There’s nothing quite like a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two teams evenly matched through six grueling contests, leaving it all out on the ice for a winner-take-all elimination game.
The First Round matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche has had more twists than a pretzel. One thing that has remained constant: home ice advantage. What better way to buck that trend than in Game 7?
Coming into the series, the Wild knew it had to win a game in the Mile High City to advance (math!). After the Wild lost in Game 5 in Colorado, Yeo told his team, “There are not many things that are better than a Game 7.”
If you thought the first six games of the showdown were exciting, this one sets up to be quite a grand finale. The Wild had chances to steal home ice in both Game 1 and 5, but the Avs scored late goals, with its netminder pulled, and eventually won in overtime. Minnesota bounced back from a possible soul-crushing defeat in Game 5 to even the series back on home ice in Game 6. Now, we play for all the marbles.
Tonight will be the first time that many of the Wild players experience a Stanley Cup Playoff Game 7. Of the players in the lineup, only Dany Heatley (1-0), Cody McCormick (0-1), Zach Parise (1-1) and Jason Pominville (0-1) have played in a Game 7 during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Much like the Avs, the Wild will rely on a lot of players with little playoff experience. However, it’s been a process the entire season and another step for the young team.
“There’s been a lot of growth with our team,” Yeo said. “This is another one. When you’re playing in games that mean this much and you’re playing the role that these guys have; once you get a taste of it, you want to make sure that you’re always giving yourself a chance to get back there.”
One of those young players is goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who will be in goal again tonight. The netminder has been solid in goal in the series, ranking second in the NHL with a 1.53 goals-against average and fourth with a .934 save percentage in the postseason. In Game 6, a win-or-go-home contest, Kuemper made 23 saves. The club won once with its back against the wall, and will take that experience into tonight.
“They’re going to be a little bit more desperate than they were last game,” Kuemper told WildTV yesterday. “We’ve been through it before so I think we should be pretty calm and confident.”
Stephane Veilleux will re-enter the lineup for the first time since Game 2. Yeo expects him to bring “jam” and added, “He’s wound up for exhibition games,” so you can count on him to bring his usual effort.
Yeo didn’t acknowledge what the lines would look like to start the game, and the club didn’t partake in line rushes during the morning skate. He hinted that Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise—who were fantastic in Game 6 when placed together in the third period—would be together to start. Yeo did say the club might bounce things around depending on what the Avs are trying to do with its matchups, seeing how they have the last change at home.
Both teams will be charged up for tonight, something that always makes Game 7s so great to watch. Both sides know the stakes, and that they’ll be making golf reservations next week if they don’t win tonight.
Despite the pressure of the season riding on just one game, Yeo doesn’t want the club to play tight.
“I don’t want to have any regrets,” Yeo said. “I don’t (want the players) to sit here and say, “Boy I wish I would’ve tried to make a play here, or try to make an extra play there.
“I want to play without fear.”
Rock Saint Paul
The Wild together with Visit Saint Paul invite fans to come down to local establishments in Saint Paul tonight to “Rock Saint Paul for Game 7” and enjoy the action and excitement together. Click here for more details.