The Risk and Reward of Dmitry Orlov and Mike Green


Photo: Evan Vucci

Thursday night, defense partners Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov were on the ice for two goals against. On Florida’s first goal, Jesse Winchester torched Orlov, blowing past him on the far wall. For the Panthers second goal, the duo left men wide open in front of Braden Holtby before Brad Boyes flipped the puck in.

Sunday afternoon, however, the pair was brilliant — at least for the first 50 minutes. Orlov had the first multi-goal game of his career while Green racked up three assists. It’s usually a zero-sum game with Greenlov: they either win big or lose badly.

Today, though, it was both. With 10 minutes left in game, Orlov went after Brayden Schenn, who had just hit him behind the net. Dima unleashed a brutal board in the corner, receiving a well-deserved five minute major. The Flyers got scored on the ensuing power play. They added two more to stun the Caps in their first game back at home since the Olympic break. Orlov and Green, naturally, were on the ice for the game-tying goal.

“He didn’t change,” head coach Adam Oates said of Orlov’s hit. “He was on the same shift and he went right back after him.”

“You’ve got to suck it up when it’s your turn,” the coach continued. “They hit hard too. They’re big boys too. They’ve got to push, they’re losing. They’ve got to push. We’ve got to be able to handle that.”

Earlier in the year, Oates was not happy with Orlov’s defensive play, which was likely the reason the Russian toiled in the AHL at the start of the year. The coach was less interested in Orlov’s offense than his reputation as a defensive liability. Orlov, though, eventually played his way into the top-four, becoming an important part of the team’s defense.

Ideally you could pair Orlov and Green with solid, shutdown defenseman, allowing them to jump up in the play without becoming a liability. The Caps, though, don’t really have one of those players outside of Karl Alzner, who is already mixed with an offensive defenseman in John Carlson. Green and Orlov, therefore, have been paired together most of the year, though that might change when Jack Hillen comes back from injury. Orlov is still only 22 though, in just his second full season in the NHL. The Caps defense isn’t deep enough to shelter him. They paid the price for that Sunday.

“I know he’s a young guy,” Oates, who devoted most of his five minute press conference to that single hit, said of Orlov. “We count on him a lot, but we need him to be under control.”

“You’ve had a great game, scored two goals,” Oates added. “Now’s not the time. We need to be disciplined. We talk about it all the time. That’s the type of game that team wants to play. They’re good at that. We’re not.”

For the Caps, Orlov’s penalty resulted in their 14th blown two goal lead of the season, the team’s third in the last three games. Against a division rival and after playing so well in the first period, this one hurt — emotionally and in the standings. Walking out of the locker room, Holtby slammed the door to the showers, disgusted with his team’s play and the final goal. He told reporters the loss was “embarrassing.”

“At this point in time you’re supposed to be better than that,” Oates said.

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  • Something is off here. I’m not sure what. They should be seeing better results.

    One thing: all 4 players are under 1000 PDO (i.e. unlucky).

  • Mike Reppenhagen

    Thank you for mentioning Hillen. I hadn’t seen that he was getting really close to a return. I think Carlzner, Green, Orlov and Hillen make a fine group of 5, meaning we’d only really need to trade for one top 4 guy, with the lines being something like Carlzner, Green & New guy, Hillen & Orlov.

    I’d love that, if Oates could get over his handedness thing.

  • Rob W.

    how was the defense when alzner and Carlson were split up? i dont actually remember. And also who would you put Hillen with when he comes back?

  • riggorules

    I can’t remember how the Green-Alzner pair ever faired, I’m sure it’s been tried?

    I miss Schmidt.

  • Louis Porter

    I think it’s call the “Intangibles”. I think that’s my problem with all the charts and such that get flashed around. They don’t tell the whole story.

  • Graham Dumas

    Great title, really covers it all.

  • ugh, this shit again?

    If the things result in a score, they can be measured. That’s the only reason we care about this in the first place: because these things correlate with winning.


