By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — At the end of the NHL’s regular season, Tom Wilson was the most controversial man in the sport of hockey. Through three games of the playoffs, though, he’s been a model citizen.
Outside of scoring the first goal of the series, giving an earful to a recently flipped-over-the-boards Charlie McAvoy, and sending Curtis Lazar into orbit, Wilson has mostly blended in as a regular hockey player participating in the hockey series during the hockey playoffs. At least he’s blended in to those of us watching from afar.
On the ice and on the benches, obviously, is a different story. And Bruins fourth-line winger Chris Wagner was happy to share what kinds of conversations are taking place between whistles during this insanely tight playoff series.
“I just told him to get mad,” Wagner said in his dry Boston accent on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand show. “Every time you touch him and stuff, he turns around like he’s gonna kill you. And he’s like, ‘I’d love to beat your face in.’ I’m like, ‘I mean, you can if you want, but it’s not gonna do anything for you.'”
As for the specific discussion during Game 3, Wagner said he had fun while poking Wilson.
“I go, ‘What do you think you’re untouchable?'” Wagner said. “He’s like, ‘You want me to beat you up?’ I’m like, ‘ … you can.’ And then I was like, ‘You should just get mad.’ And then he’s like, ‘Aw, I would love to beat that face in.’ I’m like, ‘OK man, all right.'”
Wagner said the “get mad” instruction is a common phrase among his friends, and Wilson’s quick trigger reactions to every post-whistle touch is the appropriate time to calmly let it rip.
“All my buddies, we always say to each other if someone is just getting mad about something stupid, it’s like, yeah, you should get mad, though,” Wagner shared. “Then I just naturally started laughing, because I think it’s funny that he actually gets mad if you like skate by the goalie. Then he’ll stick you or something. Like, all right. We get your whole act. Like, whatever. It is what it is.”
— Zolak & Bertrand (@ZoandBertrand) May 20, 2021
Wilson earned himself a seven-game suspension in March for hitting Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo in the head in Boston, so he doesn’t have many friends in the Boston locker room. Thus far in the series, he’s only taken one penalty, and that came after he embellished on an interference penalty by Boston defenseman Connor Clifton.
Tom Wilson hit with the ol' embellishment pic.twitter.com/OV0yII844F
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 18, 2021
Wilson’s kept his temper under control. But as the series only gets hotter, the Bruins will clearly try to push some of his buttons to get him to make a decision that hurts his team. And Wagner’s willing to get his face beaten in if it accomplishes that task.
Wagner was also happy to chime in on Alex Ovechkin’s little outburst at Ilya Samsonov as the goaltender came off the ice following a gaffe that gifted Boston the double-overtime goal in Game 3.
Alex Ovechkin isn’t happy with Ilya Samsonov pic.twitter.com/fXriByoz8r
— World Hockey Report (@worldhockeyrpt) May 20, 2021
“I don’t think Bergy would be screaming at Tuukks like that if something like that happened,” Wagner said.
Fourth-liners are known for always looking to stir things up. Usually that’s only on the ice. Wagner’s managed to turn his weekly radio spot into an opportunity to get under the opponent’s skin. We’ll see if it has any effect when the puck drops on Friday night in Boston.