The Experience Factor
Sergei Brylin has been a part of all three of the Devils' Stanley Cup Championships.
newjerseydevils.com – In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, experience matters.
It’s an ingredient that, come the trade deadline, NHL general managers invariably try to add as their teams gear up for the regular-season stretch runs that can yield postseason momentum.
The road to the Stanley Cup is a long one, and it has been said that no player knows the sacrifices required to win it better than one that already has.
If there’s any truth to that credo, then the Devils’ Eastern Conference Quarterfinal match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning certainly will be worth watching. The series opens this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (FSN NY, WABC 770 AM), and tickets can be purchased at the Continental Airlines Arena box office, or by visiting ticketmaster.com.
New Jersey’s three Stanley Cup Championships have been the stuff of legend in East Rutherford. A team that was brought to the Garden State in 1982 by the late Dr. John J. McMullen, would go on to have the second-best record in the 1990s under the guidance of CEO/President/General Manager Lou Lamoriello.
The Devils’ first Championship in 1995 was followed by titles in 2000 and 2003.
But soon after the Devils had put the wraps on that third title, these Lightning came of age.
Just a season after the Devils’ 2003 title run had penned a sour ending to Anaheim’s Cinderella story, it was the dynamic trio of Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis that hoisted the Stanley Cup – the oldest trophy in North American professional sports – after taking a seven-game Finals series against Calgary in 2004.
So call this opening round match-up of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs one that pits experience against experience. Between them, the Devils and Lightning have won two of the last three Cups, and both teams remain well-stocked with championship pedigree.
New Jersey’s current roster gleams with 25 Stanley Cup rings among 14 players, 11 of whom were with the club in 2003. Eight current players – Martin Brodeur, Sergei Brylin, Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, Brian Rafalski, Colin White – were on board for both the 2000 and 2003 title runs, and the duo of Brodeur and Brylin have worn red and black for all three, beginning in 1995.
But after the Devils, the Tampa Bay roster’s 11-ring total is second among the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, and the Lightning has proven to be a worthy opponent for the Devils this season, finishing with a 3-1-0 record in head-to-head play.
When it comes down to trying to predict the outcome of a playoff match-up, one line of thought suggests taking the team with the core that has won before. In the case of this best-of-seven series between the Devils and the Lightning, however, that becomes a difficult distinction to make.
Experience against experience: it’s why all the prognostications will go out the window when the puck drops this Thursday night.
It’s why this opening-round series shouldn’t be missed.