— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) May 2, 2018
Wilson’s hit on Aston-Reece came about midway into the second period in front of the Capitals bench as Wilson laid out a shoulder-to-shoulder contact hit. Aston-Reese left the game and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan revealed that he suffered a concussion and a broken jaw that will require surgery, likely ending his season.
As explained in the video issued by the Department of Player Safety, Wilson elevated up to make the head of Aston-Reese the main point of contact. It would’ve been a legal hit if Wilson stayed low and delivered the hit through Aston-Reece’s core.
Sullivan pleaded with the league to do something about it.
“It’s a high hit. What else can I say? It’s a high hit,” said Sullivan after the game on Tuesday night.
The reasoning as to why there was no whistle blown and no penalties being issued is explained in this statement from NHL on-site supervisor Paul Devorski:
Q: Why did on-ice officials meet for extended period of time after Tom Wilson’s hit on Zach Aston-Reese?
A: When we have a big hit like that, and there’s a lot of stuff going on on the ice our guys come together – because obviously both referees didn’t put their arm up so obviously they didn’t think there was a penalty. So now when they bring in the linesmen, who think it’s a major penalty, they’ll tell the referees. So they all get together and they said, ‘you know what, we’ve got a good, clean check here’
Both teams had optional practices on Wednesday morning. Wilson was among those Capitals players who did not participate.
“The situation last night I thought was body-on-body. Tom is a bigger player by I think probably about three or four inches and probably about 20 pounds. It was a collision and big hit and to me it looked like body-on-body,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz. “We’ve stopped it. We’ve looked at it, pictures all over the internet and to me he doesn’t leave his feet… I was surprised the player (Aston-Reese) has the injury that he does and I don’t know if they banged heads.”
“We lose a guy to a broken jaw that’s going to require surgery and a concussion because of another high hit to the head. At some point we would hope the league might do something,” said Sullivan.
“We all have our sides. I can’t be neutral and they can’t be neutral. That’s why we have a neutral party deciding,” Trotz added. “We have, like I said, very passionate fan bases on both sides and they’re gonna lobby for their side but that’s why we have a neutral party in the National Hockey League.”
The Capitals will now enter Game 4 on Thursday night without one of their key guys on the top line. It’s important they don’t let this decision by the league ruin their good play and mojo of late. The team must have a ‘next man up’ mentality. Whoever steps in Wilson’s place on the right wing will have big shoes to fill but it’ll be their time to shine.
By Michael Marzzacco