Saturday night, the Washington Capitals got shut out by the Blues 4-0. St. Louis’ first goal, by Kyle Brodziak, started with a turnover behind the net by Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov.
CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Alan May, a veteran of 393 NHL games and 17 professional seasons of hockey, broke down the play and showed how Orlov can learn from veteran Brooks Orpik. This is brilliant stuff (and no, he didn’t pay me to write that, though he probably should, considering how mean he is to me online).
For those of you who can’t watch the video, I went ahead and transcribed what May said below with screenshots.
May begins by explaining all of Orlov’s options.
The Caps, we saw some fundamental errors tonight. I’m going to show you an example.
As Orlov goes down to get this puck down the half wall, he’s got some decisions to make.
He knows that he has David Backes on him and this is one of the biggest, toughest, hardest forecheckers in the NHL. As Orlov gets into this area, the option is to keep rolling around the net. But what he does is he tries to shovels this pass. He bails out of it.
What you want to do is button hook right here. You can tap pass that. It’s called a reverse. Then Orpik would go and get it. He’d come in here and just move the puck up to the wall to the winger who would be Jason Chimera.
He doesn’t. Watch what happens.
He gets out of the way. You want to keep that puck strong side. Now you’ve broke your coverage as a team.
So if the puck comes around everybody gets caught puck watching. I’m not sure how the Caps want to handle this. Do they want Jason Chimera all the way back here (in the crease). Because right now, you need Orpik to go here so Dmitry Orlov needs to get to the front of the net. As this happens, everybody gets caught puck watching, plenty of guys go for the same player, and Kyle Brodziak’s wide open.
Next, May shows how Brooks Orpik handles the exact same situation later in the game.
Now here, wily veteran Brooks Orpik. Now this puck was punched back. You’ve got two St. Louis Blues forecheckers.
So as Orpik goes back to retrieve this puck, gets there, watch what he does.
An excellent job right here. He knows he can’t beat these two. He had a (potential) shoulder check and he sees the guy right there. And a player there. What he’s going to do is protect this puck, strong side. So as he goes back here, he bumps the puck up the wall and a player comes and gets it.
They do a decent job of getting it out. Burakovsky’s got to get this puck out of the zone. You don’t stop inside the blue line, you stop outside of the blue line. But at least the puck gets back to where it needs to be.
The best defense is to stay out of your own zone. The coaches will go over that I’m sure and they’ll talk to Orlov and say keep that strong side. You gotta know where you are and what your surroundings are. Brooks Orpik does an excellent job there of protecting the puck. He had two forecheckers there, not one.
It’s about getting the little things right. Those are the little things that have to be rectified before the playoffs. The Capitals have to go into there with confidence. They’ve got to believe in each other, believe in the system. I know they believe in the coaching staff. It’s just a matter of getting everybody on the same page.
Orlov made the exact same mistake against the Penguins last week. Orlov tried to skate the puck out of the defensive zone by himself, instead of reversing the puck back to where he had support. After turning the puck over along the boards, Trevor Daley would end up chipping a puck past Braden Holtby in the crease.
As someone who relies heavily on his skating and stick-handling to be successful, Orlov can get himself in trouble when he tries to do too much. But that doesn’t mean the 24-year-old defenseman isn’t ahead of the curve. He has led Capitals defensemen in possession for most of the season and these are correctable mistakes. Defensemen typically mature in their late twenties and Orlov just needs to trust his teammates more and not panic.
Hockey, as my wife points out to me, can look random with a lot of players skating around with no purpose. May breaks down all the tiny decisions that go on behind a play. As you can see, one bad decision can lead to a puck in your net. And it may explain why Brian MacLellan went after Orpik so aggressively two summers ago.
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