Photo credit: Robert Mayer

On Thursday, when word surfaced that Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine was close to returning to game action, we all wondered what George McPhee would do to get Big John back on the roster. Would McPhee put favorite of the coaching staff, Alexander Urbom, on waivers? Would he send down he-of-unlimited-options, Nate Schmidt? Or would GMGM send Dmitry Orlov back to Hershey for a seventh time?

Against the Florida Panthers Friday night, Orlov tried to make the decision easy for the team’s management, playing perhaps the best game of his career. Orlov skated 20:04 overall and 2:42 in overtime, the most of any Caps defenseman in the frame. Oates also rewarded Orlov during the shootout, giving him an attempt in round eight.

When Oates was asked by Mike Vogel after the game if he thought this was Orlov’s most masterful game in the NHL, Oates agreed, with a caveat.

“Yep. I think so,” Oates began. “But I still think we saw the offense, we see those plays he made in overtime. I’ve talked to him all along. I know that. You gotta do the job in our end.”

Orlov did just that though. All in all, the Novokuznetsk, Russia native had two shots, two hits, and a takeaway. He also had the team’s best possession numbers, on the ice for 12 shots for 8 against.

While Dima’s defense was sturdy and good, it was his dangles and skating ability that made him such a standout player Friday.

In the first period while Orlov handled the puck on the point, instead of turning the puck over or shooting the puck into a player’s shin pads, he deked around Panthers forward Jimmy Hayes and fired a hard slapshot from the left circle.

In overtime, Orlov’s confidence grew. He first made another deke and skated the puck into the zone, looking to generate some offense.

In the game’s last minute, Orlov dekes around another Panthers forward and almost scores from the slot.

There were just a few of Orlov’s good plays on the night.

This is the talented player we saw on tape for years playing in Russia. Orlov was good in his own end tonight and also created numerous chances on offense without hurting his team.

It’s decision time again for the Caps. Orlov deserves to continue his audition with the team. His talent and big play potential is something they need to continue to develop and bring out of him at the NHL level. Will they? Your guess is as good as mine.

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  • Jack Conness

    They better keep him on the squad. He deserves every minute out there. I am not sure what they should do with either Erskine, Schmidt, or Urbom but one thing is for certain: DIMA MUST STAY.

  • Topher Gee

    Does Oates say the same things to MG52? So 52-27 74-81 4-61. That 3d looks mean gritty and exactly what I want!

  • wood

    They have alot invested in him to just let him go in exchanged for some 2nd round draft pick. I know we took him in the 2nd round but you would have to start all over if you dealt him. Keep him. I like Callie Johannson but i dont know about his coaching ability. i see John Carlson is getting in better position as of late I hope that is from Callie…….if not Rod Langway could sure do just about as good if not better job. Caps need to pool all the old vet in to helping this team win a cup. For the love of god dont waste Ovi’s time in Washington with no Cup…..would be nice to get 3 or 4 but lets get that 1st one 1st


    “Yep. I think so,” Oates began. “But I still think we saw the offense,
    we see those plays he made in overtime. I’ve talked to him all along. I
    know that. You gotta do the job in our end.”

    I find it extremely hypocritical oates makes these remarks about orlov but he choses to ignore the complete train wreck that is mike green. You know because Mike Green is completely doing his job “in our end”.

  • Myan

    I just remember one time when we turned it over at center ice and they had a 2 on 1 going back to Grubi…out of NOWHERE, Dima just slides in but stays on his feet, takes the puck and made an awesome outlet pass to get it out of our zone. It was incredible. He played a hell of a game and I think that Oates recognized that. Like you Tweeted earlier, Dima had the most TOI in OT amongst defensemen. Positive sign!

  • scott

    Is there some kind of decree saying they cant scratch green and put in orlov when erskine makes it back. Seems orlov is playing better on both ends while green is sucking it up at both ends.

  • SAVE DIMA!!!!!!!!

    is oates blind? orlov was the best defensman ON DEFENSE on the team the last 2 games. i guess if orlov is too good to chip the puck up the boards in his own zone (which usually results in a turnover) and can actually make a play to get the puck out of the zone, he doesnt fit into oates system (that allows 35 shots a game and around 4 goals on average). it appears the orlovs playmaking ability in his own zone is frowned upon by oates. as oates said himself, good defense turns into offense, but i guess oates doesnt like to practice what he preaches.

  • SAVE DIMA!!!!!!!!

    only teams that are in dead last in the conference and looking to rebuild trade away their best defenseman. now if anyone needs to be traded, or plain cut, its the rat.

  • Mike Reppenhagen

    If they’re going to send Dima back down, might as well trade him and get some value. This dude is too good to not be a top 4 blueliner somewhere, even if (it breaks my heart to say) it’s not here. If we’re going to keep filling roster spots with guys like Erskine and Green who are playing badly, we deserve to lose talented young guys like Dima.

  • Matt

    i wouldnt split up 27-74 they play way too well together (and honestly id have them as the 1st pair)

  • Jerdon

    I hope Orlov can stay. He is definitely finding his game at this level. Trade Greene already.

  • Pat Magee

    Remember, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to match 2 left handers together… It DOESN’T WORK!!!

  • Buck

    sometimes I really question oates’ personnel decisions. I think Dima should’ve been up here at the start he has way too much potential and arguably better than shmidt


  • Topher Gee

    Yeah CARLZNER work well but they offset the other two lines too much. There is too much risk with Green (40+ giveaways) on the ice with out a sturdy sweeper behind him.

  • Myan

    This is probably a far shot but what if Oates is withholding his comments on Green because the management has been talking about shopping him around? That would make sense why Oates has been mum about Green when it’s obvious that he’s struggling (understatement of the year). Just a thought…or rather, a wish. Please, Santa??

  • Matt Lauer

    I agree with you re: Erskine and Urbom, but Schmidt is okay by me.