The crowd of those weary with worry about Tom Wilson‘s antics seems to grow by the week.
Following in the footsteps of the Matt Cookes and the Raffi Torreses that came before him, the Capitals’ big-bodied winger has claimed the crown as the most polarizing figure in the NHL, his slew of reckless displays of physicality complementing a genuine skill-set that helped put a championship ring on Alex Ovechkin’s finger last June.
Tuesday night in Vegas, Wilson wound up on the other side of the drama, though, as the Golden Knights saw their own resident 225-pounder take Wilson out of the game with a blindside hit late in the second period — resulting in an injury to the Capitals’ winger and an ejection for Vegas’s Ryan Reaves.
Asked post-game about how it all went down, Reaves said it was simply par for the course given the two clubs’ history.
“That was a man’s game out there,” Reaves told reporters following Vegas’s 5-3 win. “It kind of felt like Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final last year, you know, two teams that obviously carried some [bad] blood into it from last year.”
And on the play in question?
“I thought he was just looking at his pass and… ran into a lion in the jungle.”
The Golden Knights winger made clear he didn’t see the error in his decision, saying he didn’t believe the hit was worth the game misconduct he was handed.
“I thought he was just looking at his pass — I thought he actually saw me, he looked like he took a peak,” he said. “You know, if he sees me, I know he’s going to try to lay me out and I’m not going to let that happen. I thought it was shoulder to shoulder and I didn’t think it was that late.”
It appears Wilson’s injury following the hit played a role in Reaves being tossed from the game, according to what the latter was told by an on-ice official.
“He just said that because he was hurt, it was an automatic ejection,” Reaves said. “I’ve never heard of that rule before, but I’m not a ref.”
Wilson has drawn the ire of plenty an NHL fan over the past couple years, particularly over the past 15 months, during which he’s had multiple run-ins with the department of player safety.
His latest, a questionable hit on New Jersey’s Brett Seney on Nov. 30, earned Wilson a match penalty but no suspension. However, that came after he served a 14-game suspension (reduced after appeal) for an illegal check to the head of Oskar Sundqvist on Sept. 30. George Parros, head of the league’s department of player safety, checked in with Wilson in June and August to discuss questionable post-season hits by Wilson on Jonathan Marchessault, Alexander Wennberg and Brian Dumoulin.
He earned a three-game suspension during those same playoffs for a hit on Zach Aston-Reese. Wilson also earned two suspensions in 2017 (two pre-season games and, later, four regular season games) for dangerous hits on Robert Thomas and Samuel Blais.
Reaves has a suspension on his resumé himself, having been banned for three games in 2016 for boarding Matt Tennyson.
The Winnipeg, Man., native reportedly won’t receive any supplemental discipline for his latest hit on Wilson though, according to the Washington Post‘s Isabelle Khurshudyan.