Sunday afternoon, the Washington Capitals had a group outing at Nats Park to watch the Nationals take on the Miami Marlins. Tom Wilson, Brooks Orpik, Braden Holtby, Nate Schmidt, and Karl Alzner all appeared to be in attendance with children. The Caps had a private suite.
On Thursday, the Capitals gathered at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to discuss another season that ended prematurely. The players were more visibly emotional than in years past at the annual end-of-season confab with reporters, promising Stanley Cups to the fans and articulating their frustrations with plenty of “failures” and “sucks.”
The news, however, came in the form of injuries revealed publicly for the first time. Karl Alzner’s ailment was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Referred to by Braden Holtby as the team’s most important player, Alzner missed most of the final game with a torn groin. He played just two shifts early in the second period before being pulled from the game.
“I know that the first four games of the series, I was just out there filling a spot, Alzner said. “I was out there and I was not hurting the team I don’t think, but I also wasn’t helping in winning in the game. That’s when you know you can still do things, but once I’m getting beat up the ice trying to chase a guy and not able to at least stay in battles, that’s when you know it’s time.”
Two years ago, Brian MacLellan signed Brooks Orpik to a five-year deal because of the veteran defenseman’s “leadership and experience.” Tuesday night in Game Six, the 35-year-old Orpik took a four-minute double minor penalty for high-sticking.
The Penguins scored twice on the resulting power play.
Mike Milbury, whose personality wavers from patient to cranky night to night, is the kingpin. During the first intermission of Game Two, Grumpy Milbury launched into an angry screed about Brooks Orpik’s headshot on Olli Maatta. The Orpik hit was bad, don’t get me wrong, but Milbury’s analysis still somehow managed to be over-the-top.
For 30 minutes a crowd of reporters and cameramen stood in front of the white board in the Capitals locker room at CONSOL Energy Center. Numerous players entered the room and went to their stalls after Washington’s morning skate on Monday, but the assembled media stayed right where they were, waiting for Brooks Orpik to address the three game suspension levied by the NHL for his late hit to the head on Olli Maatta. Finally, after everyone else was already off the ice, Orpik walked into room, took off his equipment, and walked in front of the lights. While the rest of Capitals defended Orpik or refused to comment earlier, the offender made no excuses.
“I think it was fair,” Orpik said of the punishment given to him by the league’s Department of Player Safety. “It was a bad hit. It was intended to be a hard hit, definitely not at his head, but I don’t think there is anything that you can argue that it was definitely late. I think that was pretty black and white. I said that during my hearing yesterday.”
On Sunday night, as Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks played Game Two of their second round series, the NHL turned the attention of hockey world elsewhere, suspending Capitals defensemen Brooks Orpik three games for his high, head-hunting hit on the Penguins’ Olli Maatta on Saturday. The suspension is the third doled out by the league’s Department of Player Safety this postseason. All have been for incidents that occurred in Capitals games, but this was the first suspension levied on Washington. Given the recklessness of the hit, the team knew this was coming.
“I’m sure everyone’s planning for him not to be in the lineup,” Daniel Winnik said at a media availability the team held here in Pittsburgh before the suspension was announced.
Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik is questionable to return after a hard check along the boards by Philadelphia forward Ryan White.
Orpik was caught in a vulnerable position along the boards. White appears to hit him up high in the back and the head, as well as making contact with the knees. Orpik falls to the ice and is unable to get up.