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Minnesota Wild's Veteran Leadership Needs to be a Factor

How the Wild's intangibles can manifest themselves in a very concrete way.

Agitators like Ryan Reaves helped Game 2 swing into the Blues' favor. This can't be acceptable for the Wild.
Agitators like Ryan Reaves helped Game 2 swing into the Blues' favor. This can't be acceptable for the Wild.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not an intangibles guy.

Much more often than not, I see most cases of attributing intangibles as being either useless, or intentionally misleading. For example, the 12,000 times a game where an announcer notes a player's work ethic is pretty much meaningless. Just about every player in the NHL works hard. And Wild fans are all too familiar with platitudes like "grit", "veteran leadership", and "playoff experience" often being applied to guys as a justification for questionable lineup decisions.

So it may surprise you, dear reader, that I actually think that there is an area in the game that "veteran leadership" and a "calming presence" can actually help the Minnesota Wild in this series with the Blues.

Others will have their turning points as to where things went irredeemably wrong for the Wild in game 2 against St. Louis. I'm going to ignore bad games by Jonas Brodin, Thomas Vanek. I'm going to ignore a lack of power plays. I'm going to ignore a few times where the Blues got lucky breaks on bad bounces.

But for my money, the game turned when fourth-liner Ryan Reaves, after his line had spent the early part of the game trying to goad the Wild into a reaction, finally got what he was looking for. 20-year-old defenseman Matt Dumba got physical with Reaves, leading to an interference penalty. Reaves, who has still yet to score a point in the postseason, did his job. No one will ever get assists for drawing penalties, but he deserved one, as seconds later, Vladimir Tarasenko put the Blues up 2-0. That would go on to be the game-winning goal.

I'm not going to trash Dumba for making a rookie mistake like that. He was hardly the only Wild player to engage when they did not need to. And I have definitely retaliated to annoyances from agitators when doing my work, I won't be a hypocrite on that matter. But, just as it is when you or I find ourselves behaving less than professionally when we stupidly react the exact way some jerk wants us to, it was immature of Dumba to take that penalty. It was immature for Jason Zucker to repeatedly engage with the Blues' agitators. Immaturity may well have manifested itself in ways that lost the Wild this game.

What helps me in those moments where my heart cooks my brain? Usually, it's someone taking me aside, giving me a different perspective, and letting me know the benefits of letting logic prevail.

Young, emotional guys like Dumba and Zucker might not yet have that perspective, yet. But for many of the veterans on the Wild, this isn't their first time in the playoffs. Matt Cooke has a Stanley Cup ring. Zach Parise and Ryan Carter both have appeared in the Stanley Cup Final. Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, and Sean Bergenheim have made Conference Finals Appearances. Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter have a combined 90 games of playoff experience in leadership roles.

If there was ever a moment where veteran leadership could manifest in something tangible, I'd think this would have to be it. The Wild's leaders need to be (and hopefully, already have been) stepping up, taking these kids aside, and trying to keep them calm in anyway possible. Even with home-ice advantage, the Blues are hard enough to beat with their skill and physicality. The leadership needs to reiterate that this becomes exponentially harder when you allow the agitation aspect of their game to become a factor.