By Steve Silverman
Wilson gets a much-deserved suspension
Tom Wilson has been playing on the edge throughout his five-year career in the NHL. While Wilson had the talent to make the NHL and turn himself into a good hockey player who scored 14 goals and a career-high 35 points this season, his signature is playing the physical game for the Washington Capitals.
However, Wilson is not a player who is looking out for his opponents. He is looking to put them in a world of physical hurt. That is the opinion of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety after Wilson delivered a head-high hit to Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese in Game 3 of the second-round playoff series between the Capital and the Penguins.
Wilson, who was suspended twice during the preseason, was hit with a three-game suspension for his hit that broke Aston-Reese’s jaw.
Prior to his punishing check on Aston-Reese, Wilson had drawn criticism for hits on Alexander Wennberg of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round and Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin in Game 2 of the current series.
Wennberg missed several games, while Dumoulin avoided a serious injury. The league reviewed both hits and deemed that they were not suspension-worthy. That was not the case with the hit on Aston-Reese.
Head coach Barry Trotz said the Caps would make any adjustment they had to prior to the announcement of the suspension.
“We’ll prepare like we always do,” Trotz said. “The focus is on the next game, and any adjustments or any changes we make, we’ll react however we need to. We’re taking role call today and we’ll see where we are.”
There’s an element of fear every time Wilson is on the ice. He is a big, strong player who will punish opponents with heavy hits. However, his head-high hits are a danger to every player he comes in contact with and the league has had enough of his carnage.
He deserves this suspension and more if he continues to throw head-high hits whenever he feels like it.
Stars going the college route with Montgomery
The Dallas Stars had a disappointing season in 2016-17, and they parted company with veteran coach Lindy Ruff.
Ken Hitchcock was named head coach after Ruff’s departure, and while the Stars were on track for a playoff appearance throughout the majority of the season, they fell apart down the stretch and were left on the outside of the playoff structure looking in.
Hitchcock, who led the Stars to their only Stanley Cup in 1999, decided he had enough and opted for retirement.
The Stars are going in a new direction in the future, as they will announce the hiring of University of Denver head coach Jim Montgomery as their next bench boss. Montgomery led Denver to the 2017 NCAA championship, and he is one of the most respected coaches in college hockey.
Montgomery led Denver to the NCAA tournament in each of his four seasons with the school, and he had been successful in the USHL prior to taking his job with Denver. He had delivered two championships to the Dubuque Fighting Saints in his three seasons with that team.
Montgomery will have a core of excellent players to work with in Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg, and he is known for creating an excellent working atmosphere.
Montgomery will join Dave Hakstol of the Philadelphia Flyers as coaches who came to the NHL directly from the NCAA.
College coaches come with a reputation for creativity and helping young players reach their potential. The Stars have fallen short of expectations the last two years, and a top college coach like Montgomery comes with a new approach that will give them a much better chance of making the playoffs
Ruff and Hitchcock have both had wonderful careers, but a change is needed, and the Stars may not be the only team to dip into the college ranks.
Tampa Bay bounces back
When the Boston Bruins bounced the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 in Game 1 of their second-round series, it looked like head coach Jon Cooper’s team might have a little bit too much to handle against their opportunistic opponents.
However, Cooper did not feel that way for even a second. He was thoroughly unimpressed with his team’s skating and passion in Game 1, and he knew that the Lightning was capable of much more.
The beating in Game 1 woke up the Atlantic Division champions. They have responded with back-to-back wins in Games 2 and 3, and now the Bruins must find a way to counter-punch.
While the Lightning’s win on home ice in Game 2 was expected, they were dominant on the road in their 4-1 win in Game 3. They used a classic script to earn a playoff road win.
The Lightning got a couple of early goals from Ondrej Palat and played smothering defense for 40 minutes after giving up a power-play goal to Patrice Bergeron in the first period.
The Lightning defense completely bottled up the Bruins in the second half of the game, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was sharp when he needed to be.
Boston was unable to work its cycle game that led to its regular-season success and its first-round victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman have done a brilliant job of containing Boston’s top offensive threats, and the Bruins must figure something out quickly or the Lightning will turn this into a short series.