Tom Wilson will not have a hearing with the Department of Player Safety, reports Greg Wyshynski of ESPN, meaning he will not be suspended for his hit to Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin in Game 2.
According to Wyshynski, “the department of player safety determined that Wilson's contact with Dumoulin was not considered an illegal check to the head. It felt that contact with the head was unavoidable on the play, and Dumoulin bracing himself for the [Alex] Ovechkin hit materially changed the position of his head prior to Wilson making contact with him.”
You can watch the play in the video above.
Rule 48 which deals with illegal checks to the head makes an exception for hits that are deemed unavoidable. As Dumoulin sees Ovechkin coming, he slows and shifts his body back which puts him in the path of the backchecking Wilson, thus making the hit unavoidable.
"I'm backchecking the puck and he stops," Wilson said after the game. "Obviously it's a big collision. I'm at no point trying to target the head at all. I'm skating, backchecking, trying to do my job and unfortunately, there's a collision there. I've watched it briefly and I don't realize what I can really do any different."
Head coach Barry Trotz was not surprised by the league’s decision not to suspend Wilson.
“The league is a neutral party, they look at it,” Trotz said to the media on Monday. “I know each organization, each fan base will have their own opinions. That's why there's a neutral party in this. Whatever they decided, we were fine with.”
While Wilson will avoid any supplementary discipline, you can be sure the referees will be keeping an eye out for him when he takes the ice in Game 3. Despite that and the fact that Wilson has taken up a top-line role with the Capitals this season, it is undeniable that he is widely perceived outside of the Washington fanbase as little more than a goon.
Wilson may have been utilized as a fourth-line fighter at times in the past. But the Capitals have seen his game evolve well beyond that.
“[Wilson] still plays a real hard game,” teammate Matt Niskanen said. “He's a bull in a china shop and when he gets motoring, boy he's a force. But you can see he's making a conscious effort on his hits to keep his elbows down, stay on his feet. Offensively, his game's come a long ways, but his physical play is, he's trying to walk the line of being a real physical player, but play clean, keeping his elbows down, feet on the ice. I think he's doing a good job and he's playing the game the way he should, the way he needs to to be a really effective player. He's been really good for us and I'm sure that'll continue.”
There’s no question Wilson’s reputation is high within the locker room. Around the league, however, it is a different story.
The challenge for Wilson is to remain a physical force against opponents while working to improve his reputation with the league and establish himself as a responsible player.
It’s a fine line to walk.
“Sometimes those reputations stay with you a little bit and you have to outgrow that a little bit, if you will,” Trotz said. “Takes a little time. I think he's doing a really good job. He studies it, he looks at it, he's trying to get better all the time. It's something he has to battle a little bit.”