Photo credit: Alex Brandon

If you’ve been watching Dmitry Orlov play as long as I have, you’d know that his previous stints with the Washington Capitals have only shown bits and pieces of who he could be as a player. Dima’s 60-game audition with the Caps in 2010-11 was okay. He scored three goals and tallied 19 points, but played a timid, defense-first game under Dale Hunter.

In 2011-12, Orlov suffered two gnarly concussions and was never the same that season.

But in 2012-13, after working his butt off with Semyon Varlamov over the summer in Amish country, Orlov has finally put it all together. Despite not making the team out of training camp, Dima forced multiple call-ups after leading the Bears in points. Now that he’s finally playing in Washington, Orlov is showing off both sides of his game, which should (hopefully) make him a regular for the rest of the season.

On Friday, Orlov had the team’s best possession numbers. Sunday against the Flyers, Orlov did it again, but this time also played a crucial role in a huge Caps comeback from down three goals.

In the third period, Orlov skated 7:15, the second most among Caps defensemen. During that frame, he also scored the Caps third goal of the game — off the face-off — which brought them to within one of the Flyers.

GIF by welshhockeyfan

In total, Orlov had three shots on goal and a hit. But to really appreciate his game, you need look at the possession numbers again. Orlov tilted the ice better than any other Cap when he was deployed, on the ice for 19 even strength shots for and 7 against.

When asked about Dima’s play by reporters, Oates replied that he “thought the second half of the game he played very well,” which is a pretty lukewarm response.

“I’ve seen the offensive plays; I’ve seen the shot,” Oates reiterated. “The more he plays correct in our end, the more he’ll become a regular player. He’s got the ability to become a real good hockey player and we want consistency in our end.”

I don’t understand these weird responses from Oates, especially considering the myriad of struggles other Caps have had in their own end this year. The tough love is working I guess. Orlov’s dominating in possession, scoring goals, and playing the best hockey of his career.

I’ll take it.

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  • This photo of Orlov by Geoff Burke is also amazing.

  • Jack Conness

    I have no idea why Oates loves Laich and why he doesn’t like Erat and Orlov. Blows my mind. Orlov was extremely impressive tonight and he deserves a ton of playing time. I don’t get Oates’ comments either because he obviously likes how he is playing, evident of the time he got in the 3rd period and OT tonight. #FreeDima #FreeErat

  • Ben Reed

    I have two competing thoughts. One, is that the comments are just “bad-cop” coaching, and the minutes speak for themselves.

    The other thought is…WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK. Which defensemen on the Caps, exactly, are so free of defensive lapses that they are free of this sort of scorn?

  • Chris Cerullo

    Adam Oates suffers from “yea but” syndrome. The guy has proven you wrong. Just roll with it and give him the praise he deserves.

  • Spencer Z

    Orlov also didn’t get send down unlike Schmidt. So increased ice time and not being sent down I think are all good signs that Oates is just being careful? Maybe? Idk.

  • I hope bad cop? Here’s video of Oates’ full press conference from tonight.

  • Catherine__M

    Wait, when did he start playing? Under Dale Hunter? Wasn’t that 2011-2012? I could also be doing some very bad late night maths….

  • Cameron Walkup

    Anyone else see Wardo’s dive to try and block Orlov’s goal? WTF? Almost cost us the game!

  • Myan

    I think he’s trying to tip it.

  • Myan

    I think Oates is playing coy with Orlov because he thinks that there’s still more to his game than what he’s shown and he wants to see Dima work to realize his potential. He doesn’t want to tell him after 2 games “you’re amazing, you’re the defender we’ve waited for all season.” Oates obviously trusts Dima and that’s apparent in his ice time.

  • RESmith

    I find Oates’ comments curious as well. However, since it a month ago, back when the Caps d-core was playing god awful, it seems they have given Calle Johansson a bit more autonomy with the personnel decisions with the defense corps. It may just be me that sees that. But our d seems to be playing much better. Orlov getting more ice seems to have happened in concurrence with that.

  • VeggieTart

    In which case, Oates should say that the kid shows incredible potential that they want to develop.

  • Yes, in late November of the 2010-11 season. He first played under Bruce Boudreau and then a few weeks later he was fired and Hunter was brought in.

