Capitals

Quick Links

Tom Wilson offers detailed rebuttal of the league's interpretation of his hit to Aston-Reese

Tom Wilson offers detailed rebuttal of the league's interpretation of his hit to Aston-Reese

“I'm going to have to screen the packages that come in with my name on them,” Tom Wilson said jokingly to the media on Wednesday.

Wilson did not gain many fans, especially in the Pittsburgh area, for his hit to Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese in Game 3 of the Capitals-Penguins series.

In his first media availability after being issued a three-game suspension for that hit, Wilson was clearly relieved the team was preparing for a Game 1 against Tampa Bay rather than a Game 7 vs. Pittsburgh.

He was also a bit confused.

In a video that spanned nearly five minutes, the Department of Player Safety broke down why Wilson was suspended for the hit to Aston-Reese.

Wilson still doesn’t buy it and offered a lengthy explanation of his own breaking down the hit and defending his actions.

If you're picking the head, the head's snapping independent from the body, all that. In that body check, our bodies are met, his head snaps down with his body, goes back in the same motion as his body which indicates a full body hit. It means I didn't pick his head. If I picked his head, it would snap differently from the body and that would be the primary point of contact. … He looked at me, he trajected more up than I even did I think. And you know, in hockey when a guy looks at you and takes a stride and gets his shoulder ready, I'm prepared for a big impact there. He's trying to hit me as hard as I'm trying to hit him and I've got a little extra weight and some more size. I think his jaw's probably half an inch from his shoulder there, he's leaning up and I go right through his shoulder, primary point. It's physics and whatever you want to call it. … Unfortunate the outcome of the hit, but I don't think it was a malicious hit. It was a body check and I did everything I could to lower my center of gravity, get down to his level. I put myself in probably a more vulnerable spot to lean over and present my shoulder on shoulder there. It was a big collision and it's a contact sport.

I was so focused on that hit to come around, to present body on body and try and get my shoulder directly on his shoulder. I'm obviously under the microscope in that series and I'm going in to make a big hit. I'm trying to do everything I can to make sure that I present north-south hit, get my shoulder right on his shoulder as primary point of contact and the outcome was a little unfortunate because it's a big hit.

Wilson’s teammates were clearly happy to have him back in the lineup.

“Oh, it’s huge,” T.J. Oshie said. “He’s made such a big impact this year. And he always does when he’s on the ice, but especially this year. He’s stepped into a little bit of a leadership role. He’s played a lot of games, but he’s still pretty young. And he’s stepped into that leadership role where he sets an example out there. Sometimes he can set the pace for a game by the way he’s playing. So very important for him to get back on the right side.”

Wilson acknowledged that he appreciated the support he got from his teammates, but also said many people from throughout the hockey community reached out to him in support in the wake of the suspension.

“I had players from around the league, opponents, former players, former teammates, GMs, people of different leagues reaching out to me,” Wilson said. “When you get that kind of backing, when the players have each other's backs, it's different. You know it's a bad hit if the guys on your team are going, 'come on man. Maybe that wasn't the best play.'

"When you're getting texts from opponents from around the league and former players, guys that watch the game for a living, guys that played the game hard for a long time, saying 'hey keep playing your game. We think that's a clean hit,' it’s tough.”

But while he may disagree with the league’s ruling, the fact is, the league saw it differently and clearly he is now on their radar.

Like it or not, he has to adapt to what the Department of Player Safety is telling him or face more suspensions in the future.

“I've got to be more careful for sure and I respect everyone at the department,” Wilson said. “I think they're doing a good job to make the game a safer place. I've just got to work with them and make sure that I can't put my team down. I can't be out of the lineup.

“I want to play with energy, I want to play the same way, I want to make sure that I'm finishing checks. I think those big collisions, the game's changing. I think anyone that's watched hockey can admit that the game's changing. Those big collisions, the league's making us aware that they don't want those anymore.”

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

 

CAPS FACEOFF PODCAST

  •  

Quick Links

The Caps showed flashes of their mentality with shorthanded win in Colorado

backstrom.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

The Caps showed flashes of their mentality with shorthanded win in Colorado

On November 16, 2017, the Washington Capitals were handed a brutal 6-2 loss in Denver at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche. It was the second blowout loss the team had suffered in as many games and dropped the Caps’ record to 10-9-1. That moment would be the low point of the season.

A year to the day, the Caps returned to Denver. They were given every reason to quit Friday and repeat last year’s disastrous result and yet, the Caps rallied for a 3-2 overtime win to improve their record to 9-7-3.

Coming off a loss Wednesday in Winnipeg, Washington found out earlier on Friday that the team would be without both T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov who had both suffered injuries against the Jets. In net, Braden Holtby was out as well meaning the Caps would have to turn to backup goalie Pheonix Copley for his third start in as many games. Backing him up would be Ilya Samsonov, a highly touted prospect but a player without a single minute of NHL experience.

And, just in case that all did not seem daunting enough, the Caps also spotted the Avalanche a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds into the game.

One year ago, the Caps gave up the first goal of that game just 17 seconds in. When Colorado scored early again, it felt like Friday’s game was going to end up being just like that blowout loss from a year ago.

But it didn’t.

