Wilson earns career-high for goals as Caps topple Bruins

Tom Wilson

In a lot of ways, Tom Wilson’s weekend showcased exactly why the Capitals value him so highly, and why opposing teams both despise him and, in the same breath, wish he was on their team.

With a second-period goal against the Bruins on Sunday, Wilson set a career-high with 23 in a season and reached the 50-point mark for the first time in his NHL career. Just a day before, his third period, game-winning goal against the Penguins was a beautiful wrist shot that snuck just under the crossbar to give the Capitals a lead they wouldn’t give up. 

In total, his weekend consisted of two goals, one assist, 12 hits and zero penalty minutes. His play helped lead the Capitals to a 4-2 win over the Bruins, as Wilson’s career season continued in perhaps the best way possible.

“He's been really strong the entire year,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I know he's on a good run right now. There's the really good moments through the course of the year and then there's some plateaus or whatever, but he's been pretty consistent with the way he plays the game.”

His weekend, in terms of a big-picture view, was outstanding. But there were particular moments Sunday that displayed what kind of force Wilson is for opponents to deal with.

Late in the third period, Wilson didn’t engage in a fight with Trent Frederic, who had just committed a penalty, when Frederic wanted to try and goad Wilson into taking a penalty and even things up. The Capitals instead went to the power play.


“I think it was really smart for him just to lay off of that and just take the power play and see what we can do,” Laviolette said. “I think he’s really good at that. He’s got a good handle and a good read on the ice on what’s going on. He knows when to be physical and he knows when to back off of it a little bit and that was the time just to lay it off.”

Wilson's second-period goal was textbook net-front play, as he boxed out Bruins defenseman Derek Forbort and jammed home a rebound to tie the game at two. The goal was his 23rd of the year, which put him in a tie for second place on the team in goals behind Alex Ovechkin

To the not-so-watchful eye, Wilson’s transformation has seemingly come overnight. But he’s now scored at least 20 goals in three of four seasons and was on an 82-game pace for 22 goals in the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season. 

He’s also stayed out of the penalty box more, as he’s fought just five times this season in 68 games played and is currently on pace for the fewest penalty-minutes-per-game-played of his NHL career. 

“He means so much to our team that he plays on the penalty kill, plays on the power play, plays at the end of games down and up,” John Carlson said. “There's very few times where I would ever say that we want him in the penalty box for five minutes — just put it that way. And I think that's some of his growth, too, within himself because I'm sure he always wants to answer the bell and that's just kind of who he is. But he means a heck of a lot more in other areas.”

Considering the style of play Wilson brings to the Capitals, in terms of individual matchups for the postseason when games get more physical, he’s a nightmare to try and gameplan for. The games against the Penguins and Bruins showed exactly why. 

Wilson’s play might not have turned a corner recently, but having a career-best in both points and goals has given Wilson tangible milestones to point out his success.

“I think maybe just things have fallen for him a little bit more than in seasons past,” Carlson said. “I think the big thing with him, too, is he's always showing up in the big moments and big games, big, bright lights. That's what you want out of your leaders, and certainly he can do a whole lot of things. His offensive game is tough to defend all the time, and he really does a good job all over the ice."