Tom Wilson entered the season with more expectations placed on him. With the departure of Justin Williams and other key players to free agency, the fifth-year pro had some big shoes to fill. After spending his first four seasons as mostly an enforcer, Wilson’s offense has been on the upswing in his fifth season.
Through 53 games, Wilson already has career highs in goals (10), assists (17) and points (27). Wilson scored the lone goal of Saturday’s 7-1 Capitals loss to the Blackhawks for his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digit goals.
“For me I don’t like to set a goal saying I have to get this number but it was kind of important coming into this year to help chip in offensively. We lost a couple of key pieces and my role kind of expanded. That’s expected. You’re expected to go out there and help the team win. You gotta produce to do that,” Wilson told the media after Sunday’s practice in Buffalo.
Part of his production increase has come from spending time on the top line with a playmaker in Nicklas Backstrom and an elite goal scorer in Alex Ovechkin. Wilson has had three multi-goal games this season, something he didn’t achieve in his first four seasons with the Capitals and his ice time has increased to an average of 15:32 per game, via Hockey Reference. That mark is also a career best. One would think something changed in his offseason workouts or preparation on the ice and weight room that helped with the change but Wilson said he didn’t change anything
“I try to play the same game every night. I don’t try and change my game at all. I try to go out there and work as hard as I can and work for my linemates, work for my teammates,” said Wilson.
The Capitals need Wilson’s production in the home stretch of the season as the team has 24 games left entering Monday afternoon’s contest with the Sabres. With the Capitals trailing the Penguins for first place by just one point in the Metropolitan Division race and a tight race between the top four teams, playoff seeding will come right down to the wire.
“We got a lot of hockey left and some important hockey coming up. That will be the focus for the rest of the year,” said Wilson.
By Michael Marzzacco