2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Veteran Penguins Benefit from Age, Playoff Experience

James ConleyContributor IIIApril 10, 2012

Orpik (31), Dupuis (33) and Sullivan (37) bring experience, not age, to a veteran-heavy Penguins squad
Orpik (31), Dupuis (33) and Sullivan (37) bring experience, not age, to a veteran-heavy Penguins squadRonald Martinez/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins enter the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs as one of the older and more playoff-experienced clubs in the NHL.

That's a far cry from the upstart club which hit the postseason for the first time as a group in 2006-07, a collection of raw talent whose combined age might still have not been enough to buy a beer.

But with a team median age of 28.201 years old that ranks seventh-oldest in the NHL, Pittsburgh will gladly take the experience that comes with the years.

"We’ve been through it before," Matt Cooke said Tuesday. "There is a lot of experience in this room in the playoffs. Most of the guys here have gone to two Finals and even more.

"I think that you use that experience as confidence moving forward."

With 12 roster regulars who have appeared in 50 or more career playoff games, the Penguins won't be caught surprised by the pace of playoff hockey.

Nor will their relatively high rank as an older club slow them down.

The Penguins Core™ is still young and in the primes of their careers. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, James Neal, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury have a median age of 25.42 years old.

Fleury (27) and Orpik (31) are the only amongst that group of players over 25.

The weight on the older end of the Penguins scale is largely accounted for by the team's grinders and role players. Steve Sullivan (37), Arron Asham (33), Brent Johnson (35), Richard Park (35) and Pascal Dupuis (33) are among the oldest players on the team, but given their roles, the experience they bring is an asset greater than the liability of having too many old legs on one team.

"Throughout my career I’ve always felt like the playoffs is kind of when I have been most effective," Cooke, one of the team's breakout grinders with 19 goals, said.

It's not just a totality of experience that should benefit this Penguins squad. Many of these players have a great deal of postseason experience together.

Of the current Penguins roster, there are 11 players left from the Cup-winning squad of 2008-09. Conversely, the Flyers have just six players on their roster who faced that Penguins squad in the '09 Quarterfinals.

All told, 18 players on the postseason roster have been with the Penguins for two or more regular seasons.

Age is a relative figure, however. The experience these players have—playing in Dan Bylsma's systems, in the NHL postseason and with one another—is what gives them a realistic chance at a first-round series victory.

"There’s such a heightened focus on certain things," Cooke said. "Quite often the superstars, they get their points. Every team that’s won has had guys on the third or fourth line that played, had great playoffs and chipped in as a secondary scoring to help the team win."

Penguins median age by position

Center: 24.5

Left Wing: 31.25

Right Wing: 31.8

Defense: 26.89

Goaltender: 31

Penguins players with 50-plus postseason games

Crosby (62), Malkin (62), Staal (67), Cooke (76), Kunitz (78), Fleury (69), Orpik (69), Letang (59), Asham (59), Dupuis (76), Adams (73), Kennedy (61)

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