Well. Here we are again a little over two years later after Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson was suspended for 20 games (reduced to 14) due to an illegal check to the head. This time though, Wilson sees himself on the hot seat for boarding Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo on Friday night in Boston.
Now I personally didn’t watch the game live, and didn’t see the play in question until much later, but I have been able to see the play multiple times and have broken down the hit and here is my analysis. However, before I begin my breakdown on the play and hit please note that while yes, I am a Capitals fan, and yes, I do know that this is a hot topic of discussion. Please note that this is simply an opinion. You are welcome to disagree with it, but please be civil about it.
First let’s start off by looking at the play.
When we watch this replay of the hit we see Carlo in the corner with Capitals forward Jakub Vrana as Carlo is gaining possession of the puck and spinning away from Vrana. As Carlo begins to control and move the puck we see Wilson coming onto the screen and is in a glide.
As Wilson comes in towards Carlo he braces for impact.
Now this may be more speculation on my part, but as Wilson is coming into frame initially Carlo sees Wilson, or is at least made aware of Wilson’s impending arrival, which is common place as teammates always communicate these types of things to each other, however, when you look at these two screenshots Carlo seems to notice Wilson while his head is up, but as Wilson looms closer, puts his head down to focus on the puck. Now again, this purely speculation. I don’t know what was going on in Carlo’s mind while this play was taking place, so I could be wrong.
The biggest takeaway from this shot though is that Carlo, whether he put himself in that position or not, is in a prone position to take a hit. In this instance Wilson should ease up or try to redirect himself to minimize the impact that is to come.
However, as seen in the photo above, as Wilson is skating into Carlo, Wilson takes Carlo’s glove to his face. Now in all honesty I see this as more circumstantial as Carlo is playing the puck, and tight within his body. So I don’t see this as Carlo trying to impede Wilson, but that something of note on the play itself.
Not the best screenshot I could make, but it’s clear enough to show that the head is not the point of contact, but that the shoulder and the chest are the main point of contacts for this hit. Also it should be noted that this hit is not from behind, but from the side/front.
And here in the fifth screenshot image we see the full impact of the hit as both players crash into the boards. As both players separate from the boards after the hit Carlo is seen going down and grabbing his head, while one Bruin grabs Wilson, and another grabs Vrana after he would get a cross check or two on Carlo. Carlo would be injured on the play and would go to hospital for evaluation. Currently Carlo is in League Concussion Protocol.
Now as a result of this hit Wilson will now face a hearing and earlier this afternoon the League announced that Wilson was offered an in person (via Zoom) hearing which opens the door for whatever suspension the League deems necessary to be more than five games. However, it should be noted that the League is giving Wilson the hearing Boarding, and not for an Illegal Check to the Head. This is the right call here as Carlo’s head was not the point of impact. The shoulder and the chest were. Due to Wilson’s hands being up while giving the hit would give the assumption that the head was point of contact, in reality the first points of contact were on the shoulder and the chest.
For those wondering why Boarding is being used for the basis of the hearing, here is rule on boarding in the NHL Rulebook:
So as it’s well known, there was no penalty on the play at the time because the focus was on the hit itself and whether or not the head was the point of contact, and when it was deemed that the head was not the main point of contact, no penalty was called. Obviously, the referees missed making a call period as Wilson should have been called for boarding on the play. It wouldn’t matter as the Bruins would light up the Caps on the scoreboard and the game policed itself as Wilson had to fight both Jarred Tinordi and Trent Frederic in two separate fights. Despite what one pundit says:
Wilson can clearly be suspended for boarding even though the hit was not from behind. Wilson did not alter his course or try to minimize the force of impact, and Carlo was in a defenseless position, regardless of what people think as to whether or not he put himself in that position or not. Carlo was still in a defenseless position.
While I would love to see Wilson get just five games for the hit, I feel he will get more than five games, and it’s a shame because in the last two years since his last suspension, in September 2018, Wilson has come a long way in his game and in 21 games this season has seven goals and ten assists for 17 points with a +1 rating. Wilson has been doing a lot of the right things since the last suspension including scoring 50 goals and 51 assists for 101 points in 152 games since coming back from his 20 game (reduced to 14) suspension.
Whatever the Department of Player Safety decides to hand Wilson in terms of punishment, it will be just cause. Only question now is how many games will Wilson get, and what type of impact the schedule of the season will have on it.