Day 21 of 2018 Stanley Quips: Cracking the Whip

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Gene J Puskar/AP Photo

Welp, Tom Wilson turned the entire population of Western Pennsylvania into rageaholic lunatics again after his hit on Zach Aston-Reese. To this day, I still have no idea how PPG Paints Arena stayed in one place after Wilson wasn’t called for a penalty. Their fan base and their permanent “holier than thou” spirit will never cease anyone’s amazement.

But in all fairness, Wilson did end up injuring a Penguins player. Against village idiot Keith Jones’ opinions, yes, Zach Aston-Reese genuinely did pick up a concussion and a broken jaw from the result of the hit. And. After looking at it multiple times today and last night, even I have to confess that contact to the head is, at least, non inconclusive. I can see how it is a shoulder hit. I can also see how he lifted off of his skates. I can also see if he was head hunting. But I also can see if Aston-Reese was dumping the puck, resulting in having his head down ala Eric Lindros from his hit on Scott Stevens. Still. This is 2018. Any head contact should be banned.

Now let’s talk about bans, because my goodness will the Department of Player Safety better fear for their jobs if they get this one wrong! At the very least, this is the most talked about hearing announcement this postseason based on twitter account interactions after the Department of Player Safety that a player will have a hearing on an a play deemed illegal. Thanks, Pens fans!

Wilson

All data as of 3:55pm on May 2nd, 2018

So is it likely Aston-Reese will not play the rest of this postseason? Perhaps. Is Wilson a repeat offender and is infamous for not learning his lessons the exact same way Matt Cooke has? Yes, most definitely. But, did Wilson get called for a penalty because there is now written evidence by the on-ice officials in which they concluded that it was a clean hit? Yes, most definitely.

I’m not here to call myself an expert on such matters on whether or not or how long Wilson should be suspended, because the range is just too wide here based off of both opinions and facts. All I can say is that anything outside of Brooks Orpik’s three-game suspension where he almost concussed Olli Maatta out of the second round series in 2016 and no suspension seems to be the appropriate range. Anything outside of that will be quite shocking.

Either way, Wilson has been a complete distraction to all involved in the fact that not only are the Washington Capitals up 2-1 in the series, but they are narrowly beating the Penguins in the shot attempt battle as well. Coming into this postseason, that is not supposed to happen at all. To top it all off, Wilson has played a major part in this series even when you get rid of all his shenanigans.

After four years of wondering what the heck Wilson is going to be as a hockey player now that fighting and rough play is all but being wiped off the face of the NHL, it looks like Capitals fans have finally found the almost complete answer in his age-23 season. In 2017-18, Wilson has become a perfect linemate in this day in age of Alex Ovechkin’s career as well as Evgeni Kuznetsov on the team’s top line. Along with that, he has become on of the more dependable penalty killers on not just the Capitals, but also in the entire league. His 35 points is a career high, even though he will have to prove that his 11.4% shooting percentage this season is much more like him than his career rate of 7.6%. Along with that, he now has seven points in nine postseason games, including four assists in three games this second round series. He’s basically everything Alex Burrows was to the early 2010s Vancouver Canucks. To put the cherry on top, Wilson’s 55.5% puck possession has been much higher than Sydney Crosby’s 47.7% puck possession this series.

In fact, it has been quite stunning to see that it has been Washington’s top line that has gained the edge over whatever Pittsburgh has thrown at them, especially the Crosby line in Games 1 and 3 and whatever is left of the Phil Kessel line in Game 2. Now yes, not having a healthy Evgeni Malkin and still not having Carl Hagelin making a dent in this series has really hurt the Penguins in terms of going toe-to-toe with the Capitals. But don’t forget that they played all 2017 without Kris Letang and they were able to win the dang thing. Fairly, or unfairly, Pittsburgh has found countless ways to win when the chips have been down. Therefore, giving these guys excuses is difficult at best.

Lastly, man has Matt Murray not been good! After looking like he has returned to good Matt Murray at the beginning of the Flyers series (94.8% save percentage, 3/4 in quality starts), he simply has not been in a groove the rest of the way (87.6% save percentage, 1/5 in quality starts). On this blog, it has been stated time and again how much his performances, especially after such a frustrating regular season, will determine whether or not Pittsburgh wins a third Stanley Cup or completely capitulates. Especially after last night, it is looking more like the latter. But all Capitals fans are/should be smart enough not to write this guy out, especially if Wilson gets suspended.

That is because, already, head coach Barry Trotz has been experimenting with top-line Devante Smith Pelly if a suspension were to happen, and, good lord is that going to suck!!!!

So as usual, never count out how much Barry Trotz can simply give Pittsburgh more Stanley Cups the exact same way Santa Claus gives children presents.

Until then, please ignore the noise and pay attention to what really matters the most: the scoreboard.

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