arena but Brind’Amour again said he hopes to have everyone ready for Monday and Game 1. Defenseman Max Lajoie, who played for the Chicago Wolves (AHL) this season, was at practice.