Tom Wilson has already been suspended three times this season, including once in these playoffs. The Washington Capitals power forward was sat down twice in the pre-season (the second of which carried into the regular season) and then was disciplined for three games after a high hit on Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese in Round 2, in which he broke the Penguins forward’s jaw.
In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final Tuesday night, Wilson was the one on the receiving end of a hit he thinks was high and worthy of suspension. Nearly halfway through the first period, Tampa Bay defenceman Anton Stralman checked Wilson and was given a two-minute minor for boarding.
“He leaves his feet, I’m in a pretty vulnerable spot and he drives my head through the glass,” Wilson said after the game. “He sees my number for a good amount of time and he elevates through the back of my shoulder and head.
“There’s no doubt there’s contact with my head. If I’m wearing a helmet from five years ago I think I’m probably unconscious.”
Wilson remained on the ice for a few moments as Stralman was whisked away to the penalty box. Wilson was not taken out of the game by the concussion spotter.
At six-foot-four and 218 pounds, Wilson has four inches and roughly 22 pounds on Stralman. And though Wilson says he didn’t put himself in a good spot, Stralman took advantage of his vulnerable position. Wilson has had a few conversations with the Player Safety Department this season due to his own transgressions and, based on what he’s been told in the past, he believes Stralman’s hit is worthy of suspension.
“I’m a bigger guy, I have a little more weight, I’m taller and he still finds a way to get my head,” Wilson said. “He sees numbers the whole way and everything I’ve talked to them (Player Safety) about this year…pff. I mean that’s it right there. That’s a lot of don’ts for me. From what they’ve been telling me that’s a lot of don’ts.
“If I make that hit 100 per cent I’m probably sitting out.”
The NHL Player Safety Department will surely review the hit, but there has been no word from the league about any further discipline yet.
The first suspension of these playoffs came early when the league gave Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty a one-game sitdown for an illegal check in Game 1 of their series with the Vegas Golden Knights. Since then, there have been many controversial checks, not all of which led to suspensions. The confusion around what is and isn’t a suspension in regards to head hits led the league to post a video explaining Rule 48.
“Illegal checks to the head and legal, full-body hits often looks similar at first glance because the difference between legal and illegal can be a matter of inches in a sport that moves fast,” the narrator of the video explained.
Wilson played 16:24 in Game 3 and was a minus-1 in the game. Stralman played 24:23, the third-most among all Lightning defencemen. Tampa Bay won the game 4-2, but the Caps still hold a 2-1 advantage in the series.