Tom Wilson – Asset, or Ass?
Tom Wilson: the most incendiary youngster to hit Washington since William Jefferson Clinton, and bane of the New York zeitgeist. Wilson’s wrecking ball style of play, characterized by the kind of wanton disregard for human life that will catch you a second-degree murder charge in Baltimore (finally), has been the saw blade the Capitals have danced upon for much of the playoffs.
When things go well, and the same chaotic chance that governs car crashes smiles in Washington’s favor, Wilson’s play is an irreplaceable injection of energy in the form of a big hit or an opposing thug puglized. A long-called-lifeless Capitals team suddenly looks bloodthirsty.
But when Wilson’s play turns bad, it morphs, like a Republican-amended environmental bill, into something stinky and obviously dangerous to everyone in the room.
It seems like Wilson takes a penalty every game in these playoffs (actually, it’s about half that often – 15 PIM in nine games played, a team high), and when he does, boy are they nasty. Big hits in the corners that, if you continue to build a reputation for them, are eventually going to land you a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct. When asked about his latest dangerous penalty, a two-minute minor boarding penalty in Game 3, Wilson agreed, and said as much himself.
“To be honest, that penalty could have cost us the game. I can’t put our team in that situation,” he conceded.
Injections of energy are nice (just ask your mom, ha!), but they stress a penalty kill that even the most generous of fans would call “surprising,” and they’re certainly not worth shortening the bench by way of an early invitation to the dressing room.
Niskanen Pitchin’ In
The best player on the ice in Game 3 not named “Braden Holtby” was Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen. Bad relationships and good hockey defensemen share a lot of qualities, and Niskanen displayed them all: he smothered Rangers forwards the moment they entered the zone, getting in their way and disrupting them and not even asking how their day was first or anything; he rode puckhandlers into the corners and away from his goal, protecting it from both shots and their judgment; he even gave up his body.
By the end of the third period, with the game hanging in the balance, Niskanen was being thrown onto the ice every other shift. As your friends were texting you excited praise of the Capitals’ stifling, game-locking defense, it was Matt Niskanen out there making it happen, rush after rush.
With Mike Green playing good defense for the first season in his career and other stalwarts like Brooks Orpik, Karl Alzner, and John Carlson keeping things generally virginal and unpierced, this Capitals defense may actually be the equal counterpart to its offense.
And now, for the first time this postseason, we turn to the segment that ISIS called, “a little extreme”:
LIABLE TO LIBEL: A BAKER’S DOZEN LIES ABOUT THIS ROUND’S OPPONENTS
1. Marty St. Louis requested a trade to New York because, as he said on his 111th birthday, “I want to have an adventure.”
2. Rick Nash’s wrestling alter ego is Nick Rash, a biker heel.
3. Jesper Fast is the latest in a line of hockey-playing Fasts: mother Kynda, brother Notso, and father Reely all laced them up.
4. When asked why Tom Wilson’s thuggish, low-class antics bothered them, Ryan McDonagh said, “’Cause that’s OUR thing!” and drank a PBR.
5. If you rearrange the letters in Cam Talbot’s name, you get Cat La Tomb, the role I play as the villainess in the latest Bond movie.
6. If you Google “New York Rangers roster,” these are the images you get that Henrik Lundqvist in no way picked himself:
8. Marc Staal became a defenseman after a childhood spent jealously guarding his food dish from his brothers.
9. The Nassau Coliseum, some 40 years old and literally stripped to the cement and preparing to close, is the nicer hockey arena in New York.
10. Coach Alain Vigneault and Pierre McGuire get together once a month to talk about having French-ass names and misunderstanding hockey.
11. People totally admire, respect, revere, and above all, remember the teams that lose in the finals.
12. The Belmont Stakes will be the second-biggest gathering of horse-faced athletes in New York this spring.
13. “It’s harder to win in New York!” fans tell you, and they’re right, because the team is bad.
Game 4 is Wednesday at 7:30pm in Washington. Go Caps.