The Washington Capitals’ run to the 2018 Stanley Cup championship was bolstered by a veteran core that featured a defensive unit that proved steady en route to the team’s first championship. Among the core pieces was Brooks Orpik, who was one of the team’s alternate captains and a previous Stanley Cup winner.
The Capitals signed Orpik in the summer of 2014 and the Boston College product would play five seasons in the District. The longtime blueliner recently joined former teammate Karl Alzner’s podcast “Alz Caps” [HERE] and among other, topics, dove into the Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry.
Orpik recently graduated from his alma mater Boston College having completed the 12 credits remaining to attain his degree. The rigors of an NHL career make it almost impossible for young players to continue their education once making the jump.
“Overall it was an awesome experience. I actually walked and did the diploma ceremony. It was actually really, really cool, I had my two daughters there to watch so that was pretty special. I didn’t know if I was ever going to finish. I wanted to but they had a policy at Boston College where you had to do everything on campus. There obviously weren’t a lot of good things that came out of COVID, but one of the things selfishly, they put everything online…overall I really enjoyed it, I think I valued it more.”
Orpik’s joining the Capitals in the summer of 2014 came after an 11-season career with the Pittsburgh Penguins (arguably the Caps’ biggest rival), the team that drafted him 18th overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Following his retirement in 2019, Orpik joined the Caps’ Player Development Department.
“I remember coming into Washington, I remember talking to Nisky [former Penguins and Capitals teammate Matt Niskanen] during free agency and we didn’t really think it was going to be able to work, money-wise, and somehow they made it work. Talking to Matt, one of the most appealing things was how much talent was in Washington.”
The steady, physical stay-at-home defenseman arrived in Washington with a committed work ethic, noted fitness and health regimen, and a veteran presence that brought an immediate change to the Capitals’ locker room, particularly the team’s other defensemen; chief among them Capitals’ top blueliner and Orpik’s former running-mate in D.C., John Carlson.
“I think looking back at my Pittsburgh years, we were probably guilty of some similar things [referencing Alzner’s comments regarding the Caps’ locker room feel] and then I remember when Gary Roberts came in, and Gary was a lot more abrasive than I was, he came in and I think everything was changed within two weeks. I think if you come in, you want to chip away, and I didn’t have the profile Gary did so Gary wasn’t really afraid of ruffling any feathers. But you look around, there are so many good teams, if you can get just one percent better, that one percent edge over teams, oftentimes that can be the difference in the postseason…you want to help people, but what works for me might not work for the next guy. So I like telling people what works for me and if they want to try it, great, but you can’t really force it upon anyone one. We all know Ovi, he’s one of a kind though, he’s kind of a freak.”
While the centers of attention in any Pittsburgh-Washington matchup in the last 17 seasons have been Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, their supporting casts have also played a major part in the many memorable contests between the two clubs. On the blueline, the Caps boast John Carlson, while Pittsburgh has benefited from the play of Kris Letang.
“No, I don’t think they are completely different. Carly makes everything look so easy, like even at times when I think people try to say ‘oh he’s not trying’, I think he’s so efficient that sometimes it just looks like that where like Kris Letang, I mean you watch this guy get up and down the ice, he must burn crazy amount of calories every game, he’s a guy who probably has to work a lot harder to accomplish the same stuff as Carly. I think a lot of the time, the two of them get labeled as offensive guys, and I think that’s doing a disservice to their all-around games. Carly is a little bigger than Tanger but they both can be physical at times, they don’t back down from anybody. That’s the one thing that jumps out at me the most, I always hear the two of those guys labeled as offensive guys, which they clearly have offense to their game, but I think people ignore how good defensively they are and their all-around game.”
Listen to the full podcast with Orpik HERE
By Michael Fleetwood