PITTSBURGH, Pa. When teams get into the Stanley Cup playoffs, the landscape between rookies and veterans tends to change.
The gap between experience and inexperience widens.
Can anyone imagine where the Flyers would have been this season without the contributions of a dozen rookies, five of whom were pretty much regulars?
They carried the Flyers with a league-high 64 rookie goals.
I remember my first time I made the playoffs, Scott Hartnell recalled. So much adrenaline, excitement. Youre playing for the Stanley Cup. Theres 16 teams left.
Being all the way there and losing going all the way to the conference final and losing to Pittsburgh, theres only four teams left at that point.
Youve got to go through good teams and hopefully being there a few times in the playoffs will rub off on these young guys, but its a great feeling for them to have.
Trying to share some of their veteran wisdom, Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr did a lot to talking to one rookie, in particular, this season -- Zac Rinaldo.
The veterans give us a lot of confidence, Rinaldo said. Like Jags and especially, Hartnell. Hartnell has been a big inspiration for me this year.
He walked me through a lot of different situations I went through. Without the vets, I dont think our rookies would have been as strong without the leaders we had in the room.
Tonight in Game 1, the Flyers are expected to dress six rookies. On the other side of the ice, the Penguins have 11 players on their roster who were part of the 2009 club that won the Stanley Cup.
In theory, that should represent a huge advantage for the Penguins because playoff pressure is very different fro regular season pressure and the Pens have been through the war and won out.
But does it matter?
Not to me, Rinaldo said. I think it is to our advantage. Rookies are younger, fresher, more energy. It works to our advantage to have more rookies than them.
Fellow rookie Matt Read says the veterans have been quietly reassuring them without placing pressure on them.
They tell us this is the most important time, the greatest time of your life being in the playoffs and that its a dream come true to lace up the skates in a Stanley Cup playoff game, he said.
They say, enjoy it, take as any other game and dont allow your nerves to override. Just have fun with it.
Coach Peter Laviolette won a Stanley Cup with a rookie goalie in Cam Ward. He knows about these things.
That is one of those questions I dont know if I really have an answer for, Laviolette said. Id be guessing. If you are asking me if I like our team and the young players that we have and have had in place all year and have answered the bell all year they have.
I have a tremendous amount of confidence in this group. The guys who dont have the playoff experience, we really like them as players. We think they have done a terrific job over the year.
How does that compare to them? I am not sure it really matters. Were gonna go in there and expect to play a good game and win.
Flyer rookies have played 445 games this season. Penguin rookies have played 63.
Weve got less guys that have won a Cup before four, Claude Giroux said. It means were more hungry than them, I guess. Guys here want to win the Cup.
Thats pretty much every guys dream in life. Its a lot of work just to get into the NHL. When you are here, its a lot of work to get to the final. The guys are pretty excited.
Has Laviolette talked to them about the differences?
We didnt go, Oh my God, its your first playoff series, he said. I dont think that would help them.
Our younger players have been used and utilized in every situation imaginable until this point from being part of HBO and the Winter Classic and never once has there been any lack of confidence from the staff or teammates.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com