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Following his second suspension, Tom Wilson acknowledges that he must adapt

Following his second suspension, Tom Wilson acknowledges that he must adapt

After Tom Wilson was suspended two preseason games late last month, the rugged Capitals winger vowed to not change his hard-hitting game.

After he was suspended four regular season games less than two weeks later, Wilson has changed his tune a bit.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” he said Wednesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “But I respect their decision. Four games and a week-plus seems like a lot but it’s their ruling. That’s the standard that’s going to be [enforced] throughout the whole year.”

“I think they are trying to send me a message here,” he added, “and I’ve got to listen to it and adapt.”

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In his telephone hearing with the department of player safety on Tuesday afternoon, Wilson said that he told the new director of player safety George Parros that he attempted to mitigate the blow at the last second. He also said that Blues forward Sammy Blais, who was checked for a concussion but later returned to the game, should have been more aware of his surroundings.

“They were saying he was not eligible to be hit—his numbers are showing the whole way,” Wilson said. “I watched the replay hundreds of times. He looks right at me. He knows I’m coming and he puts himself in a vulnerable spot. At that last second, I’m trying to do everything I can to get out of the way. You can see me change my body position at the last tenth of a second to try and avoid the contact.”

But he didn’t avoid the contact. And with the hit-from-behind on Blais coming so soon after he was suspended two preseason games for a late hit, Parros apparently decided it was time to come down hard on Wilson.

“I think that was a big factor in it,” Wilson said. “If you look at it, I’ve played four seasons at this level, at this speed, and I've made tons of hard hits, big hits, clean hits. That’s a lot of decision making where I made really good decisions in a tenth of a second to make sure it’s a safe, clean body check. Since there was that discipline a week before, maybe he’s questioning my decision making. …If he’s questioning my decision making that doesn’t sit well. I’ve played four seasons, making a lot of good decisions at a very high [speed]. I can get around the ice quick. I get on top of guys very quick. That’s part of my game, I’m a good skater and I’m a strong guy that can finish hard checks. You know what? The game is moving away from those big, big hits. You got to be really careful. I accept that and I’ll adapt with the game, like anyone would.”

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So, yeah, Wilson doesn’t agree with the league’s decision. But he accepts it. And, most important, he recognizes the need to make changes to his mindset and approach.

“I have to be better at making the decision on when to hit and when not to, maybe pass up on hits,” he said. “My intent is never to hurt a guy. Anyone that knows me off the ice knows I’m an honest player and I care for the game, I care for players and I’m trying to play the game the honest, hard way that I know. I've got to adapt with the game and adapt with the message they're sending me. I’ve got to be a little more careful because obviously they’re being a little more severe with the games and discipline that they are handing out.”

Coach Barry Trotz said he’s discussed the suspensions with Wilson and anticipates that he’ll adjust.

“He studies his craft,” Trotz said. “He looks at almost all his hits. He’s not out there to try to hurt; he’s trying to play his style of game without going over the line. He’s played a certain way all his life, and the last four or five years he hasn’t really had any suspensions. And now he’s had two. Maybe the line’s moved, just like the faceoffs. The line has moved a little bit and he’ll adjust.”

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

The picked up right where they left off at home as they returned to Washington and defeated the Colorado Avalanche 5-2. Here is how the Caps were able to put last night's loss behind them and earn the win.

A better start

Against the Islanders on Monday, the Caps lacked energy early on and allowed a goal to Brock Nelson just 2:36 into the contest. Tuesday’s start had a much different feel to it. The Caps were moving their feet, moving the puck and creating sustained zone pressure. This time it was Washington who took the early lead as Jakub Vrana netted a goal just 5:25 in.

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Braden Holtby’s breakaway save on Colin Wilson

With the score tied at one in the second period, Colin Wilson was handed a gift from Brooks Orpik. As Orpik skated up the ice to his left, the rest of his teammates all skated right leaving him no one to pass too. Feeling the forecheck, Orpik tried the cross-ice pass, but it was intercepted by Wilson and there were no Caps in site. Wilson had scored Colorado's first goal and looked like he was about the score the second on the breakaway. Instead, he was denied by Holtby. Just 4:29 later, John Carlson tallied the go-ahead goal for Washington. That is essentially a two-goal swing in five minutes.

The penalty kill

The Caps took four penalties on the night and two of them were from one of their top defenseman in John Carlson. Colorado, however, walked away with nothing to show for it. The Caps took one penalty in the first and two in the second when the game was still in doubt. If they had given up a goal on any of those opportunities, it likely is a very different game. Instead, Washington killed off all four penalties they faced making sure the power play was not a factor for the Avalanche.

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Tarik's Three Stars of Capitals-Avalanche: That's more like it

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Tarik's Three Stars of Capitals-Avalanche: That's more like it

WASHINGTON — One night after struggling in Brooklyn, Evgeny Kuznetsov and the Caps rebounded with a solid 5-2 victory over Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche at Capital One Arena.

The last 10 games for the Caps? How about 8-2-0?

In fact, it’s now been a month since Washington has lost back-to-back games. 

Here are Tarik El-Bashir's 3 stars of the game.

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No. 1 Brett Connolly, Capitals:

Since getting scratched late last month, Connolly has been one of the Caps’ most productive players.

And that did not change against the Avs. No. 10 put the game out of reach, 3-1, early in the third period, firing a pass from Madison Bowey past Semyon Varlamov and into a yawning net on a delayed penalty.

The goal was Connolly’s fourth goal in six games…all since getting scratched by Coach Barry Trotz for ineffectiveness. Bowey, meantime, recorded a pair of assists for his second multi-point game.  

No. 2 Jakub Vrana, Capitals:

The speedy winger put the Caps up 1-0 early in the first period with a perfectly-placed snipe over Varlamov’s blocker.

The goal was Vrana’s ninth of the season and fifth in the last 10 games. The rookie is now on pace for 24 goals—the number Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams each hit a year ago. 

No. 3  Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals:

Kuznetsov finished the game with a couple of primary assists and a secondary helper. It marked his fourth performance this season with at least three points. And while big nights from No. 92 have become almost commonplace, they're still something to savor. Sorta like that pass to Matt Niskanen on the Caps' fourth goal.

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