Photo credit: Rob Carr
The morning after the Washington Capitals suffered a stinging 5-0 defeat at the hands of the visiting New Jersey Devils, the mood at their practice was mixed. There were some lighthearted moments, like Alex Ovechkin falling down after attempting a one-timer and causing Alex Semin to double over laughing. Or a few minutes later, when the birthday boy got into a pretend squabble with Troy Brouwer.
But as the players one by one trickled into the dressing room and began answering the reporter’s questions, Friday night’s performance was on everybody’s mind. How did the youngest member of the Washington Capitals deal with one of the team’s worst showings of the season?
Below the jump, Dmitry Orlov discusses the loss to New Jersey, changing defensive systems, wearing the full cage mask, and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s future.
Igor Kleyner: So what is the approach, for you personally, as well as the team as a whole, to dealing with something like what happened last night?
Dmitry Orlov: Yeah we had a rough game yesterday. A really bad defeat. We really need the points. We did have our scoring chances, and if we realized them early on – it would have been a completely different game. We all were upset about the way it turned out. We need to look at what went wrong, analyze it. We are all adults here. But it is hard to deal with a game like that. We just need to analyze the game, figure out what went wrong, and move on and forget about it. This is a difficult month for us; we are playing pretty much every other day. So I just need to give it my best every time I go on the ice and help the team anyway I can, because we really need the points – the standings are so tight, with Winnipeg and Florida and ourselves, but we really need to win the division, not just make it to the playoffs.
You can’t really study what went wrong and what mistakes were made right after the game, because the emotions are just too high; you need a bit of time usually the next day, then you can analyze the game, figure out what to correct, what were the mistakes and how to avoid repeating them in the future.
Igor Kleyner: Was it difficult to adjust to playing with the full face mask? Any lasting effects from the injury?
Dmitry Orlov: It had been two years since I switched from the cage to the visor, so at first it was quite difficult to adjust. It really affects the vision and constantly gets in the way. But toward the end of – what was it – two weeks? – I got used to the mask. But now I went back to the visor, and it is much more comfortable to play with. When I got hit in the face, not even once, twice – it was a bit scary the second time. It was pretty bad – but now it’s all right, I don’t even pay any attention to it anymore. The nose is fine, no problems with breathing.
In his first season with the Capitals, the young Russian defenseman has faced many adjustments – a change in the coaching staff, followed by a switch to a man-to-man defensive system, switching from the left to the right side, and being paired with just about every other defenseman on the team’s roster. We wanted to know how difficult it was to handle all these challenges. It turned out that a comparable experience in his last KHL season prepared Dima for the change in the team’s defensive philosophy.
Dmitry Orlov: I had a similar situation last year, the first half of the season my team played man-to-man defensive system, and then a new coach came in, and we switched to a more zone-type defense, where each defenseman pretty much stays in his own area. Kind of similar to what happened here, but the other way around – with the new coach, we went to a different defensive system – pretty much the same one I was used to two years ago. So it wasn’t anything new for me, I was familiar with it. In the beginning, it took a few games for everybody to adjust, and there were some mistakes, some misunderstanding – but now I think we are all used to it. Which system is better? That’s for the coach to decide, we just go out there and execute.
Igor Kleyner: Of all the guys you have been paired with, who did you find to be the easiest to play with?
Dmitry Orlov: I really enjoyed playing with Hamrlik. I got to play next to him for quite a few games in a row, he is a very experienced defenseman, he was helping me a lot with advice, talking to me on the ice.
Igor Kleyner: Is it because he is also from Europe?
Dmitry Orlov: Maybe, but he has a lot of experience here as well. I liked playing with him and learning from him. But all the other partners I got to play with – they were all good. No matter who I play with – we need to adjust to each other. But I did like to play with Hamrlik a lot – and I think we weren’t bad at all together.
With the recent misfortunes of Evgeny Kuznetsov, another young Capitals prospect from Russia, and the mystery surrounding Kuzya’s plans for the next season, we had to ask Dima what he thought. Turns out the last time the two teammates from the victorious Russian team of 2011 WJC talked was about two months ago, when Kuznetsov was in Canada for this year’s junior tournament.
Dmitry Orlov: I talked to Zhenya on Skype when he was in Calgary for the WJC’s. I am sure we’ll talk again sometime soon. I know he was injured. I heard 3 to 5 weeks – but who knows, it’s playoffs. But it’s really important not to rush, to have everything healed properly before returning on the ice. I know Traktor will miss him a lot – although they are a very good team. I watched one of their games this season – they played a very attractive game.
So, is Kuznetsov coming to the Capitals next season?
Dmitry Orlov: Is he coming here next year? Hard to tell. I really don’t know the answer. When we talked he was asking me a lot of questions, what I like here, and what I don’t like. I told him how much I like everything here, but it really should be his call – to come here or to remain there, and whatever his decision is, we should respect it and not judge him. I just hope he makes the choice that the best for him, and wish him all the best.