One day after being fined $2,403.67 for his knee-on-knee hit on Penguins forward Conor Sheary, Capitals right wing Tom Wilson explained to reporters what he was trying to do on the play and the reputation he’s trying to develop around the NHL.
“Honestly, on that play I wasn’t even going to hit him,” Wilson said of his decision to veer off his path to the Capitals’ bench for his unpenalized hit on Sheary. “That wasn’t my intention. I was just trying to kind of bluff check him, give him a fake and kind of go to the bench and our legs got caught up.
“Hockey’s a fast game, and sometimes stuff happens that you don’t really intend on. I think it looked a lot worse than the outcome was. The impact really wasn’t that great. He was trying to get out of the way.”
Sheary finished Thursday’s Game 1 and was back on the ice for the Penguins on Saturday at Verizon after missing Friday’s practice at Kettler.
“Just kind of an unfortunate circumstance, but the league does their job,” Wilson said. “They watch pretty much all my hits, I’m sure. When you play the game hard, you’re going to get under a microscope, and you’ve just got to make sure you’re playing within the rules. Player safety’s a big part of the game these days. We want to make sure that everyone’s kind of safe out there and guys are playing within the rules. Whatever player safety needs to do to kind of keep the game in check and playing the right way, they’re going to do that.”
Wilson, 22, said he was not given any specific message from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
“I think I get the message,” Wilson said. “I know they’re watching. I play the game hard. When you play the game that way, you’re going to be under a microscope. You’re finishing checks hard, and up until this one I’ve been completely off the books. I’ve hit very hard but very legal. I’m not going to change the way I play. I’ve got to trust my instincts.
"That’s just a real unfortunate kind of circumstance. I don’t even intend to really hit him there. I’m trying to kind of bluff hit him and our legs get tangled up. I had no intention on going knee-on-one. You ask any player, if I’m going in there planning to go knee-on-knee, there’s a 50/50 chance it’s going to be my knee that blows up. That’s an unfortunate play. I’m sure he’s all right. I hope he’s all right. We’ll just go on with the series here.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he believes Wilson has become a more disciplined player in his two seasons of coaching him. Wilson noted that he has never been suspended by the NHL, although that could be the NHL’s next step after issuing a fine.
“The game’s constantly evolving, you’ve kind of got to evolve with it,” Wilson said. “The Pittsburgh media was saying it was just a crazy Game 1, it was an octagon not a rink and I don’t think they really watched the Philly series because that was even crazier.
“I kind of learned throughout that series that I’ve got to tone it down a little bit. Our team’s so good on the special teams that if we can give our team the advantage, that’s what I want to do. There’s going to be emotion, it’s playoffs and I’ve just got to make sure that I’m putting our team kind of up a man not down a man.
“It’s playoffs, stuff happens. That was kind of an unfortunate one, but I’ve talked to Barry, I’ve talked to numerous refs, the league, I’ve talked to people. It’s no secret that I hit hard and that I play the game hard. I’ve just got to make sure that I’m staying within the rules and doing what I have been doing.”