September 21, 2019

Washington Capitals Game 62 Recap: Penguins edge Capitals 4-3 in final meeting of season

OVECHKIN SCORES LEAGUE-LEADING 39th GOAL IN THIRD

Poised to sweep the season series against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins,  all the Washington Capitals had to do was not let anything get in their heads. Two penalty-ridden periods and undisciplined play by Washington led to a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh.

Alex Ovechkin’s 39th goal of the season was Washington’s lone highlight of the game, and low points included Tom Wilson ending up in the Penguins’ bench and skating around the rest of the game like a heat-seeking missile hell bent on any target he could find.

The only player that saw less ice time than Wilson’s 7:09 was Michael Latta, who played 4:21. Wilson was absent for most of the third period, and that is not-so-coincidentally when the Capitals decided to buckle down and chip away at Pittsburgh’s lead.

It was far too little and far too late. Emotions ran high, but in the wrong direction. Before the first intermission buzzer rang, Pittsburgh had already won.

Any team plays better when they can keep their feelings in check in the face of a heated rivalry. Simple gamesmanship would dictate that by allowing the other guy to get the best of you early on, he automatically has the upper hand. You make mistakes, he takes advantage.

Barry Trotz summed this up: “I thought we took all bad penalties, unnecessary penalties. I mean, you can get momentum off the penalty kill, but we’d get momentum off a penalty kill and then we’d take another penalty. Those are just unacceptable for me. You’re not going to win hockey games.”

Wilson, who is by no means a fourth-line scrub, does not conduct himself in a manner befitting a first-round draft pick. He has slightly fewer PIMs than last season, but he can’t seem to clean up his act for very long.

Some of this is not his fault, since you really can’t blame him for trying to make every second of ice time count when he’s on such a short leash. You do have to wonder if things would be different if he was given a little more ice and increased responsibility beyond being the resident tough guy (a label he rejects, but his record speaks for itself).

Tonight, the downward spiral began with an altercation with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin during warmups, and bled out into every second Wilson was on the ice. Sure, Wilson’s antics may get the bench fired up, but he is continually putting his team at a disadvantage and engaging in potentially reckless on-ice behavior.

He’s already beginning to earn a reputation as a potentially problematic player, a label that will become increasingly difficult to shed as his career progresses.

About Katie Brown

Katie Brown is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Capitals. She resides in Arlington, VA, and developed a love for the sport of hockey as a youngster while watching her brothers play. Katie works at a nonprofit organization by day but the rest of her time is devoted to watching, writing, and talking about hockey and perfecting her mean one-timer. She is co-host of Girls Just Wanna Have Puck podcast. You can follow Katie on Twitter @katie_brown47.

Comments

  1. you do realize he had time on the first line and some bigger minutes, and did nothing with them.

  2. Mark Creighton says:

    While this article takes a much more neutral stance than your social media posts do toward Wilson, you still fail to grasp why Wilson was drafted in the first place. The fighting debate aside, you also seem to believe that the game of hockey is solely based on passing and shooting the puck, as if there is hitting and physical play have nothing to do with the outcome.

    McPhee, in his own words, drafted Wilson where he did in the 1st to help start the culture change of this team. The Caps under Boudreau could score tons of goals in the regular season, but when the space tightened up in the playoffs and it came down to who wanted it more, the Caps were simply overpowered by teams that knew the Caps wouldn’t and couldn’t match them physically if they started taking it to them on the forecheck. Players like Green became a shell of themselves as opposing forwards bullied the Caps until the Caps broke down and gave up.

    Wilson brings an element the Caps have only kind of had in the past through Ovechkin, a thunderous hitting forward that teams legitimately fear being hit by because the next hit he delivers could put them out of the game. Wilson has sent many players laboring to the bench this year on clean hits. If you can’t see how this changes the entire dynamic of a game, I’m not sure what to tell you.

    Wilson is 20 years old and only getting 4th line minutes. His shifts are so short he’s forced into trying to make a hit if his linemates aren’t able to get possession within the first 15 seconds. But his development will come with time. Trotz appears to have a strong bias for vets (see Chimera getting 2nd line minutes despite being abysmal this season), but I have a feeling Wilson will earn his way up the lines in the coming years. With more practice and ice time, he’ll develop his offensive game. The game will slow down for him mentally like it does for other “veteran” players and things will change.

    For now, he’s a fourth liner whose job is to play 8-12 minutes a night and change the dynamic of the game/give his team a shot of adrenaline when he makes a big hit. For the most part he does a decent job, but he needs to fight less and get back to what he was doing at the beginning of the season, pissing the opposition off and forcing them to take frustration penalties.

    20. Years. Old. Give him some time.

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