WASHINGTON – For better or for worse, Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson is an expert when it comes to knowing what the NHL looks for when punishing someone for a dangerous hit, and he thinks Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman could be in trouble.
Wilson, who served a three-game suspension earlier this postseason, spoke out about the way Stralman slammed him into the glass in the first period of what turned into a 4-2 victory for Tampa Bay over Washington in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final on Tuesday night.
Stralman was sent to the penalty box for boarding on the play.
“It’s a vulnerable position. 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. So we’ll see what they say,” Wilson said, referring to the possibility of the league’s department of player safety reviewing the matter.
On the play, Wilson was facing the glass not too far from the Capitals’ bench when Stralman hit him from behind. Wilson dropped to the ice and put his right glove to his helmet.
After the game, which allowed the Lightning to cut their series deficit to 2-1, Wilson talked about the “goose egg on the side of my head” and acknowledged, “It took me a little bit to collect myself.”
He said the hit included “everything I’ve heard all year: He sees (jersey) numbers for a good amount of time, and he elevates through the back of my shoulder and head.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz referred to those as “red flags,” and added, “I understand where Tom’s coming from, no question.”
“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 percent I’m probably sitting out. So we’ll see. It’s playoffs. It’s an intense time of year,” Wilson said. “I don’t think he’s a malicious player, at all. But it’s a pretty dangerous hit. I think a lot of people will say that.”
The game was scoreless at the time of that hit, but Tampa Bay would go on to take a 3-0 lead en route to the victory. Wilson thought that Stralman’s play might have set a tone that affected the way play went.
“(When) someone gets run from behind, for the next couple shifts, you might be a little more tentative coming back for pucks,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to play through it. There’s going to be emotion.”
Senior vice president of player safety George Parros was at Tuesday’s game. During the season, Parros and Wilson met for about an hour to go over video clips of various hits so the player could understand what the league is watching for.
During Washington’s elimination of two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh in the second round of the playoffs, Wilson missed three games after breaking Penguins rookie Zach Aston-Reese’s jaw in a violent collision.
Wilson also was forced to sit out two preseason games following a late hit on an opponent, then was suspended for the first four games of the regular season for boarding a player shortly after his return.