Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson has a knack for getting under the skin of opponents, and he definitely falls into the category of players that are beloved by their own team but hated by opponents. But in being a pest, Wilson plays on the edge and he may have crossed the line in Game 1 of the second round.
In the third period of Thursday’s game, Wilson was heading for a line change while approaching Pittsburgh Penguins winger Conor Sheary. As Sheary moved the deflected the puck into the Washington zone, Wilson continued to speed toward Sheary. The Penguins rookie braced for contact, but Wilson moved out of the way and instead went knee-on-knee with Sheary before being pulled off the ice by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin:
Not only did Wilson stick out his leg on the hit, the hit was also much later than should have been allowable. Sheary struggled to get to the Penguins bench, but, luckily, he wasn’t seriously injured and was able to continue. Wilson wasn’t penalized on the play.
It’s difficult to defend the hit by Wilson, and there’s almost no doubt the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will take a long look at the play before deciding which way to rule on Wilson. That Wilson very clearly stuck his leg out to make contact likely doesn’t bode well for Wilson.
However, even if Wilson is suspended, some factors may make his absence shorter than some may expect. First, Wilson has never been suspended and the only fine on his record was an automatic fine for embellishment. In addition, that Sheary was able to continue and doesn’t appear to have suffered an injury will work in Wilson’s favor if the decision is to suspend the Capitals winger. Mix in the fact that it’s the post-season, where suspension lengths are often shorter because any missed games mean more, and Wilson could only be looking at one or two games if he’s slapped with a ban.
UPDATE: Wilson won't be suspended, but the NHL Department of Player Safety has hit the Capitals winger with a $2,403.67 fine, whicih is the maximum allowable fine under the CBA. Wilson will be available to play in Game 2.