PITTSBURGH — It was the clash everyone expected, no one wanted to see yet everyone anxiously awaited. Tuesday night, after some chirping, pokes from all sides, and escalating tensions, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Erik Gudbranson removed Washington Capitals forward from a scrum with Jake Guentzel.
Gudbranson moved Wilson and removed his Penguins teammates from harm. The Penguins beat their rival Washington, 5-3.
“He just happened to be there. If it was anybody else, I would have done the same thing,” Gudbranson smirked. “Maybe for you guys (it was enjoyable). Certainly for the people in Pittsburgh.”
It certainly was a catharsis for Penguins fans who roared their approval as Wilson hit the ice beneath the 6-foot-5, 217-pound defenseman. Just as they roared when Gudbranson bounced the 6-foot-4 Wilson into the boards with a shoulder check.
“I knew if I could get a lick on him, let him know I’m on the ice, too at some point in the game that was something I wanted to do,” Gudbranson said.
Gudbranson and Wilson had a couple of chats throughout the game but were mostly limited to words and a little bit of wrestling. The linesmen were brave souls and stepped between the nearly 13 feet and 400 pounds of angry humanity. A few more words were shared across the penalty boxes, but the situation ended there. Gudbranson downplayed any notion that he specifically looked for Wilson or behaved differently because of Wilson’s history against the Penguins.
Wilson did concuss two Penguins since May. Tuesday night it was a fair fight. Wilson stirred physical play in front of the net and Gudbranson interceded.
Tom Wilson played a clean, physical game as he and Gudbranson battled.
Before Gudbranson took down Wilson, Wilson plowed defenseman Marcus Pettersson and was engaged with Jake Guentzel. Without Gudbranson, Guentzel would have been left to deal with the situation. That doesn’t sound like an ideal solution.
After watching the progression, does anyone want to say that a physical presence capable of pushing back doesn’t help?
His Stats Are Terrible!
In the days following the Penguins acquisition of Gudbranson, the simple and easy refrain became: I don’t need to see him play, his stats are terrible. And pushback doesn’t work.
Having dispelled the latter bit of dogma, Gudbranson is also laying waste to the statistical putdowns, too. It’s funny how playing with a better team, players and in a more suitable system can do that for a player.
Get this–Gudbranson has a 56 percent Corsi rating with the Penguins (Corsi is the ratio of shots + shot attempts, for and against). He’s been well above 50 percent in six of the seven games. But Corsi is a rating for fans.
The Penguins coaches and players pay more attention and discuss scoring chance ratios. In that key metric, Gudbranson has been a rock star since arriving in Pittsburgh. In five of the seven games played, Gudbranson has earned a 60 percent scoring chance ratio.
“I felt really solid out on the ice. (The Penguins) was an easy team to step on to. There’s a lot of good hockey players here,” Gudbranson said. “They make themselves available all over the ice. So, it’s a team working together.”
Against Washington, the Penguins–as a team–badly lost the advanced metrics. However, Gudbranson posted the Penguins highest advanced metrics. As a team, the Penguins posted a 37 percent Corsi. Gudbranson was at 56 percent. The Penguins had 36 percent of the scoring chances. During Gudbranson’s ice time, the Penguins had 58 percent of the chances.
It seems the Penguins are in good hands.