Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
At this point, Capitals-Flyers games seem to devolve into elaborate displays of petty violence almost by habit. There’s no real point, but they do it every game. Sometimes, they even start punching faces. Last year, the Caps got into 18 fights with the Flyers, including the preseason. That accounted for a third of Washington’s fight total for the season.
“Not many guys on this side like them on that side and not many guys on that side like us,” Tom Wilson told me. “Last year there was a lot of high emotion.”
Indeed there was. In the preseason of 2013, Wilson pummeled Brayden Schenn, his favorite sparring partner, in an epic fight which left the Philly player bloodied. In November, Ray Emery mauled Braden Holtby during a wild line brawl, in the same game that Vinny Lecavalier had his mouth rearranged by Steve Oleksy. The next month, Wilson came flying across the ice to level his friend Brayden Schenn again. That officially put Wilson on the Philly’s naughty list. Since then, Brayden and his brother Luke, who also plays for the Flyers, have been trying to teach Wilson what happens when you get on that list.
“Him and his brother seem to come after me,” Wilson said of Brayden. ”If he wants to come back, that’s the kind of player he is. He’s a pest. Give him credit, he keeps coming hard, but no one on our side is gonna back down from him.”
This year, relations haven’t warmed between the two teams. Including the preseason, which seems to be particularly nasty along Washington and Philadelphia, Caps have fought the Flyers 17 times so far, again accounting for more than one third of the team’s fights.
While no one dropped the gloves during the Flyers Wednesday night visit to Washington, the game took on a familiar tone. There were big hits, really big hits, and nasty scrums. And as usual when things get nasty, Wilson was involved. Washington’s leading troll got into numerous shoving matches with his best buddy Brayden and other Flyers. Wilson has fought the Flyers more than any team in his career, but he refrained from engaging them on Wednesday.
“It’s tough,” Wilson said after the game. “Rivalry night, packed house, national TV: it’s the perfect stage for a good fight.”
“Guys on their side, they’re just trying to get into the crap,” he added. “You have to be a mature player, especially that this level. You can’t do anything undisciplined, you can’t do anything to break up the flow of the game when things are going well.”
With a 1-0 victory, things went well for Washington on Wednesday. And Wilson was able to resist the urge punch Brayden Scheen in the face.
“It’s fun to fight, don’t get me wrong, especially on a stage like that,” Wilson concluded. “At the end of the day you want to play hockey. You can’t score from the box.”
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