An update from Vegas on Tuesday night: Ryan Reaves and Tom Wilson still do not like each other. Like, at all. The two wrecking balls on skates have personal beef going back to last year’s Stanley Cup Final and they’ve dropped the gloves a few times in the past. But that rivalry saw another violent
The two wrecking balls on skates have personal beef going back to last year’s Stanley Cup Final and they’ve dropped the gloves a few times in the past. But that rivalry saw another violent chapter on Tuesday when the Capitals visited the Golden Knights in Vegas. Reaves and Wilson made it a point to go at one another from the outset, doing so in hard, good-spirited fashion.
In the first period, there was a sequence in which Reaves buried Wilson twice in less than 10 seconds. The first hit came in the Capitals’ offensive zone and saw Wilson get completely outmuscled by one of the few players that’s capable of outmuscling him. When the Caps forward skated down the ice for payback at the other end, he once again found himself on the ice.
The sequence brought unbridled joy to the face of Reaves, who couldn’t help but laugh in Wilson’s face after the failed attempt at revenge.
But things got a bit uglier in the second period, and once again it was Wilson on the losing end — though this time it came by much more unfortunate (and illegal) means.
As both players shared the ice in the Knights’ offensive zone, Wilson briefly gained possession with a quick touch pass and was subsequently crushed by Reaves with a late, blindside hit. While the collision wasn’t egregiously late or overtly dirty — the contact was shoulder-to-shoulder — it still had a rather ugly outcome. Wilson’s helmet was sent flying and his head appeared to bounce off the ice as he came crashing down.
Wilson had trouble getting to his feet and needed assistance leaving the ice. He was ruled out with an “upper-body injury” shortly after and didn’t return to the game. As for Reaves, he received a major for interference and was ejected.
After the game, Reaves said he didn’t believe the hit was that bad and that Wilson “ran into a lion in the jungle.”
“That was a man’s game out there … I thought he was just looking at his pass, and he ran into a lion in the jungle,” said Reaves. “If he sees me, I know he’s gonna try and lay me out and I’m not gonna let that happen. I thought it was shoulder to shoulder and I didn’t think it was that late.”
The NHL‘s Department of Player Safety apparently somewhat agreed with that assessment, as it was reported Wednesday that they would not pursue supplemental discipline for Reaves.
That’s likely not a decision that sat well with Capitals coach Todd Reirden, who seemed rather angry about the whole ordeal after Tuesday’s contest.
“Reaves targeted him the entire game,” Reirden said. “You could hear it on every faceoff, you could hear the things that were being said and it’s a blindside hit where an unsuspecting player hits his head on the ice. That’s disappointing. You can put two and two together, but he targeted him the entire game.”
This was a rare instance that Wilson has been involved in a violent, controversial hit and not been the punisher. He’s one of the league’s most oft-suspended players, having been tagged with a ban from the league four times over the past two seasons. Just last week, he avoided more heat from the league office after being ejected foras Reaves’ on Tuesday.