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posted: 4/14/2010 12:01 AM

As for playoff experience, Hawks say it cuts both ways

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  • Marian Hossa has been to past two Stanley Cup Finals -- albeit with the Red Wings -- while Jonathan Toews and most of his teammates have all of three rounds of playoff experience.

    Marian Hossa has been to past two Stanley Cup Finals -- albeit with the Red Wings -- while Jonathan Toews and most of his teammates have all of three rounds of playoff experience.
    Associated Press file


Sometimes ignorance can be bliss, even in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Take last spring, for example. The Hawks went into the playoffs with a mostly inexperienced roster in terms of postseason games and advanced all the way to the Western Conference finals.

So does that mean playoff experience is overrated?

Well, yes and no, according to veteran Hawks center John Madden, who won two Stanley Cups with New Jersey and has appeared in 112 playoff games.

"I think at certain times during the playoffs having some type of experience is good and having too much experience is bad," Madden said Tuesday. "In 1999-2000, when I was with the Devils and we won our first Cup, I just came to the rink with a smile on my face and played and really didn't have any concerns, but at the same time I was a rookie.

"The next time we won you had some experience and some Game 7 losses so you start questioning yourself. You can over-think every situation, so the biggest key here is just stay even as long as you can, bring it every night and keep moving on."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville would like to think what many of his younger players learned last year in the playoffs will help them this time.

"We played three rounds and it gives you a lot of experience," Quenneville said. "You learn through series how you approach games, how they prepare, how starts of games are important; taking care of yourself between games and between series, how you get excited about playing games where you can eliminate an opponent and when you're facing elimination as well.

"We got to experience a lot of different things over the course of last year. Be it that it's still a relatively young group we like the fact there's still a lot of enthusiasm of trying to conquer being a champion."

Adding veterans such as Madden and Marian Hossa, who has been to the last two Stanley Cup Finals, should only help the Hawks when the playoffs start on Friday night against Nashville.

Hawks winger Andrew Ladd won a Stanley Cup as a rookie with Carolina in 2006 and believes it's invaluable to a team having guys such as Madden and Hossa around.

"I think you have to have a group of guys that have been there and done it just to have that common influence throughout the playoffs," Ladd said. "There's going to be ups and there's going to be downs and you have to have those guys to set the pace.

"Going through what we did last year, I think a lot of the younger guys in this room learned what we needed to do to be successful and I think we've matured even more during the regular season."

Only two Hawks will be making their playoffs debuts: goalie Antti Niemi and defenseman Jordan Hendry. Niemi, of course, is going to be under the hottest spotlight playing the most important position on the ice, but Quenneville believes the 26-year-old Finn can rise to the occasion.

"Both teams have young goalies," Quenneville said of Niemi and Nashville's Pekka Rinne, who is also without playoff experience.

"You look around the league and there's not too many teams going into the playoffs with (goalies) that are proven or have playoff experience," Quenneville said. "Last year we had a lot of guys without playoff experience who did very well and I don't think it's any different for a goalie."