Dima losing the puck. Poor guy.
If you’ve ever watched warm-ups before a Capitals or Bears game, you may have noticed a pattern. Dmitry Orlov will spend 10 minutes zig-zagging along the red line, working on his puck-handling skills. Orlov, a defenseman who loves jumping up on the rush like Mike Green, is attracted to offense like a moth to a flame. During his younger days in Russia, Orlov was used routinely during shootouts.
At last year’s Caps Development Camp, Igor Kleyner asked Orlov if he’d like opportunities in the shootout once he came to North America. Orlov nodded and explained,”I think any player would want to get a chance to score in a shootout, although you need to be able to handle the situation mentally,” he said. “You have to be confident; you can’t be nervous. It’s mostly a game of nerves: goalie versus the shooter.”
When Orlov came to America to begin his professional career, his above-average offense was apparent. On November 18, 2011, when the Hershey Bears visited the Syracuse Crunch, Bears head coach Mark French played a hunch and sent out Orlov during the gimmick to see what he could do.
I don’t have video, but Orlov lost control of the puck before he shot. He told us after that game, “the puck just slid off my stick.” Dmitry, who can be very hard on himself, later added, “with a shootout attempt like I just had, I don’t think I am going to be called up [to the Capitals] any time soon.” Two days later after a three-point night, George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau gave him his first call to the big leagues. The shootout miss did not matter so much.
Fast forward a few months to March 13, 2012, Orlov was playing in the 51st NHL game of his career. Boudreau, the only Capitals coach Dima had known, had been canned a few months earlier, and Caps great Dale Hunter was now in charge. After falling behind 4-1 to the Islanders, goals by Alex Ovechkin and Orlov helped forced overtime. After a scoreless extra frame, the Isles and Caps were forced to decide the game in a shootout.
Hunter would give Orlov an opportunity. And we all remember what happened.
Replays of Orlov’s failed shootout attempt were everywhere the next day, even making ESPN’s Not Top Ten list. It was an embarrassment for the youngster. Since then, Orlov has not had another opportunity in the skills competition.
Two weeks ago Igor and I traveled to Hershey to catch up with a few of the players, and we wondered what Orlov thought of the experience last year. Igor and Dima’s interview is below.
Given your shootout adventures last season, would you be willing to try again?
Well, it is not my call, but if the coaches trust me to take another shot… at least I have got to make it all the way to the goal! I am not ready to give up on shootouts. Last year against the Islanders, I just got so nervous, and then the puck just slid off my stick. I was terribly upset. At least we won that game. If we had lost, I would have felt even worse about it. Since we won, I just tried to forget about that moment.
Were you surprised when Hunter asked you to do it?
Not really. I was actually pretty good in shootouts in practice, so they trusted me to do it in the game. I guess they would have been better off not to! The guys were teasing me a bit afterwards, but that’s fine. Just a normal work environment!
A word of wise to Adam Oates and Mark French: don’t be shy to use him again. Orlov may have spectacularly failed once or twice, but he’ll get a big goal soon. He’s not afraid of the big moments — just maybe a little nervous.