  • Graham Dumas

    Yeah, I’m really struggling with this, because I like Oates and think he’s a good coach. I also think his system is generally very good for this team as it is right now. But, really?

    Perhaps the posts below are right about bad-cop coaching, or not wanting to over-praise Dima. But come on, throw the kid a bone, here!

  • dylan wheatley

    both have asked for trades

  • Myan

    Meh, maybe Oates is a fan of Machiavelli.

  • Roman Z.

    Did you see how happy Ovi was when Orlov scoared !!!

  • Cameron Walkup

    I know :-). Just funny seeing him fly across the ice to try and ‘deflect’ a shot that if he had tipped would have cost us the game.

  • Chip

    Yeah it’s hard to argue against the coach that seems to have truly revitalized Ovi into the monster he was, but some of these decisions and comments make no sense whatsoever.

  • Catherine__M

    Hunter was coach from 2011-2012 though…This is Oates’s second season 2013-2014. Last season was just plain ol 2013 because of lockout, season before with Dale Hunter was 2011-2012.

    And not gonna lie and pretend I actually knew that the real way. I just remember which of the long-ago boyfriends I went ot Hunter’s first game with. And I didn’t think he was *that* long-ago of a long-ago boyfriend :).

    It’s also right about the time I started reading RMNB, to bring a happy memory into the conversation 🙂

  • Dave

    My best guess at an interpretation from Oates to English is this:

    “Orlov’s very talented and making plays that work out, but he’s not making correct plays according to my mysterious system, so I can’t praise him publicly and give other defensemen the impression that they can freelance too.”

  • They are bros. And I love it.

  • Jack Conness

    They asked for trades because of their lack of playing time. Both need to see more ice time. I think Erat has been playing pretty well as of late and he needs to stay in the lineup.

  • yv

    It looks like Europeans/part SAf (CJ and OK) have more to say now who will play in D and GT. And they seems better understanding players from Europe (Orly, Grybi, even Erat and Grabo). As I recalling when Orly hit the ice first time and then stayed even in OT, Oates said that ‘it was Calle’s call”. Grubi’s start tonight was a big surprise and might OK had an input in this.

  • troyerlaw

    I still think that first goal ought to be Ovie’s. It was re-directed by Timonen, not MoJo. (Note the way Timonen throws his head back on disbelief. That’s an own-goal head-snap if ever there were one.)

  • CDizz

    “to try and block Orlov’s goal”
    You sir, are an imbecile.

  • Yes I am

    The Oates quote was from before tonight’s game

  • Shaun Phillips

    He’s also being tripped. Stick around his right ankle.

  • Fedor

    Orlov was the best player on the ice for the Caps last night.

  • Christoffer Salo Salomonsson

    Bend it like Orlov! iwe never seen a curveball in hockey before..

  • Shaun Phillips

    Neither is McKayla

  • Benjamin Scarbro

    Is that Elliott in the background?

  • Sure looks like him.

  • No, you are wrong and I don’t appreciate you not checking before you calling my reporting into question.

    Oates basically reiterated what he said the other night. Please listen to the audio (around 3:30ish)

  • Dan

    He had a few bad shifts early on and one particularly awful one where he turned the puck over multiple times and he and greener were stuck in the zone. Oates is right.

  • JH

    This interpretation is spot on. It’s easy for us as fans to say he should be praising Dima to the rafters, but Oates has got to keep things even keeled in an 80-game season. And (I think for the best), Oates is always reserved with his praise – he’s also usually pretty reserved in his criticisms.
    BTW: Last night he also said Ovechkin could be become a better player. He said (starting at 2:00 or so): “I think there’s room for his game to grow. I do… He can become a more complete player.” A reporter asks how, and he just says “Lots of ways. Lots of ways.” And smiles, knowingly.
    I think that says a lot. Helluva coach.

  • bskillet

    Great shield by the other #8 blocking Mason from seeing the puck.

  • ZyphZorg

    I thought Orlov had problems in the D zone in number and type that you’d like to see less of by a full time NHLer

  • Yes I am

    No you are right. He did say the exact same thing the night before. And your article came out before they put video of his post game press conference on their ipad app. Your still a douche though. I doubt this gets through just wanted you to know

  • AOandCo