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Why Tom Wilson wants Flyers fans to hate him

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Why Tom Wilson wants Flyers fans to hate him

Philly fans, we have your enemy.

He is 6 foot, 4 inches and 215 pounds of restless energy and, unlike Cheap Trick, he wants you to hate him.

“We don’t want to be liked by them,” Tom Wilson said Tuesday after the Capitals first practice in preparation for their first-round playoff series against the Flyers, which begins Thursday night at Verizon Center on CSN. “Hopefully, we can keep it that way, that they hate our guts.”

Led by defenseman Radko Gudas (304 hits) the Flyers finished fifth in the NHL in hits this season, averaging 27 a game. The Capitals finished 11th in the league at 24 a game.

Both teams ramped it up the last time they played on March 30 in Philadelphia, with the Flyers outhitting the Caps 34-30 in a 2-1 shootout win.

“I think every playoff series is going to be hard-checked and emotional,” said Wilson, who led the Capitals with 253 hits this season. “Look at all the series we played. The Islanders came hard last year. That was kind of my type of hockey. That was a pretty emotional series. The Rangers came hard.

“Philly, they’re not necessarily the toughest team in the league, but they do have that team mentality that they’re tough, from all four lines. The last time we played them they’re slashing our guys, chirping our guys, everyone. It’s going to be emotional and we’ve just got to make sure we let our playing do the talking. They’ve got some emotional guys on that side and we’ll see what happens. You’ve just got to make sure you don’t end up in the penalty box and you don’t take anything away from your team.”

In the four regular season games against the Flyers, the Caps gave Philadelphia 17 power plays. The Caps went on the power play just 10 times. Both teams netted three power-play goals in the four games but several Capitals agreed that if they play undisciplined against the Flyers they’ll be playing into their meaty hands.

 As for penalties, the Flyers ranked fourth in the NHL with 966 penalty minutes and tied for ninth with 28 fighting majors, paced by Wayne Simmonds (five). The Caps ranked 20th in penalty minutes with 753 and 22nd in fighting majors with 19, paced by Michael Latta with eight and Wilson with seven.

Wilson introduced himself to Flyers fans on Dec. 17, 2013 (two months after Ray Emery’s assault on Braden Holtby) when he slammed Brayden Schenn into the boards with a ferocious hit behind the net.

“I think I got booed off the ice with a curse word after I hit Brayden Schenn a couple years ago,” Wilson recalled. “I know a lot of the Philly fans didn’t like me ever since then. My first year we had some brawls and that was an emotional year.”

Last spring, it was the fans on Long Island who targeted Wilson after he ended defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky’s career with a clean hit behind the Islanders net.

“Obviously , I’m glad I’m not going back to the Coliseum because there were lots of death threats from those fans. That’s playoffs and that’s just the way people are. It’s so intense.

“You’ve got to respect how into the game the Philly fan base and Islander fan base are. They’re diehard Flyers fans, they wear their hearts on their sleeve. There’s going to be some big hits, some emotion and I know the fans will be there for both teams. That’s part of the fun of it. That’s why playoff time is the best time of the year.”

That’s why Wilson is encouraging Flyers fans to give him all they’ve got.

“It’s a huge compliment if you can have the other team’s fans worried about you and chirping you,” he said. “Ask anyone in the room, that’s a pretty cool feeling. Ask Ovi when he’s getting booed in other teams’ rinks. They’re not booing Ovi because he sucks, they’re booing because he’s one of the best players in the game.”

Wilson also knows this: Playoff series are not won by what is said on or off the ice, but the ability to back up what is said.

“It doesn’t matter that we finished first and won the Presidents’ Trophy,” Wilson said. “Those are all amazing things and huge accomplishments. But it doesn’t matter if you’re the 1 versus the 8. We’re completely equal now. Anyone can win. You’ve seen that in the history of the game.”

Wilson, 22, said it seems like “forever ago” that he made his NHL debut in a playoff series against the Rangers three years ago. Cleanly shaven, he said he hopes this one lasts a lot longer than his previous two.

“Hopefully, we can do a before-and-after interview with the camera,” he said. “Hopefully in two months I’ll be sitting here with a big beard. There’s a ton of work to be done between now and then.”

And it all starts Thursday night.

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John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference

John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference

In each of the first three games of the series, the Columbus Blue Jackets always had an answer for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps built a two-goal lead in each game and Columbus was able to battle back and tie it each time.

In Game 4 on Thursday, however. the Blue Jackets had no answer in a 4-1 loss to Washington and that includes head coach John Tortorella.

"We weren't good," Tortorella said to the media after the game. "There's no sense asking me things about the game. I'm telling you, we laid an egg. I'm not going to break it down for you. We sucked. We sucked."

Tortorella is known for having some fiery interactions with the media. By his standard, Thursday's postgame presser was fairly tame.

The Capitals may have won Game 3, but Columbus certainly looked like the better team for most of the night. That was not the case in Game 4 as Washington dominated from start to finish. That led to the contentious postgame presser.

"We laid an egg," Tortorella said. "That's all I have to say, guys. I'm sorry, I'm not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. It's on us, we have to figure it out and we will."

Reporters continued to press the head coach until he finally walked out.

Before you laugh too hard at this, it is important to consider that this may be a calculated move by Tortorella.

Sure, there have been times in which he has lost his temper in the past, but these outbursts may be more premeditated than we think.

Consider this. After their worst game of the series, a game in which the Blue Jackets only scored once and saw a 2-0 series lead evaporate in two games at home, we're talking about the head coach. We're not talking about the loss or the performance of the players. Instead, we are talking about Tortorella walking out on reporters.

Even if Tortorella was not willing to give any answers on Thursday, he will need to find some soon. The series now shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday with all the momentum on the Caps' side.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

The win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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