Brooks Orpik

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Caps Unhappy, But Moving on Without Wilson

May 03, 2018 - 2:58 pm

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - In advance of Thursday night’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal between Washington and Pittsburgh, Capitals players voiced their displeasure with the NHL’s decision to suspended forward Tom Wilson for three games.

Wilson, who avoided discipline for a hit on Brian Dumoulin in Game 2, delivered a jaw-breaking, concussion inducing hit to Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese in Tuesday’s third game of the series.

“It doesn’t really matter what we think, to be honest with you,” said defenseman Brooks Orpik, a former Penguin. “I’m sure everyone has their opinion. It’s not really going to do us any good to voice that. We just have to move on, accept the decision and try to focus on winning the game tonight.”

While Washington players were bothered by the length of the decision, they seemed to collectively follow Orpik’s path.

“Because it was so surprising for all of us, I think you can use any type of adversity,” Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said. “If you have the mindset that you’re going to fight through anything, you can push yourself to new limits. That starts with focusing in Game 4.”

Wilson plays the game on the edge, this current suspension in the third of his career. He was also fined for a knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the 2016 postseason.

“He means a lot for this team,” Washington capitain Alex Ovechkin said. “Physicality, other teams are afraid when he’s on the ice and it shows. He plays hard and people respect it.”

Indications from Washington’s morning skate point to winger Devante Smith-Pelly taking Wilson’s spot on the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

“He’s a good skater,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s got some weight to him. He’s played on that line and they’re familiar with each other, so I think it’s an easy fit for us.”  

While Trotz did not go into great length on his disagreement with the length of the suspension, he backed his players’ desires on moving on.

“It doesn’t change anything for us, he said. “We have a lot of result in the group. Our strength is in the group. Next man up, get it done. We have one focus and that’s to try to get a win tonight and move forward.

But it was Orpik, himself was suspended multiple games for a hit on Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta two years ago, who was the most vocal in defense of Wilson.

“He’s a big piece of our team,” he added. “He does a lot of really good thing for us. It’s unfortunate that a lot of people classify him or view him in a certain way because of a hit that went maybe an inch wrong. I think everyone in here has a lot of respect for Tom as a player and person.”