In the first period, Washington Capitals fourth-line winger Tom Wilson did what he usually does: attempt to bring energy to the team with some physical play.

Unfortunately, the six-foot, four-inch rookie delivered another questionable hit — this time to Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jamie McBain — and was given a two-minute minor for charging. The hit seemed like a less violent version of Wilson’s crushing check of Brayden Schenn from a month ago, which Brendan Shanahan later deemed a legal play.

Let’s take a look at what happened.

Wilson takes seven strides before delivering a body check to McBain. However, just like with the Schenn fiasco and to his credit, Wilson readjusts and only makes two strides after McBain tries to catch the puck with his gloved hand. He’s just trying to jar the puck free.

Notice here as well, McBain’s head recoils as Wilson finishes the check.

CSN analyst Alan May did not agree with the ref’s call on the ice.

“It’s a big hit, but you gotta be careful when Big Tom’s on the ice,” May said after the play was blown dead. “He finishes his hits and I think the defenseman put himself in a tough spot. Debatable. That’s a tough one.”

“You can’t expect him to slow up all the time,” May continued. “You gotta be aware of who’s on the ice.”

While in the penalty box, Wilson saw a replay of the hit on the jumbotron. Looking puzzled, he yelled, “What?!” at the official.


On the ensuing power play, the Sabres scored. Tyler Ennis, after illegally taking Joel Ward down, fired home a rebound and scored the Sabres only goal of the game.

The Sabres won in the shootout 2-1.

Here’s the problem. Wilson is gigantic and strong like an ox. He is also an incredible skater for his size. While he plays an honest game, sometimes his hits can appear worse than they are because of those factors. Also, when you consider how tall he is, his follow through is usually near a player’s head — a sensitive topic in today’s NHL.

I don’t think that the hit Wilson delivered today was a charge, but I do think Tom has to mature here a little bit. Instead of going in for a board slam, slowing up and playing the puck with his stick would have been a better decision.

He needs to understand that even if he does everything right, his size and strength can push legal hits into a grey area. He needs to pick his spots better.

Just like against Philadelphia, his decision making today led to a loss — even if in hindsight, the hit was actually clean. As a fourth line player, he is supposed to bring energy, not put the team short-handed.

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  • I think this was on Wilson’s next shift — one of the Sabres tried to take out his knee. Not sure how that didn’t get called. http://i.imgur.com/1GbEmmj.gif

  • Bob

    It seems like every game we take a dumb penalty and give up a goal right after

  • Andrew Walker

    Because Marc Joannette is inconsistent and also eats babies.

  • Shitty call, it wasn’t a charge.

    I’m never one to blame officials, but man they made themselves noticed out there.

  • scrubversive

    I like this commentary, Ian. Questionable officiating tonight or not, it’s sound advice for Tom. Especially with the NHL being very conscious of dangerous hits, his ability to use his physicality appropriately will be the difference between being a career energy man and a top-6er. These two incidents won’t be the last if he doesn’t adjust his game.

    That being said, to adjust his game, he needs more time to mature out on the ice. I’ve really liked how #43 has played lately, he’s skating well and looks like he’s making some good decisions out there. I get excited when he’s on, wanting to see what he can do next. Give that massive 19-old man-wall some more icetime to wear himself out so that he doesn’t feel like railroading the opposition and bloodying his fists are the only ways he can contribute.

  • Phil Owen

    Joannette can die in a f@#$ing fire. Period. Young Tom Wilson made a hockey play that’s called once every twenty or so times it happens.

  • Well said.

  • GuestZ

    Totes agree. This ish grinds my gears!

    This was another damn soft call to go against us. The non-calls on the interference on Ward right before the score or the hit to Wilsons knee (BLATANT INTERFERENCE) made wanna throw things thru my TV.

  • Jay DeLancey

    as is frederic l’ecuyer… cannot stand when he officiates our games

  • CM

    Yeah I dunno. If the ref doesn’t make the call, then this hit forces a turnover and allows us to break out of our own end. Then I’m reading an article about “Tom Wilson’s Big Hit On Jamie McBain!” Bad calls happen, sometimes they cost you. I wouldn’t want Wilson to change a thing here.

  • Graham Dumas

    See, THIS is the kind of stuff Don Cherry should be talking about on Coach’s corner. YA HEAR THAT, KIDS?!

  • Louis Porter

    Bad title for this article. Should read “Poor officiating costs Caps game!” Wilson’s hit was legal no matter if you like it or not. To pin this one penalty on the loss is foolish.

  • Phil Owen

    Ian, compare Wilson’s hit tonight with Douchebag Del Zotto’s hit on Matty P in Game 6 last spring and tell me which one was worse. Pretty sure Joannette was on the ice for that one, too.

  • JakeCameraAction

    Shanahan did not determine the hit on Schenn to be legal, but said it did not deem suspension.

  • CM

    Somewhat counter to what I said earlier, this is what I think every time this kid goes in for a hit.


  • Did you even read what I wrote? I said I thought it was a legal hit.

    I just think Wilson needs to realize that he may not get the benefit of the doubt here because of his size and skating ability. He needs to pick his spots better. No matter if you want to admit it or not, his penalty led to Buffalo’s goal. And when you’re playing a team with Ryan Miller as the goaltender, one mistake can be too many.

  • Myan

    That was BS. If anything, we should have gotten an interference call when Ennis went knee to knee vs Wardo. Really questionable officiating tonight. If you’re going to give soft calls and ignore obvious infractions, then at least be consistent.

  • Diller M

    Ian, can we get a look at the trip that negated the alzner goal? Walton called it a “cheezy call” which I loved, but it is unclear whether it was a legit call or not. Either way I totally agree with your assessment of the Wilson hit. excellent analysis as always!

  • Louis Porter

    And the missed tripping call on Ward during the Buffalo PP which lead to them scoring doesn’t matter?

  • Dave

    It’s crazy that Wilson is roughing up players like this NHL. I feel like he’d be responsible for several deaths by now if he had been sent back to the OHL…

  • JH

    What is this obsession with putting kid gloves on Wilson? Lay off the kid.

  • guest

    it was a legit call, but the refs had been ignoring trips all game. They swallowed their whistles in the minutes prior to it but suddenly call something relatively small that negates a goal. seems fishy

  • It was a clever play by Nicky. He put his stick in one of the guy’s shins and hooked him down to the ice. That’s what gave Alzner the open lane to the net. I’m not sure how many times that’d actually be called in a game. Though, to be honest, I have no problem with the referees actually whistling it down. It totally was a textbook trip/hook.

  • C Breezy

    That is what worries me the most about Tommy, the retribution for hits other teams think are dirty. This is especially true if that Sabre player felt knee-on-knee was warranted, which (along with the slew-foot) is the cardinal sin as far as dirty plays go in hockey.

  • ZyphZorg

    Watched some of the tight game between the Bruins and Sharks the other night. Chara elbows everyone in the head. He doesn’t come flying over and slam them in the head, he does it when fighting for the puck in the corners. His elbow is head height to the rest of the league. He doesn’t shy away from this phenomenon, he uses it. But he has learned how to use it in a way that won’t get him 2 minutes every other shift.