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Penguins Brush Off Questions about Tom Wilson’s Hit

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Pittsburgh Penguins Tom Wilson hit Mark Jankowski

For any Pittsburgh Penguins fan who watched the Penguins game on Thursday night, Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson was again a dirty villain. Late in the first period, Wilson clobbered Mark Jankowski at full speed, but the puck was well past and Jankowski was defenseless.

When pressed about the hit or appropriate responses, the Penguins deferred to officials and reiterated they had to play their own game.

Officials gave Wilson a two-minute interference penalty, though it easily could have been a major penalty and a call from the NHL Department of Player Safety isn’t out of the question.

“It doesn’t matter. The referees are going to make the calls. They’re going to call it as they see it,” Sullivan succinctly said. “We’re just going to play.”

Penguins defenseman Cody Ceci did put a good open-ice hit on Wilson in the second period, but for those expecting traditional hockey justice or Wilson to answer for his crimes, that was the extent of the frontier justice.

The player on the receiving end of the hit had good reason not to talk too much about it. He didn’t see it coming.

“I whacked the puck out of the air into their end,” Jankowski began. “I turned, I was about to go change, and I got hit.”

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan responded to PHN’s open-ended query about the Penguins response following the hit with a head shake. Washington gained control of the game following their penalty kill and for most of the second period.  We intentionally left the question vague without specifically asking about momentum swings or retaliation, but Sullivan wasn’t going to bite.

“It was fine. We’re just going to play the game,” he said while shaking his head. “Teams are going to try to play physical against us. They always do. We’re just going to try to play the game that gives us the best to win. And that’s what we try to do. The referees are going to call it as they see it…”

The Penguins took four penalties on Thursday night, but none were of the roughing variety. Indeed, there was only a couple of scrums in the second period.

On the ice, the Penguins reverted to their old mantra, “just play.”

When asked specifically if the Penguins should have confronted Tom Wilson, Brandon Tanev decidedly didn’t touch the subject, either. He, too, brushed past the topic without a hint of public engagement.

“Obviously, we saw the play develop and what happened. The refs thought it was a penalty and made the call,” Tanev said. “It’s not in our control. It’s up to the refs… we’ve got to continue to play the game and play the game the right way.”

Perhaps this is when reporters not being in the locker room or allowed anywhere near the players is a good thing for the team.

The Penguins’ public refusal to admit engage allows the team to discuss it internally. Or not discuss it at all. The Penguins’ response stands in stark contrast to the New York Islanders’ response to Mike Matheson’s hit on Mathew Barzal nearly two weeks ago.

New York head coach Barry Trotz did his best NYC wiseguy and hinted at retaliation without ever saying it. Trotz called the hit a “vicious crosscheck,” though that seemed an exaggeration.

“He’s got a couple of our guys here,” Trotz said. “(Matt Martin) sent a message to him, but yeah, it’s going to get testy. We have to play these guys a whole bunch. I think another four times coming up here, so as it gets ramped up, it will probably get harder and harder.”

That’s a nice defenseman you’ve got there. It would be a shame if something happened to him.

New York center Brock Nelson expressed his displeasure with Matheson and promised to remember, too.

“I think guys take notice,” Nelson said. “It’s a fast game, and things are going to happen. You just want to respond in a positive manner and make it hard on him moving forward. Let him know that we didn’t appreciate some plays…”

The Penguins President of Hockey Operations is Brian Burke, who coined the term “truculence” a decade ago when describing what he wanted from his Toronto Maple Leafs team. New GM Ron Hextall cut his teeth with and worked a long time for the Philadelphia Flyers, an organization that prizes physical play.

What might they have said?

Though it’s probably for the best that the Penguins did not exhibit loose lips. The last time the Penguins engaged in a war of words, Tom Wilson got the jump on Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and nearly knocked out Oleksiak before the Penguin could even square for a fight.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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David Heyl
David Heyl
7 months ago

Pens once had the answer but Sullivan refused to play him, now he patrols the ice in Vegas. I guess the 3 forwards Pens have on their 4 Th line now would respond, ha ha. This is a Sullivan problem everyone ignores. A # 1 pick was spent to protect our guys but Sully has other thoughts, just play the game from your hospital bed, take 2 aspirin & see you at practice in 6 weeks !!!!

Katz
Katz
7 months ago

Yes this Wilson effect is on Sullivan. And IMO the 2nd Round loss to end the threepeat is on Sullivan. Sullivan is a great coach with an undying stubbornness How many writers questioned the loss of Reaves at the time and really asked Sullivan If he thought the roster void weakened the Penguins vs Washington et al? ZAR’s jaw? I wrote obsessively . Here’s my challenge. Rewatch the Washington vs Pgh game , regular season , when Reaves was in the lineup. He challenged Wilson and the entire Washington bench . Wilson was quiet as a church mouse Pittsburgh won… Read more »

Cal
Cal
7 months ago
Reply to  Katz

I agree.

Ricardo58
Ricardo58
7 months ago

Thank you for asking the open ended question about the lack of a response or pushback. I mean some Pen could at least pretend to respond and a give a push and quickly hug 43 and go around in circles until the linesman jump in, hahahahaha. Obviously as a Pen fan, I’m no fan of 43. However, if 43 was a Pen I’m sure myself and some other Pen fans would certainly appreciate him. Tip of the cap to the play of 35 recently! Go Pens.

Frank
Frank
7 months ago

Maybe the demeanor of the new management team will make a difference, but anyone expecting a “response” to Tom Wilson from the current squad is delusional. For the most part the franchise has been very reluctant to add . . . and keep . . . and retain players that would provide “response.” Any player in that category has a very short shelf life here and the life that they have while here is not very good. If this annoys you, then here is to hoping that Hextall/Burke look to fix it . . . but in the meantime .… Read more »

Chester Gist Jr
Chester Gist Jr
7 months ago

Funny….Insaid the SAME THING 3 years ago and what was conveyed to me was HOCKEY DOESN’T NEED ENFORCERS ANYMORE, WHAT GAME ARE YOU WATCHING? To that I say HOCKEY ALWAYS NEED ENFORCERS NO MATTER WHAT STYLE YOU PLAY!! SMGDH

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