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BEYOND THE BOARDS: GROWING PAINS

Thursday, 05.06.2010 / 10:08 AM / Blogs - Beyond the Boards
By Erin Pollina  - Sabres.com
Photo: Bill Wippert
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Patrick Kaleta said it was desperation, Paul Gaustad cited inconsistency, and Henrik Tallinder wondered if a little bit more determination would have helped the Buffalo Sabres advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

While those, and several other factors – including the power play – may have played a part in seeing the Sabres eliminated from the postseason, what if the answer were a little more simple?

Before I begin, here is my disclaimer – This is only a theory. As fans rack their brains trying to pinpoint what went wrong in an otherwise successful season, I wanted to go into the numbers and, perhaps, offer some hopeful speculation.

With that being said, my question is this – what if the answer isn’t that the Sabres ‘weren’t built for the playoffs’ as some pundits have suggested? What if they simply weren’t ready?

The Sabres had seven players on their roster that made their postseason debut in the 2010 playoffs. That’s nearly a third of the lineup that was untested going into the first round. It was also the highest in the Eastern Conference. The only team that equaled the Sabres' inexperience was Buffalo’s division rival, the Ottawa Senators.

Perhaps not surprisingly, both teams were eliminated after just six games.

After looking at all 16 NHL teams in the playoffs, I found that the trend continued. The teams that had the most players on their roster without any prior postseason experience were typically out after the first round.

Here’s how it breaks down:

The Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche topped the list with 12 playoff rookies each. They were followed by the Nashville Predators [8], Senators and Sabres in that category.

Again, all six of these teams didn’t make it out of the Conference Quarterfinals.

The Phoenix Coyotes had six players growing their playoff beards for the first time, to Detroit’s Jimmy Howard. And while they were the lower seed in the Western Conference compared to their opponent, the Red Wings still beat the Coyotes in seven games.

While the theory may not account for every team in the NHL, it seemed that it was growing pains that inevitably caused these teams to fall to their more experienced counterparts.

There were some exceptions.

Every player on the Washington Capitals had played in at least one playoff game, yet they fell to the Montreal Canadiens, who had four rookies, in seven games. The Philadelphis Flyers, with five new players, also beat the New Jersey Devils, who only had three players making their post-season debuts.

“I think you learn from every experience,” said Jason Pominville. “We hadn’t been in the playoffs for a little while. I think the biggest thing is pushing each other to be better and go out in the summer to improve your game.”

“I know when I was younger, when you go through a tough playoff series and you don’t come out on top – sometimes you learn form it,” said Mike Grier. “You go home and you feel like you’re a better hockey player. You want to get back at it, you know what you have to work on and I think it will be a good experience for a lot of guys.”

It could be that the Buffalo Sabres needed to endure this year’s disappointment in hopes of being prepared for future endeavors. It doesn't make the loss to the Bruins sting any less, but with more young players exposed to the postseason, maybe next year will have a different result.

Check out the chart below for a more complete breakdown:

Questions? Thoughts? Feel free to email me here.


EASTERN CONFERENCE
 
BOSTON BRUINS BUFFALO SABRES MONTREAL CANADIENS NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Johnny Boychuk
Tuukka Rask
Matt Ellis
Tyler Ennis
Nathan Gerbe
Pat Kaleta
Tim Kennedy
Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera
Mathieu Darche
Ben Maxwell
Tom Pyatt
PK Subban
Mark Fraser
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond
Rod Pelley
ADVANCED IN SIX GAMES ELIMINATED IN SIX GAMES ADVANCED IN SEVEN GAMES ELIMINATED IN FIVE GAMES
OTTAWA SENATORS PHILADELPHIA FLYERS PITTSBURGH PENGUINS WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Matt Carkner
Brian Elliott
Erik Karlsson
Pascal Leclaire
Peter Regin
Zach Smith
Jesse Winchester
Johan Backlund
Oskars Bartulis
David Laliberte
Andreas Nodl
James Van Riemsdyk
Mark Letestu N/A
ELIMINATED IN SIX GAMES ADVANCED IN FIVE GAMES ADVANCED IN SIX GAMES ELIMINATED IN SEVEN GAMES


WESTERN CONFERENCE
 
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS COLORADO AVALANCHE
DETROIT RED WINGS LOS ANGELES KINGS
Brian Bickwell
Jordan Henry
Antti Niemi
Craig Anderson
Kyle Cumiskey
Matt Duchene
Chris Durno
TJ Galiardi
Matt Hendricks
Ryan O'Reilly
Kevin Porter
Chris Stewart
Ryan Stoa
Ryan Wilson
Brandon Yip
Jim Howard Dustin Brown
Drew Doughty
Erik Ersberg
Alexander Frolov
Peter Harrold
Raitis Ivanans
Rich Klune
Anze Kopitar
Jack Johnson
Scott Parse
Jonathan Quick
Wayne Simmonds
ADVANCED IN SIX GAMES ELIMINATED IN SIX GAMES ADVANCED IN SEVEN GAMES ELIMINATED IN SIX GAMES
NASHVILLE PREDATORS
PHOENIX COYOTES
SAN JOSE SHARKS
VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Cody Franson
Denis Grebeshkov
Patric Hornqvist
Kevin Klein
Pekka Rinne
Nick Spaling
Joel Ward
Colin Wilson
Martin Hanzal
Sami Lepisto
Zbynek Michalek
Lee Stempniak
Daniel Winnik
Keith Yandle
Logan Couture
Jason Demers
Jamie McGinn
Tanner Glass
Michael Grabner
Matt Pettinger
ELIMINATED IN SIX GAMES ELIMINATED IN SEVEN GAMES ADVANCED IN SIX GAMES ADVANCED IN SIX GAMES

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