For any readers out there that have played role playing video games, you should recognize the terms "Ding!" or "Level up!" For those that don’t, as you play through the game, your character(s) gain experience. When they gain a certain amount of experience, they move up a level and gain an increase in stats and skills. This playoff run for the Tampa Bay Lightning was a leveling-up experience for this young team.
The team is fortunate to have most everyone from this Stanley Cup Final team either under contract or as an RFA with the exception of Brendan Morrow, who is not likely to return.
Two goalies, eight defenseman and thirteen forwards going into the 2014-15 playoffs combined for 523 games of playoff experience, averaging 22.74 games per player. Six players topped 50 games of experience and only one of them (Valtteri Filppula) topped 100 games. Six players had zero playoff experience and a total of fifteen players had less than 10 games of experience. Let that sink in. Over half of the roster had less than 10 games of playoff experience under their belt.
Now, after the 2014-15 playoffs, those same players combine for 996 games and a 43.30 games per player average. That is an increase of 473 games; almost double their previous amount of experience. Matt Carle has joined Filppula at the over 100 games plateau. Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos fall just short of joining the 50 game plateau (48 games each). Now, only four players sit under 10 games; Jonathan Drouin, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Mark Barberio, and Jonathan Marchessault. Seventeen players sit with 25 games or more.
That’s a lot of experience collectively gained by this team. That experience can only serve them better and better as they go along. The Blackhawks were touted because of their collective playoff experience. Among two goalies, nine defensemen and fourteen forwards, they average 76.6 games per player for a total of 1,915 games and ten players breaking the 100 game plateau after the 2014-15 playoffs.
While it’s disappointing to not be getting ready for Game 7 and the chance to hoist the cup in Tampa, this team is poised for a good, long run. This leveling up will serve them well next year and even this summer. This team should be hungry and should come back next year ready to fight and win and will be more prepared to do so because of their new found experience.