Philadelphia Flyers forward Brayden Schenn was the victim of a hard hit from behind by Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. What will the incident mean for Schenn, Wilson and the Flyers?
It looks like Schenn will be more or less fine. Per the Flyers' official website, he said in practice Wednesday he felt "better than he thought" he would. Schenn told reporters he had "a little stiff neck but as far as the head, I feel good and that's a good sign."
Right now, the Flyers list him as "day-to-day." Unless he develops signs of a concussion in the future, it looks like Schenn will probably miss a game or two at most. For the Flyers, that has to be good news despite the fact that Schenn remains mired in a 12-game goal-scoring drought. The Flyers need Schenn to get back on track offensively if they hope to get balanced scoring throughout their lineup.
In fact, an incident like this may help Schenn put his slump into perspective and break out of it once he returns to the lineup.
The next question is whether or not the NHL will suspend Wilson. For the incident, Wilson received a five-minute major penalty for charging, five minutes for fighting after Nicklas Grossmann challenged him in the aftermath of the hit from behind on Schenn and a game misconduct.
The hit is clearly the kind of play the NHL is trying to eliminate. It was a hard blow from behind that caused a player to collide headfirst into the boards. Wilson came in at high speed and made no effort to slow down.
Flyers' coach Craig Berube called Wilson's actions "reckless" and added, "It’s up to the individual to control himself out there. You can’t run around recklessly because there are plays like that that happen."
Not surprisingly, the Capitals defended Wilson to the press. Star winger Alex Ovechkin told Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer that he "didn't think it was a dirty play," and later added, "Willy just finished his check."
Wilson's defenders also point to the fact that Schenn turned at the last minute before the hit, which changed his angle at too late of a point for Wilson to stop.
The 19-year-old rookie has never been suspended by the NHL before, so he is not considered a repeat offender. The fact that Schenn does not appear to have suffered a serious injury also works in Wilson's favor.
Wilson did contact Schenn the morning after the incident. "He reached out to me this morning," Schenn said at Wednesday's practice. "He’s obviously a classy guy. He said his intention wasn’t to hurt me or hit me like that, but things happen quickly."
It is likely that Brendan Shanahan will suspend Wilson for two or three games because of the speed at which he hit Schenn and the high risk of injury on the play. The league is trying to eliminate these kinds of plays as part of its crackdown on concussions and other head injuries. At the very least, Wilson will receive a fine as a result of his actions.
As for the Flyers, they already benefited from the incident. They scored twice on the five-minute major penalty assessed to Wilson. That gave them a 4-2 lead, and they went on to win the game 5-2.
As the Flyers rally around Schenn, it also may bring the team closer together as they defend a teammate against what they perceive as a dirty hit. Of course, many people said the same thing about the earlier brawl against the Capitals on November 1. It's one thing to say it, but the Flyers still have to go out and do it.
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