Dmitry Orlov was all smiles after Monday night’s victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, and why not? The Russian cannon potted two goals in front of the hometown crowd, something I think was much appreciated on Orlov’s part.
As you are well aware of by now, the NHL road has not been a very smooth one for Orlov, as his Capitals career has closely resembled the peaks and valleys of a daily value graph from the New York Stock Exchange. Call-ups, re-assignments, injuries, playoff goofs, amazing goals, etc., the list is quite lengthy.
It’s probably safe to say that Orlov has been one of the more polarizing players amongst Caps fans over the last two years. He’s shown moments of brilliance, interlaced with staggering mistakes. His play has provided plenty of fuel for those who like to debate the “Orlov factor”, as Orlov allegiances seem to fall fairly evenly on each side of the proverbial fence
Personally, I’ve tried to stay objective with Orlov, remain aware of any personal bias (we all have them), and assess as constructively as possible. Up until this season, I would say I fell on the side of “Orlov must go“.
TURNING A CORNER?
Orlov has settled down with the latest defensive pairings. The Capitals tried to pair him with most of the top-six defenseman on the roster, and it looks like they’ve finally found a good fit with Matt Niskanen. In the last 25 games, Orlov is ninth on the team in points, and 11th in goals scored. Quite respectable for the young defenseman.
You may want to consider it “baby-sitting”, or trying to find a place to “hide” Orlov, but the fact of the matter is, Orlov is indeed still young, and just needed to find a comfortable fit. In fact, the latest defensive pair combinations have greatly helped the entire defensive core.
A PERSONAL MOMENT OF CHANGE
The clincher for me? No, it wasn’t how he handled his big, two-mistake game earlier in the season against the Islanders. (He handled it well). No, it wasn’t his two goals on Monday night against Carolina, although they were a thing of beauty. (I’ve watched hours upon hours of Orlov blasts at Kettler, and they still amaze me).
No, it wasn’t the recent goals, nor strong defensive play this season, including his flashy hip check he made earlier in the season against Colorado.
No, it was a relatively innocuous team-first play he made against the Penguins on January 11th. In a typically nasty battle with the Penguins, Orlov went after former Capitals defenseman Steve Oleksy, after Oleksy threw a cheap shot to Marcus Johansson’s leg.
Props to Orly, going after Binky like that.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) January 12, 2017
There was no hesitation on Orlov’s part. No time to think “I should probably do something here”. He defended his teammate in an instant, and went after a known scrapper without caution, and with no real backup on the ice (read Tom Wilson). That’s the kind of player you want to go to war with.
I’m convinced Orlov is all-in for this team, and he is needed for a Stanley Cup to come to Washington this June. Like all players, there are pros and cons, and Orlov’s may be more pronounced, but for right now, I feel he’s a much-needed piece to the puzzle. I’m sure we’ll have to swallow a future goof or two, but I’ve accepted that, and I think the Caps have too.
Objectively, I feel Orlov’s true defining moment is ahead of him, and not found in last year’s playoff video. He may always be a 50/50 guy (keep him or trade him) amongst fans, but for this season, in the team’s current configuration, it’s working.
By Jon Sorensen