The Bruins and Capitals’ high-scoring affair turned chippy in the third period on Sunday. And in a stunning turn of events, Capitals winger Tom Wilson was involved in another questionable play.
Just to be clear, the hit itself from Wilson to Bruins forward Sean Kuraly was not egregious, in a vacuum. Not fine or suspension-worthy. About a 3/10 on the Tom Wilson scale. Relatively harmless and incidental, considering Kuraly’s bent-over position and the timing of his fall to the ice, and that he wasn’t injured.
But what raised an eyebrow was the reactions from the broadcasters on NBC Sports. Color commentator Eddie Olczyk talked about Wilson as if his rap sheet is clean and he’d never do such a thing.
“He’s in a tough spot there,” Olczyk said. “For Wilson you can’t – when you’re in a bad spot, you’re going to make your hit, the guy is falling, there’s no way that you can pull up, so to speak.”
Another look at the sequence: pic.twitter.com/qNcf4cHrGO— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 18, 2021
Analyst Brian Boucher at least presented a potential counter-argument, but continued to excuse the play away because That’s Just How He Is™.
“The only thing you could argue about Wilson was ‘Why was he lining up Kuraly to [hit] him? Could he have gone in there with the stick, stick-on-puck in a situation like that?’ But that is not the way Wilson plays,” Boucher said. “He is trying to make contact first. He’s not worrying about the puck and when Kuraly got low like that there was no way he could avoid the contact.”
The funniest reaction, however, was Wilson himself.
“Are we serious? I’m not even going to talk about it,” said an incredulous Wilson, according to JJ Regan. “It’s a nothing play. He’s fine. That’s it.”
That’s an indication that Wilson hasn’t learned anything from all the trouble he’s gotten himself into over the years, be it league discipline or media scrutiny. It’s wild that he would act like reporters are crazy for even asking him about it. Will he react that way next time he concusses someone?
Even Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy downplayed the Wilson hit on Kuraly, to be fair. But he’s better off picking his spots. He doesn’t have to call every Wilson hit “predatory,” especially when Kuraly came out of this one unscathed.
The problems with Wilson are obvious and universal, though. My issue in this instance is more with the broadcasters giving Wilson, of all people, the benefit of the doubt. And Boucher apparently has a history of this.
Wilson came within inches of causing another head injury, due to yet another reckless decision to follow through with a hit on a player in a vulnerable position. There’s a reason Wilson ends up in these situations more often than most NHL players. It’s not a coincidence.
It would just be nice to hear someone on the broadcast actually say that. At least acknowledge that Wilson doesn’t deserve to be straight-up excused from plays like this. He doesn’t need to be suspended or cancelled or prosecuted over this particular hit. But he doesn’t deserve anyone’s sympathy, either.
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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at email@example.com.