Wild Leaders Leading the Way

Hannah Foslien

A coming of age has happened before our very eyes in this Stanley Cup Quarterfinal Best-of-7 series. The Wild relied on it talented young stars, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, to carry them through the early half of the series. But another revelation has happened in this series as well. The display of the leadership of Minnesota's leadership group.

Guys like that usually find a way in a game like this

In the latter half of this series, it has been the savvy vets. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Ryan Suter have placed the Wild on their collective backs and carried this team to a decisive Game 7 in Denver tonight. "Guys like that usually find a way in a game like this," said Wild coach Mike Yeo after Game 6.

Parise has found the back of the net three times in these playoffs, while helping on seven of the team's goals. His line has continually been the best offensive presence on the ice for the Wild. Whether he was teamed with Granlund and Jason Pominville, or Koivu and Coyle, Parise has been the epitome of clutch by scoring exactly when his team has needed him to.

The Kaptain has been the heart and soul for this Wild club since he was named full-time captain in 2008-2009 by Todd Richards. Koivu had been selected as captain for multiple months in a row by Jacques Lemaire in seasons prior, but Lemaire never selected a full-time captain. He has been a force in the face-off dots in all season long and especially in this series. Posting up a 63.1 percent on the draw has helped the Wild establish possession quickly and often against the Avalanche. Koivu has yet to find twine, but has assisted on five; none more important than on Parise's deflection that gave the Wild the lead in Game 6. Assisting on goals has been Koivu's game all season long. He finished as the team's assist leader with 43 in the regular season. "It's at the point where we all need to elevate our game," Parise said. "In a game where you're facing elimination, everyone needs to play well." Koivu has elevated his game in the dots, in the offensive zone, and has made his linemates better this series.

Is Ryan Suter on the ice? Most likely. He led all skaters in total time on ice during the regular season. He added a goal and three assists in the series. Suter is usually the subtle one of the leadership group. His soft-spoken, even-keeled approach has helped the team stay grounded. "We have a lot of guys who haven't played in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs," Yeo told his team. The Star tribune's Michael Russo alluded to Suter, along with Parise, Healtey, and Pominville, being the only players on this team that have played past the first round. Suter's experience will prove to be invaluable to a young defensive corp.

"These games are fun when you win and you contribute," Parise said. "But when we signed here, we didn't sign here to win a first-round game."

"To get this opportunity for our team, for our club, it means a lot for us," Koivu expressed to the media after practice Tuesday.

"[Game 7] It's going to be a lot like tonight...desperation. We have to play the best hockey of the season or we're not going to win," Ryan Suter on his expectations of Game 7.

The Wild are going to need their leaders to lead this relatively inexperienced team into an on-ice battle. Whether that means Parise continues to set the tone, Koivu does everything well in every zone, or Suter controlling his gaps on the flying forwards of the Avs to limit their ability to make plays with the puck, the heart and soul of the team lies with the men that don the letters on their chests.

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Player quotes taken from St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Wild.com.

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