When Gary Bettman upheld Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension, he wanted it to be a “wake up call.”
Wake up call, indeed. Since returning to the lineup, Wilson is an offensive dynamo, tallying five points in four games (1g, 4a). And, while the sample size is very very smol, Wilson’s underlying play with Alex Ovechkin is encouraging too. The right wing is boasting a 58.3 shot attempt percentage (63 shot attempts for and 45 against) with the Capitals captain on the first line.
So, how has Wilson managed to snag all those points?
The answer is two-fold. First, Wilson is on the ice more. Wilson’s 24 minute, 24 second night against the Colorado Avalanche was the highest TOI Wilson has had in his career.
Tom Wilson, who played a career-high 24:24 tonight: "Altitude is definitely a thing. It's not a myth."
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) November 17, 2018
Part of this is staying out of the penalty box. Wilson only has two penalties on the season.
Another part is that Wilson is receiving sustained time on the first powerplay unit for the first time in his career. Against Colorado, Wilson received 4:14 of PP time. Since he’s returned, Wilson has seen the ice 6:46 on the man advantage.
Wilson’s first point came on his goal against the Minnesota Wild, where he was assessed a minor penalty for goalie interference. It was the most Tom Wilson goal ever.
After being held pointless against the Winnipeg Jets, Wilson had two assists against the Colorado Avalanche. Wilson breaks the puck out against Colorado’s Colin Wilson, mostly by taking a big hit, then chucking the puck to space where he knows Ovi and Nicklas Backstrom will be. The result is an Ovi snipe.
Wilson’s second point against the Avs was much of the same as the Ovi goal, just in the offensive zone.
Wilson engages in a board battle against Carl Soderberg, and while cross-checked, slings the puck to an open Nicklas Backstrom. Because Wilson takes Soderberg out of the play, Backstrom and Carlson have a 2-on-1 instead of a 2-on-2. Backy and Carlson abuse poor Patrik Nemeth for a game-winning snipe.
Wilson’s fourth point came on a breath-taking primary assist against the Montreal Canadiens. Teasing a shot in the offensive zone, a curling Wilson slings a pass to Alex Ovechkin who redirects the puck past Carey Price.
Wilson’s second point against the Habs was a secondary assist on the power play. First, he retrieves the puck before it dribbles out of the zone, then sends it to John Carlson at the point.
From there, Wilson drives hard to the net, causing Andrew Shaw to sag just enough and move his stick out of position for an Ovi Shot from the Ovi Spot.
The TL;DR version: Willy is winning board battles, crashing the net, and freeing up space for his playmakers, which has been sorely needed on some lines. If he can play smarter by not delivering awkwardly-timed, ill-advised hits, he’ll likely hit a career-high in points. He’s already 1/7th of the way there.
It’s nice to have you back too, Tom.
Headline photo: NBC Sports Washington
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