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End of season review: Tom Wilson


End of season review: Tom Wilson

Throughout the past few weeks, Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley has been evaluating the 2014-15 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown has occurred every day in alphabetical order. The series ends today with: Tom Wilson

Position: Right Wing

Shoots: Right

Age: 21 [turns 22 March 29]

Ht/Wt: 6-4, 210

Games: 67

Goals: 4

Assists: 13

Points: 17

Penalty minutes: 172

Plus-Minus: Minus-1

Average Ice Time: 19:56

Playoff games: 13

Goals: 0

Assists: 1

Points: 1

Penalty minutes: 25

Plus-Minus: Minus-2

Average Ice Time: 7:43

Contract Status: 1 year remaining on 3-year, $4,159,998 contract [2015-16 salary: $832,500; cap hit: $894,167]

Strengths: When he’s locked in and playing his physical brand of hockey, Wilson can be one of the most intimidating and effective players in the game. There were stretches, particularly when he played on a top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, where Wilson was a true power forward, freeing up pucks for Backstrom and Ovechkin while also distracting opponents from marking his linemates. Wilson is also one of the biggest hitters in the game, evidenced by his mammoth check on Islanders 38-year-old defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky in Round 1. He finished fourth on the Capitals and 24th among NHL forwards with 205 hits. He also led the Caps in penalty minutes [172] and fighting majors [12], ranking fourth and sixth in the NHL in those departments, without putting his team at a disadvantage. More impressively, Wilson led the NHL in penalties drawn per game [1.9] for players who played in at least 40 games. His initiating [as opposed to retaliating] tactics allowed the Capitals to get on the power play, where Ovechkin [league-high 25 power-play goals] could do his damage.]

Room for improvement: Wilson saw his ice time increase from 7:56 as a rookie to 10:56 as a second-year player, but he admitted that losing three months of conditioning because of a broken ankle last summer affected his stamina. Despite playing in 15 fewer games this season Wilson increased his shot total [79] by 16, his goal total [4] by one and his point total [17] by seven, but his development as a projected top-six forward was marginal. In the playoffs Wilson averaged just 7:43 of ice time per game, second-lowest on team, ahead of only Michael Latta [6:55]. Wilson said he will spend this summer working on his shooting and stickhandling skills, as well as his skating. All three areas of his game will need to improve dramatically if he hopes to earn the full-time job as the Caps’ top-line right wing.

Memorable Moment: With 5:54 gone in the second period of Game 4 against the New York Islanders, Wilson steamrolled Isles defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky with a clean but vicious body check that knocked Visnovsky out of the playoffs and drew harsh criticism from the Islanders. Forward Kyle Okposo called Wilson “an idiot,” while defenseman Thomas Hickey said the hit made him “sick to my stomach” and Isles captain John Tavares called it a “complete target of a defenseless player.”

Quotable: “I know he’s an older guy. I have so much respect for him. He’s obviously been injury prone, but at the end of the day, he’s playing. He knows how fast the game is. He knows how hard the hits are. It’s the fastest game in the world and probably the hardest hitting game in the world, so those hits are gong to happen. Guys who have played the game who are on [TV] panels, they’re not freaking out about it. They’re not calling me a predator. They understand it was a pretty clean body check, just really hard. That’s the game that we love and that’s the game that we play. I never want to go out and injure guys but I’m going to play as hard as I can within the rules and get in on their D.” – Wilson on his hit on Visnovsky and the firestorm that ensued afterward

2015-16 Expectations: With a full summer of health and a lot of time in the gym and on the ice, Wilson is capable of making his third season in the NHL a breakout year. He’s also heading into restricted free agency  next summer, another reason to put up big numbers.  Wilson’s best years are ahead of him but next season could determine if the Caps see him as a top-six forward or are resigned to the fact his impact will come as a bottom-six forward.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

Not much separated the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. A late 2-on-0 goal for Brett Connolly proved to be the difference.

Here's why the Caps ultimately walked away with the 1-0 win.

A first period goalie interference call

Andreas Athanasiou thought he had given the Red Wings a first period lead, but Barry Trotz challenged the call for goalie interference. The review showed that Tyler Bertuzzi clipped Philipp Grubauer in the head with an elbow right before the shot went in. Given how long it took the Caps to get going in this game, it is fair to say an early deficit would have been hard to overcome.


Killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3

Two man advantages are hard to kill. Killing off a full two-minutes at 5-on-3, that's a tall task. With the game still scoreless in the second period, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller were both assessed penalties giving Detroit two-full minutes at 5-on-3. The Red Wings managed four shots on goal, but Washington was able to successfully kill off the penalty and keep the game scoreless.

Philipp Grubauer

There were few players who had strong efforts on Tuesday, but Grubauer was phenomenal. Even when the game felt sleepy in the first two periods, Detroit still managed 28 shots on goal, all of which were turned aside by the German netminder. When Washington finally took the lead in the third, the Red Wings woke up and began pushing the offense, but Grubauer was in the zone at that point and could not be beaten. His best save came in the third period when he stared down a breakaway from Athanasiou and extended the pad to deny the shot.


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Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

It wasn’t pretty but the Caps eventually got what they needed in Detroit: two points.  

After a sleepy first 40 minutes, Brett Connolly scored midway through the third period and then Philipp Grubauer made sure it stood up at Little Caesars Arena, where Washington eked out a 1-0 victory Thursday over the scuffling Red Wings.


Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

For much of the game, Grubi was left to fend for himself. Good thing for the Caps he was up to the task. The German netminder, who has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders since Thanksgiving, turned aside 39 shots, including three stops on a pivotal 5-on-3 penalty kill in the second period.

2-Brett Connolly, Capitals

The Caps didn’t get many Grade-A opportunities vs. Jimmy Howard. But Connolly buried one of the few they got…on a 2-on-0, set up by Jakub Vrana in the third period.

Connolly’s goal was his 15th of the season in his 63rd game, equaling the career-high he set a year ago in 66 contests. Vrana, meantime, has three goals and five assists since getting scratched 12 games ago.

3-Lars Eller, Capitals

Eller didn’t record a point, but he was all over the puck in Motown. The veteran center finished with a game-high six shots on net. He also had a key backcheck against Darren Helm, on a shorthanded breakaway, in the first period.

Eller was good in the dot, too, winning eight of 12 faceoffs.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.