With the Caps holding on to a 3-2 lead, Tom Wilson took an ill-advised penalty and the Columbus Blue Jackets scored on the resulting power play to tie the game at 3. No, I am not talking about what happened in Game 1, though I can see why you would think that.
For the second consecutive game, Columbus was able to tie the game off a power play from a bad Wilson penalty.
In the second period of Sunday's game, a scrum broke out in front of Philipp Grubauer. Wilson dove in and grabbed an already engaged Seth Jones and took him down to the ice. Wilson was given two minutes for roughing on the play. He was the only player given a penalty on the play. Whether you agree with the call or not, this came just one game removed from Wilson taking a charging call in the third period that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the game.
You can watch the play here.
Some may watch this play and think it was a definite penalty. He came late into the scrum and was overly aggressive in taking down a player who was already engaged with another. Others may watch and think it was a bad call. Scrums happen every game, it’s not fair to pick out Wilson and give him the only penalty.
Wilson has certainly had his fair share of “reputation” calls in the past in which it seems his physical reputation has influenced calls against him. But this was not one of them.
Wilson was the last player in the scrum, he grabbed Jones, who Evgeny Kuznetsov already had a hold of, and took him down onto the ice.
At best, it was unnecessary.
“Tom's a bright young man and he gets that, but it was unnecessary on the couple of the plays,” Barry Trotz said after the game.
He added, “It's so hard to sometimes get momentum and then get it back, you just got to understand the moment. The moment and your actions have results. … It's the timing that's hurt us a few times here in the first two games."
Whether you agree with the penalty or not, ultimately it doesn’t matter. The point is, Wilson should not have put himself in that position because there was no reason to.
Let’s assume the worst, that NHL referees are specifically targeting Wilson because of his reputation and are calling bad penalties against him. What do you do in that situation? You don’t give them a reason to call you for anything.
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I can hear the complaints already. “Oh, you’re saying that because you don’t play. If you ever played the game, you would know you stand up for your teammates.”
But you have to know the situation. The Caps had a one-goal lead in a critical playoff game and You have to know when you need to walk away and not risk getting called for a penalty especially if you are the player the referees are always looking for a reason to send to the box. Wilson gave them a reason.
If you watch enough hockey to know those scrums break out all the time, you also should know they also dissolve as quickly as they come. Jones had a hold of Dmitry Orlov, so what? There was no need for Wilson to inject himself there and when he did, he did so far too aggressively.
What do you think Orlov would have appreciated more, Wilson throwing Jones to the ice and taking a penalty or Wilson staying out of the box and not giving Columbus a chance to tie the game?
In Game 1, a bad Wilson penalty at the very least contributed to the loss. On Sunday, a bad Wilson penalty yet again was a factor. With the Caps down 0-2 heading into Columbus, that cannot happen again.