The topic was Tom Wilson’s Game 4 hit on Lubomir Visnovsky, which knocked the veteran defenseman out of the game, and perhaps out of the series.
The discussion began with Eric Bickel asking Laich whether he thought Wilson’s penalized Game 4 hits were clean; Laich said the hit on Visnovsky was “maybe a little questionable. Maybe the puck is a couple of feet away. But once [Wilson] gets moving, look out, because he’s not gonna stop, he’s gonna run right through you. Just a big, strong kid, and I’m glad we have that guy on our team.”
Nothing controversial there, and in fact, Laich actually called the hit into question. But then Bickel asked whether a hit like that can build momentum, assuming the penalty is killed. Laich responded with an “absolutely.”
Then came the controversial part.
“And what it did was Visnovsky got knocked out of the game,” Laich said. “That puts them down to five D, in the second period, which — with the way we play with a heavy forecheck, a grinding forecheck, big forwards that finish our checks — playing with six defensemen is tough enough. But playing with five is even more difficult. So it’s a quote-unquote ‘good’ penalty to take. It knocks them down to five defensemen. We kill the penalty off, we get momentum and now we can really start to lean on their defense corps with only five guys left.”
That apparently did not go over well. Via Newsday’s Arthur Staple:
The Isles, already upset over losing Visnovsky, were further incensed when audio of Caps forward Brooks Laich’s radio appearance on a Washington station surfaced on social media. …The NHL’s Player Safety department was informed of Laich’s comments, though such things usually warrant only a talking-to, not a fine or suspension.
One Islanders blogger described Laich’s comments as “absolutely disgusting,” “complete and utter idiocy,” “glorifying goonish behavior” and “stunning.”
The Islanders, of course, had already been upset with Wilson. Via SNY:
“The puck wasn’t even close to where Lubo was,” John Tavares said. “So it’s just a complete target of a defenseless player.”
“[Wilson] went in to hurt our guy, obviously,” Thomas Hickey said. “You know, Lubo’s a 5-foot-10 guy with a head injury, and you go and make a hit like that. There’s a penalty on the play. I guess I won’t say too much more than that.”
“We’ve seen the hit,” Matt Martin said. “I think we can throw those hits too.”
“We could have easily hit a lot of guys like that, too,” Tavares said,” via the New York Times. “We stay within the rules and play the game the right way.”
As Alex Prewitt detailed, both Wilson and Coach Barry Trotz said that Wilson’s hit was clean. (Or “fairly clean,” in Wilson’s case.) Trotz said the hit was “really no different than like Martin or Clutterbuck or Cizikas, they’re hitting hard and they’re hitting clean.”
Wilson again discussed the hit Wednesday afternoon on ESPN 980.
“Obviously that one big hit got a lot of attention, but at the end of the day it’s about being physical on their D-men,” he said. “I tried to finish the check as clean as possible, and hard, and watching the replay it looked pretty good.”