    Are you telling us that replacing Green with Dan Girardi wouldn’t help this team because dan girardi doesn’t get the same number of shots on goal as green? #failCorsiLogic

    Also no stats can account for turnovers that result in extended zone time. You just have to watch the game and you can clearly see Mike Green doesn’t help this team as much as these stupid unproven stats think he does. When Ovechkin is on the ice, i’m sure the Corsi is heavily favored for the caps, but if you look at offense produced vs offense allowed, it the opposite at even strength.

  • Myan

    On the bright side, lapses in judgment is an easily fixable problem. When Dima let Winchester past him vs Florida, it was a lapse of concentration but that’s also a fixable thing. This was an unfortunate loss but I’m confident that Dima will reflect on these past few games and he’ll come out better.

  • johnnymorte

    I think getting Girardi is a great idea but you can’t replace MG52. No other defenseman would be able to place pucks in Ovechkin’s wheelhouse the way Green has learned to do. It’s a 3-6 month learning curve. Green had some stumbling points early on in the season probably due to his health/stamina. Or maybe he was just off his game. Happens to everybody. He has definitely regained his form. Go watch the playoff tapes from last year’s series and tell me Green was not poised and controlled with the puck. MG52 is the best Dman on this team hands down and he will show it down the stretch like he does every year.

  • “Also no stats can account for turnovers that result in extended zone time”

    Possession does exactly that. I’d prefer if we could find out how many shot attempts per zone entry each player allows though.

    “You just have to watch the game and you can clearly see Mike Green doesn’t help this team as much as these stupid unproven stats try to tell us he does”

    I do watch the game. I watch all the games. The point of the stats is to reveal things our biases hide from us– like how Mike Green is actually good.

    “When Ovechkin is on the ice, i’m sure the Corsi is heavily favored for the caps, but if you look at offense produced vs offense allowed, it the opposite at even strength.”

    Very astute. Ovi has 51.1% possession but only 40% of the goals. That’s mostly due to bad goaltending by the Caps and bad shooting by his teammates– thing he can’t reliably control.

  • Carlson w/o Alzner: 45.4% possession, 44% goals.

    Alzner w/o Carlson: 46.2% possession, 33.3% goals.

    I dunno about Hillen. I’d rather see the issue made moot by an awesome trade for an awesome dude.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    I’m hoping Orlov gets suspended for 1 or 2 games so he ca natch from the press box. Sometimes that is beneficial for a guy to sit back and get a different view. Plus, this way he doesn’t get scratched and become butt hurt towards the coach.

  • CM

    “The point of the stats is to reveal things our biases hide from us.”

    True, but it’s a two way street. You also get to use your eyes to tell you where the statistics aren’t measuring things correctly. This leads to the development of new statistics that measure more things more accurately. It’s a virtuous cycle.

    I’m not a hockey stats guy so I really can’t argue on substance. But from my point of view there seems to be a ton of faith placed on a few extremely smooth estimators. This isn’t a bad thing on its face, smooth estimators reduce the effects of variance but you pay for that in bias. Anyway, I don’t find it particularly unreasonable to say that the stats we currently have access to, while accurate predictors of performance on average, smooth over some things that coaches should be interested in.

  • Well said. There are definitely better microevents that we wish we had access to. Right now, we’re limited epistemically, but we’ve still got a) regression analysis that tell us these stats do describe patterns of winning and losing teams, and b) enough varied data to provide context and delve deeper.

    If you ever catch me saying the stats are the END of the discussion, correct me. They’re just here to start the conversation or lead us back to sanity when we veer off into crazytown.

  • Louis Porter

    Funny because your comments are so damn open ended. “Something is off here. I’m not sure what.” I can just see you poking the chart saying “What the hell is wrong?” like you don’t have a clue. When I offer a suggestion like “Intangibles” you go high and right with “ugh, this shit again?” If you’re looking for things that can be measured how about time off between games. Are those defensive pairings better or worse after back to back games or with a day or two off? Are two offensive defensive men better together the one offensive and one defensive? But hey what the hell do I know right?

  • The “intangibles” isn’t the problem. The assumption that charts *try* to tell the whole story but cannot and are therefore flawed is the problem.

  • Louis Porter

    Got’ca! 🙂