Familiarity breeds contempt, yes, but also, contempt breeds contempt. The Capitals and Penguins would dislike each other even if they didn’t meet four times a season and then again seemingly every spring, but the prolificity of the rivalry gives the bad blood the time and exposure it needs to ripen into an exquisite bouquet of hatefulness.
The Caps are up 2-1 in their series after Alex Ovechkin’s late-game heroics on Tuesday, but the result has been to some extent overshadowed by the prowl of Tom Wilson. In Game 2, Wilson laid out Brian Dumoulin. In Game 3, it was Zach Aston-Reese:
Aston-Reese suffered a concussion and a broken jaw that will require surgery, and is done for the year.
Wilson was not penalized for the hit on Aston-Reese, but he does have a disciplinary hearing scheduled for today. “At some point, we would hope that the league might do something,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said.
[UPDATE: Wilson is suspended for three games.]
The Pens were more upset over what happened after the hit. As Aston-Reese was tended to, bleeding from the face, Wilson was smiling on the bench:
“I get the physical game. I get the physical play,” Letang explained after the game. “I’ve been on the wrong side of it. At the end of the day, I respect what kind of game he plays. But you don’t laugh at somebody getting hurt. You just ... you don’t do that.”
Justin Schultz added that it was “disrespectful.”
In his press conference today, Caps coach Barry Trotz said Wilson wasn’t laughing at the injured Aston-Reese, but instead that someone on the bench had said something to Wilson about the deafening boos, and he was reacting to that.
But Wilson’s hit wasn’t the only point of controversy in a truly nasty second period. In a post-whistle scrum, Sidney Crosby jawed with Evgeny Kuznetsov, and this happened:
I’m not sure if Crosby spit here. It certainly looks worse in slow motion than at real speed, where it appears the head movement could have just been him getting yanked back by Ovechkin. But this debate isn’t confined to fans Zaprudering the footage; it’s apparently a topic of discussion in the Capitals locker room. In his presser today, Trotz gave an answer that’s on its face noncommittal, but would seem to hint that he believes there was a loogie.
Game 4 is Thursday night, and whether Wilson’s there or not, there are going to be scores to settle. Oh, and a really important hockey game.