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Capitals vs. Islanders Playoff Intangibles: Postseason Experience

Taking a quick look at each team's collective time spent in the NHL's second season.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

They say playoff hockey is a different game than its regular season iteration. The ice closes up, the neutral zone clogs. The hits are harder, the shots fewer and far between. So on and so forth.

Caps fans are familiar with this bit of narrative poetry from living the years of Bruce Boudreau, whose playoff failures were often attributed to his fun 'n gun brand of hockey, and whose aspirations for playoff success were cited as the reason for abandoning those philosophies.

In fact, this line of thought was harnassed by Caps' execs as recently hour ago:

But say one thing for all those runs to the playoffs under Boudreau, and then once under Dale Hunter, and once under Adam Oates, and say it in the words of the best Beatle: with every mistake, we must surely be learning.

The New York Islanders have had far fewer opportunities to experience the stiffer brand of hockey presented in the playoffs— the dynamics unique to playing the same team more than twice consecutively— as they have only qualified for the postseason once in the last seven years. They lost in the first round to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games— this being the provider of almost all playoff experience for the Isles' young core.

The experience differential is of course no surprise— the Isles are younger than the Caps, and are just hitting their stride as a collective group. But still, the experience gap is large enough to take note.

Take a look at how it shakes out.

So the Caps boast more than double the Isles' combined playoff experience. Does that come mostly from the defense, or mostly amongst the forward ranks?

The Caps forwards have nearly three times the playoff experience as the Isles' forwards, which doesn't come as much of a surprise. Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, and Brooks Laich have been playing on playoff teams together for what feels like ages. Joel Ward arrived in Washington on the heels of a stellar playoff performance in Nashville. Jason Chimera was playing in NHL playoffs before the shootout was a thing. Troy Brouwer has won a Stanley Cup.

The Islanders forwards have an abundance of skill, and a collective ceiling high enough to hardly even be visible. What they don't have, is a key part of their forward corps with more than 15 playoff games under his belt. Tyler Kennedy, acquired at the trade deadline, has the 76 games he picked up in Pittsburgh, winning a Cup during that time. John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin, Colin McDonald, Kyle Okposo,and Frans Nielsen all picked up their first taste of the postseason two years ago, and remain on the squad now. Not a bad retention rate.

Here's a look at both teams blueliners.

Well, the Caps went out and got Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen this season, who combine for 147 playoff games between them. On the other side, the Isles picked up Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, who combine for 133. It's the remainder of those blueline corps that make up the difference; Lubomir Visnovsky, Calvin de Haan, Brian Strait, and Travis Hamonic have 35 games of playoff experience between them, and 24 of those coming from Visnovsky. For the Caps, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Tim Gleason, and Mike Green have 143 games, with Gleason's 18 acting as anchor.

This series certainly won't be decided on experience, but that doesn't mean it isn't an edge heading into Game 1, and its an edge decidedly and objectively benefiting the team with home ice.