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Throughout the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the performances of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Braden Holtby (among others) have been well-documented in the Capitals’ run to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. One player who hasn’t received much attention is Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, who, despite largely unfair criticism from some in the Caps’ fan base, has performed exactly as he has since the team signed him in 2014.
The only member of the Capitals’ roster with a Stanley Cup ring (which he won in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins), Orpik’s experience and leadership have been a welcome addition to the Caps’ locker room throughout the first four seasons of his five-year contract signed in 2014, especially so this season, when the Capitals have employed multiple young defensemen and forwards after losing key veterans the past two seasons. Throughout the 2018 playoffs, Orpik has played with rookie blueliner Christian Djoos, serving as both a defensive compliment to Djoos’ offensive skills as well as a mentor to the former seventh-round draft pick. But Orpik’s play throughout the annual spring tournament has been impressive and key in the Caps’ run to the Stanley Cup Final. In 21 playoff games played, Orpik has averaged 16:59 of ice time a game, recording four points (one goal, three assists), with a plus-16 rating, which is the best among all players who have played in the 2018 playoffs.
Orpik has always played a physical, stay-at-home style of game, something the Capitals wanted from him when they signed him to a five-year, $27.5 million contract in free agency in 2014 (a contract that while disputed, IS worth the price the Caps pay him), and a style of play he has played since arriving in the District. While his ice time has decreased as he has aged and with the increased roles of Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen, and the additions of Michal Kempny and Djoos this season, Orpik has remained one of the Caps’ most reliable defenders, both at even-strength and on the penalty kill, on which he has logged a total of 68:46 minutes in the playoffs, the most among all players who have competed in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has also blocked 15 shots.
With the Capitals set to host the first Stanley Cup Final game at Capital One Arena in 20 years on Saturday night, Orpik will be relied upon to keep members of the Golden Knights out of Braden Holtby’s goal-crease. And given his performance thus far, that shouldn’t be a concern.
By Michael Fleetwood