It’s no secret that the Islanders are irate over Tom Wilson’s hit on Lubomir Visnovsky in Game 4 of their series with Washington, and that hit will help dictate the pace of how Game 5 goes tonight. Whether the hit was clean or not is a matter of opinion, but either way, Visnovsky has a concussion and his season, and more importantly career, is in jeopardy.
Visnovsky being out of the lineup is the Islanders’ second top-six defenseman missing, as he joins Travis Hamonic in the press box. Visnovsky was working the second powerplay unit, a void most likely to be filled by either Calvin de Haan or Thomas Hickey. Griffin Reinhart will take his place in the lineup, but he has only played just over a handful of NHL games. Visnovsky will still be around the team, but losing his veteran leadership in the locker room will be a huge blow to the team.
In terms of the series, the hit is proving to be more important than initially thought when delivered. The Islanders players have publicly made their opinions known on the hit, and radio comments from Brooks Laich certainly did not make it better.
“We have to stay disciplined. We could have easily hit a lot of guys like that too. We stay within the rules.” -John Tavares on the hit
From a Washington radio station:
“What it did was Visnovsky got put out of the game and that puts them down to five defensemen in the second period. It’s a quote-unquote good penalty to take.” -Brooks Laich on the hit
There’s no doubt Game 5 will be high energy throughout the whole game, no matter which way it sways. The Islanders, however have to use the pent up anger inside themselves to their own good in the series, and not for retaliation. Using this as motivation could give them team the extra push they need to advance to the second round, but that will only happen if they don’t let Washington and Tom Wilson into their heads.
At the end of the day, it’s the playoffs. Exerting your energy to on ice performance and possibly getting back to home ice with a 3-2 series lead should be a more enticing thought to the Islanders than getting payback on Tom Wilson is. Along with that, the Islanders fourth line has been their best line all series, and they can’t sacrifice that for a lengthy portion of the game just to get a fight in there.
This series has the chance to get ugly, but I don’t think that will happen until the first time the teams play next season. Tom Wilson is a tough customer, and he will have no problem dancing with either Matt Martin or Eric Boulton if the bell does ring.
The series is tied 2-2 and Game 5 is tonight (April 23rd) at 7 PM EST.