PHILADELPHIA — Tom Wilson’s charging hit on Brayden Schenn with 15:17 gone in the second period resulted in 20 penalty minutes against the rookie winger and knocked the Flyers’ center out of Tuesday’s contest, but Capitals Coach Adam Oates was resolute in his stance that it wasn’t a dirty hit.
“I thought it was a clean hit. I really do, I watched it live, saw it on the Jumbotron, watched it again between periods,” Oates said. “He had changed. He went across the ice, he slowed down, he saw Schenn come out of the pile with the puck, took two quick strides. Schenn saw him at the last second and [Wilson] hit him in the arm. He’s a big strong guy, he hit him hard, yeah. To me, it’s a clean hit. I don’t even think it’s a penalty at all.”
But Wilson received five-minute majors for charging and fighting – the latter stemming from when Nicklas Grossman immediately jumped in to fight the 19-year-old following the hit – along with a game misconduct. He may receive supplementary discipline from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety as well.
The Flyers recorded two goals on the ensuing five-minute power play that proved to be the defining moment in Washington’s 5-2 loss at Wells Fargo Center.
“It’s a game-changing call,” Oates said. “They call it the way they think they see it. I can’t do anything about it. I’m also mad that they don’t get an instigator after [Grossman jumped in] that because every single time we’ve had one of our guys hit and another guy goes across it’s an automatic instigator to neutralize the play. I felt bad for Willy but we’ll talk to him about it because it is a game-changing play.”
Wilson was not made available to reporters after the game but Alex Ovechkin agreed with Oates’s assessment.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think it was a dirty play. He saw the hit coming, he turned, and Willy is a big boy,” Ovechkin said. “It’s always dangerous out there, it’s hockey. When you get hit, you have to be ready, especially at the boards. I don’t think he was ready, I think he was going to turn, but Willy just finished his check.”
Replays show Wilson come flying through the offensive zone into the left corner to hit Schenn. He makes contact with Schenn’s arm and back, sending the Flyers’ center hurtling toward the boards. While Schenn does turn at the last second to face the boards, and put himself in a more vulnerable position, that is not a factor that comes into consideration on charging penalties. That’s different from boarding where the rulebook states whether a player put themselves in a vulnerable position must play into an official’s decision.
From the NHL rulebook:
42.1 Charging – A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner. Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.
Schenn fell to the ice three times on his way to the bench, but after the game it was unclear the full extent of his injuries. The Flyers, naturally, saw the hit in a different light than the Capitals did.
Philadelphia Coach Craig Berube called it a “tough, reckless play” and forward Jakub Voracek said he’d like to see more respect between players in that scenario.
“Obviously don’t want to see our teammate in the front go down like that. Obviously it was an ugly hit,” Voracek said. “He kind of turned into it too, though. It’s hard to read that before the play was coming down, but he had a full speed. The league’s trying to take it out of the game, so you’ve got to make sure there’s a little respect between the players is there. It shouldn’t be in the game right now.”