Fatigue-fighting NHL teams, including Penguins, not faring well in playoffs
It's not a good year to be a team with lots of postseason experience in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Over the past three years, counting regular season and playoffs, no team has played more games than the Penguins with 307. Nashville is next with 295, followed by San Jose with 285.
After the Winnipeg Jets knocked out the Predators with a 5-1 victory in Game 7 of the Central Division finals Thursday night, all three teams have been sent home for the summer. San Jose was ousted by Vegas in six games in the Pacific Division finals and the Penguins, of course, lost to Washington.
Of the four teams left in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, only the Capitals made the playoffs last season. The Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning did not qualify and the Golden Knights didn't exist.
Given those developments, it's easy to conclude a fresher team, even if it is inexperienced, has an advantage over a fatigued team at this time of year.
Opinions on that topic varied greatly as the Penguins cleaned out their lockers earlier this week.
Defenseman Justin Schultz dismissed fatigue as a factor.
“I don't know if that's an excuse,” he said. “I felt fine. I'm sure other guys felt fine. We felt we could have done it. We just ran into a pretty good team and couldn't get the job done.”
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin and winger Bryan Rust said they weren't sure.
“We just go out there and play as hard we can,” Dumoulin said. “If you're tired, you don't know if it's from the past few years or just a tough series.”
“I think in this day and age, guys are well conditioned enough and they take care of their bodies enough where I don't think it's that much of an issue,” Rust said. “But it may have been. I don't know.”
Center Derick Brassard, conversely, said he thinks overcoming fatigue is a very real challenge. No one in the league has played more games than Brassard's 472 over the past five years.
“It's like playing an extra season,” he said. “When you're playing a lot of minutes, I think it can wear on some of the guys.”