For the first time in three seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins will not be competing in the Stanley Cup Final.
Sidney Crosby and company have played a ton of hockey over the last 24 months, and the wear and tear finally caught up after winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
With Marc-Andre Fleury out of the picture and the loss of Nick Bonino, Ian Cole, Chris Kunitz and others, the Pens simply ran out of gas and were limited by injuries in the second round against the Washington Capitals, who finally slayed the dragon this spring after losing to the Pens in 2009, 2016 and 2017 (the same three Stanel
Reaves was then dealt at the deadline to the Golden Knights in a unique multi-player deal involving the Senators that saw the Pens acquire centre Derick Brassard. The notion around Pittsburgh was that 6-foot-7 defenceman Jamie Oleksiak would be able to slip into Reaves’ role and fill the void of the lack of perceived toughness on the team.
While we’ll never fully know how much of a difference Reaves would’ve made against the Capitals in the second, Pens general manager Jim Rutherford wasn’t too happy with the way Tom Wilson was backing down from Oleksiak in the second round.
In an interview with Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rutherford didn’t hold anything back on how he felt when Wilson broke the jaw and knocked Zach Aston-Reese out the series with a concussion, landing the Capitals pugilist a three-game suspension.
“When Jamie challenged Wilson, he couldn’t run quick enough to get away from him,” Rutherford told the Post-Gazette.
“Until, of course, the referees get in close, then [Wilson] comes back and says something to him.”
Penguins fans agreed with their GM. To which a Capitals fan had a pretty solid reply to.
Rutherford went on to say that Reaves would’ve “offset” Wilson out on the ice.
There’s definitely an element of truth to what Rutherford is saying, but to say Wilson would’ve stopped playing his style that has made him an asset to the Capitals this playoffs and over his career is a bit of a reach.