“We were shorthanded, everyone stepped up,” Tom Wilson said. “We talked about guys stepping up before the game and we got it done.”

The Capitals battled back and took control of the game in the first and second periods, tallying two goals to take a 2-1 lead. A late goal by Colorado would tie the game, but Todd Reirden reminded his players of what happened in Montreal – a game in which the Caps gave up three goals in the final four minutes of the game to lose 6-4 – and challenged them not to let that happen again. The team responded.

With all the momentum on the side of the Avalanche, Devante Smith-Pelly drew a holding penalty with less than two minutes remaining and Nicklas Backstrom would score on the resulting power play in overtime.

“When you have a lot of guys hurt, it was nice to see that we really got together, played a good defensive game, everyone was on the same page and blocking shots and doing all the little things right,” Backstrom said.

The game was reminiscent of the Game 6 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last season. With one win separating them from advancing to the conference final, Washington had to somehow find a way to beat their biggest rival in Pittsburgh and they had to do it with no Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky or Tom Wilson. When their backs were against the wall, the Caps responded and managed to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champions 2-1 in overtime.

“It was important for guys to step up in different situations with obviously very key guys out, but we did it in the playoffs,” Smith-Pelly said. “We had key guys out at times. I guess this group is used to guys coming in and out and stepping up.”

The Caps returned most of their Stanley Cup winning roster for the 2018-19 season and fans have been waiting for this year’s team to start playing like last year’s again. A record of 8-7-3 heading into Friday’s game was hardly what people expected from this team early on.

But the win in Colorado was one of the team’s most impressive wins of the season, and perhaps the closest Washington has come since the 7-0 win in the opener to looking like that championship squad. Not because they looked dominant – they didn’t – but because when their backs were against the wall, you saw what this team was really made of mentally. Every time they were challenged in the playoffs – whether it was going down 2-0 to Columbus, playing the unbeatable Penguins, facing elimination against Tampa Bay or facing the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights – the Caps responded.

On Friday, Washington was challenged and again, and the Caps responded.

Last year’s game in Colorado proved to be a turning point. The team was at a cross-roads. They could check out and watch the inevitable coaching and roster shakeup happen, or they could rally to save the season. The Caps made a choice and the rest is history.

Maybe Friday’s game will mean nothing in the greater context of the 82-game season, or maybe this game will again prove to be a turning point. Maybe in the spring we will again circle Nov. 16 and remember it as the game in which the defending champs put the rest of the league on notice that they’re still here, they’re still the champs and they’re not going down without a fight.

“Every time we have injuries, it’s going to happen and it’s going to get other guys to get that opportunity,” Backstrom said. "I thought we played pretty good today, we didn’t give them a whole lot. That was a nice win, we needed that.”

Quick Links

How Todd Reirden saved the game in Colorado by calling a coach’s challenge he knew he would lose

How Todd Reirden saved the game in Colorado by calling a coach’s challenge he knew he would lose

With the Caps clinging to a 2-1 lead in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche Friday, disaster struck as Colorado forward Colin Wilson hit a puck out of midair past goalie Pheonix Copley to tie the game.

But Todd Reirden was going to make sure this game did not spiral out of control.

Reirden made what at the time seemed like a curious decision to challenge the goal for goalie interference. Avalanche forward Matt Calvert was right in Copley’s face, but there was, at best, minimal contact and certainly nothing that would suggest it hindered Copley’s ability to make a save. Sure, you never know what the refs will find when you watch in slow motion, but the challenge had almost no shot.

It was a curious call and a curious reaction when the call stood as a good goal. Reirden seemed legitimately angry, more so than you usually see from him.

But it was all calculated.

“Just thought there was some contact there, but to be 100-percent truthful on that, our team needed a timeout at that point so I had to make sure I was selling it properly,” Reirden said after the game.

Reirden knew the challenge was not going to be successful, but he wanted the opportunity to give the team an important reminder after they gave up the game-tying goal.

“It was a situation where a few weeks ago we had the lead and let it go against Montreal and it was something that we discussed with our team. I thought it was worth a try – I didn’t think it was very high percentage it was going to be reversed – and it gave me an opportunity to talk to our players about the fact that we’ve been in this situation before. Have we learned and are we going grow from that? Sure enough, we did and we end up stringing together a couple decent shifts of no panic and doing the right thing and we draw the penalty and are able to convert on the power play.”

On Nov. 1, the Caps held a 4-3 lead over the Montreal Canadiens with less than five minutes remaining in the game. The game spiraled out of control, however, when Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored a game-tying goal. Washington allowed three goals in the final 3:04 of the game to turn a road win into a two-goal loss.

Reirden was determined that was not going to happen again on Friday so he challenged a goal and reminded his team of what happened in Montreal during the review. The Caps responded by drawing a late penalty and winning 3-2 in overtime in a game in which they were without Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Braden Holtby.

“That’s important for me, early in the season, to have those growth moments as a team,” Reirden said. “That was actually what was going on behind the scenes there so that set us up for success.”|

But wait, why not just call a time out?

Because the Caps had nothing to lose. You still get the timeout and a chance, no matter how miniscule, of taking a goal off the board. And if you lose the challenge, all you lose is the timeout you would have used anyway.

Worth a shot, right? 

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: