Photo from Wikipedia
Just remember – it’s okay to disagree.
Tom Wilson turned the lights out on Zach Aston-Reese last night and shined a very bright light on the NHL to do something about a loose cannon firing at will.
During a frantic series of text messages with two (yes, I have two) friends after the Pens lost Game 3 of their second-round series against the Washington Capitals to go down 2-1 in the series, I speculated that the sometimes clumsy, sometimes soft Olli Maatta may have panicked when he carelessly slid a puck to the middle of open ice as all of Tom Wilson bore down.
Maybe Maatta thought he saw an opportunity to get the puck to – uhm – whoever he thought was there, but I am speculating he saw Wilson scratching another name off of his hit list and, in fear, forgot that the wall is a hockey player’s friend and the middle of the ice spells doom.
The play continued and Pens’ fans were infuriated when it appeared that Wilson took out the Maatta’s skates leading to a 2-on-1 and the eventual game-winning goal.
Forgive me for pointing this out, but falling down is a specialty of Maatta’s. Wilson pulled up – he did – he pulled up on Maatta instead of finishing the check. He barely brushed Matta and was facing the opposite direction when Maatta fell.
I never give Wilson the benefit of the doubt, but it appeared that Maatta’s fall was Maatta’s fault. His reaction after the play is really all one needs to see to understand that Maatta knows it was on him.
Maatta’s gaffe is part of The Wilson Effect, an NHL endorsed phenomenon that allows marginally talented players to seek and destroy opposing players resulting in, understandably, a certain level of fear or hesitation from potential victims.
Do you think Wilson plays on that top line on accident? He is not there to score goals.
Despite the NBC bromance (Pierre Maguire and Keith Jones should have a Pay-Per-View cage match for the right to propose marriage to Wilson), Wilson is not a skilled hockey player. The points he gets are the collateral damage of trying to contain his linemates – players you may know.
The preoccupation with stopping the actual skill players, though, has taken a back seat in this series to the Pens’ preoccupation with Tom Wilson.
Here is a news flash, Tom Wilson wants you to come after him. He wants Kris LeTang to seek him out while the ice opens up for everyone else. He wants Jamie Oleksiak to forget that he gets paid to play defense, not to try to line up Wilson in the neutral zone.
Wilson showed everybody that he has no regard for others on the ice and that he plays the game a different way (a way Matt Cooke was basically run out of the league for playing), and that he will not stop. Why would he? It works and the Pens are too undisciplined right now to avoid The Wilson Effect.
I get that the fuel that lit the blowtorch was more than just the hit on Aston-Reese that left the Pens’ winger bloodied and needing surgery to repair a broken jaw – that it was Wilson laughing about it on the bench and his neanderthal coach dismissing the hit with a, “Stop your whining – it’s hockey,” wave of his hand.
But the residual effect of the hit, The Wilson Effect, rippled through the Pens’ bench. Oleksiak turned away from the oncoming T.J. Oshie and turned the puck over behind his own goal line. Seconds later, the puck was behind Matt Murray and a lead evaporated. Was Oleksiak afraid? Probably not, but he hesitated – all six feet, seven inches and 255 pounds of him hesitated.
Oleksiak later evened up a potential Pens’ power play when he cross checked Tom Wilson (it didn’t hurt, Jamie, you may not have noticed, but Wilson is pretty strong), and every subsequent Wilson shift had the Pens looking over their collective shoulder or desperately forsaking hockey plays for a chance to light up Tom Wilson.
Maybe the NHL will finally adjudicate Wilson, but probably not, as the rockheads who run that garage league still can’t figure out why dog shows, reruns of season 3 of NCIS and anything on Netflix have more viewers than their playoffs, but regardless, the Pens need to figure out a way to focus on hockey whilst the Tom Wilson Reign of Terror continues, or the next lights to go out will be on the Pens’ Cup hopes.