The Stanley Cup Playoffs are insane. They are a grueling and gruesome tournament that pit rivals against one another repeatedly in a meat grinder. It’s no secret that after meeting for the third time in as many years, there is a general level of dislike between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The difference between the two teams and what has determined winning and losing — the team who is willing to just play their game.
How many times have we seen the Capitals turning their playoff matchups with the Penguins into a series filled with dirty hits and nonsense?
Tom Wilson appears to knee Sheary. pic.twitter.com/KsrykjPaCc— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) April 29, 2016
During Game 3 of this series, the Caps had the Penguins right where they wanted them. The series was only 2.5 games old, but they’d significantly outplayed the Penguins. Pittsburgh had that 4 minute stretch of Game 1 where they scored 3 goals and stole the game. Otherwise, the Capitals were looking like a pretty well-oiled machine. Then Tom Wilson (who skated away freely on his hit on Dumoulin in Game 2) took his run at Zach Aston-Reese and that may have changed everything.
Another hit to the head by Tom Wilson pic.twitter.com/PAiErjxNPF— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 2, 2018
The Penguins aren't going to seek retribution on the ice. They’re just going to play their game.
Flash forward to the end of Game 4, Wilson’s first game suspended. It was a fantastic hockey game with barely any nonsense at all. A fast-paced, fun, and still physical matchup without any ridiculous behavior like this — until the end.
As Jake Guentzel was pocketing the puck into an empty net to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead, T.J. Oshie felt the need to channel his inner Tom Wilson and put rockets on his skates to go after Kris Letang in the corner.
The Capitals have what it takes to beat the Penguins in a playoff series, but until they learn to stop beating themselves by trying to beat up the Penguins, the story will never change.