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.