The NHL’s four remaining Stanley Cup semifinalists are making a strong argument that playoff experience – and winning the big one -- matters.
For just the second time in the history of the league and the first time since 1945, the past four Stanley Cup champions – the Kings , Bruins , Blackhawks  and Penguins  – are the four teams remaining in the quest for another championship.
By comparison, two of the four previous Stanley Cup runners-up, the Flyers  and Devils  did not even make the playoffs this season.
In fact, on the four teams that will begin the conference finals on Saturday, 56 players have their name engraved on the Stanley Cup. The Kings have 19, the Bruins 18, the Penguins 11, and the Blackhawks 8 [courtesy NHL.com].
Which begs this question: After six straight years of getting no farther than the second round of the playoffs, do the Caps need to add players with Stanley Cup rings to get over the hump?
“Every year’s a new year and I know the guys in previous years here haven’t had deep playoff success,” said Troy Brouwer, the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup ring.
“That’s why you bring in new players, new leaders and you try to change the pedigree of how guys act in the room and the confidence you need in the room going into the playoffs. And that’s what we need to bring next year.”
There’s a 37-year-old center named Patrik Elias who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 5. He won Stanley Cups with the Devils in 2000 and 2003 and has 125 points in 162 career playoff games.
There’s also 39-year-old defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who won a Cup with the Penguins in 2009.
Elias played under Adam Oates for two seasons in New Jersey. Gonchar played with Oates for five seasons when both were with the Capitals a decade ago.
Michael Ryder, a 33-year-old right wing who had 17 points in 25 playoff games for the Bruins in their Stanley Cup run two years ago, is another free agent.
But Capitals defenseman Mike Green says the determination shown by the Capitals in their first-round loss to the Rangers this year is no different than the grit shown by the Penguins, Bruins, Kings and Hawks, and wonders if much needs to change.
“Every team is going to try hard and show that grit and determination,” Green said. “We showed it, too.
“New York is a hard team, they play hard and their patience just outweighed our offense and we didn’t get the result we wanted.
“But them having more fortitude or grit or determination than us, I don’t think that’s fair to say.”