The Washington Capitals have a bad habit in the playoffs. I’m not talking about the general Capitals franchise playoff habit of choking in game sevens. I’m talking about this specific 2017-18 Washington Capitals team and the habit this 2018 playoff season of launching into hits.
The most notable incident is of course the Tom Wilson hit on Zach-Aston Reese of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. Reese famously ended up with a broken jaw and a concussion, and Wilson famously ended up in the press box for a three game suspension.
A shockingly high number of people defended that hit in particular, not just in Capitals circles but all across the hockey Universe. “If that hadn’t been Tom Wilson, no one would be talking about it. Great hockey play!”
The thing is, with Tom Wilson it’s not just one hit. It’s several questionable minor ones, and three major ones so far this playoffs (the hit on Aston Reese, one on Brian Dumoulin in Round 2, and on Alexander Wennberg in Round 1, both resulting in concussions).
The other thing is, it’s not just Tom Wilson. It’s T.J. Oshie.
It’s Alexander Ovechkin.
It’s Devante Smith-Pelley.
It’s pretty much all of them, really.
Obviously there have been a few isolated questionable hits from other teams, but there hasn’t been more talked about team than Washington in this regard.
That trend, for better or worse, was the clear difference in most of the games they’ve won this playoffs, and why the Capitals sit one win away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance.