Dmitry Orlov may be the player on the Washington Capitals roster that fans and analysts alike are most divided on. Known for his high-risk, high-reward style, Orlov is a dynamic player, but his style of play can lead to very noticeable mistakes when opponents are able to make him pay for his risky and sometimes ill-advised maneuvers. To his detractors credit, the chances that the Caps allow when Orlov is on the ice are often quality chances.
However, the point of many of his defenders is that despite his very noticeable gaffes, Orlov is a net-positive for his team. Since 2014, the Caps have scored 57.5 percent of the total goals when Orlov is on the ice, second only to Mike Green during the span.
Both sides of the Orlov debate have valid points. But on Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, there were many examples of why Orlov’s supporters are willing to excuse so many mistakes. Without his high-risk, high-reward style, the dynamic plays he made last night to help the Caps to victory wouldn’t be possible.
The Caps fourth goal was an example of Orlov’s audacious play paying off for the team in red. Orlov started the rush with a daring play on the breakout, carrying the puck out from behind the net, despite having a Leafs player breathing down his neck. Then, in a courageous move, Orlov passed the puck through a charging Leafs forechecker that sprung the Caps on the rush. This was far from a safe play and, if it didn’t work out, Orlov would have been roasted for not making a low-risk move. But he did chose the risky option. It led to a quick breakout and, eventually, a Caps goal. Take a look:
Once in the zone, Orlov again went on the attack and the Caps’ offense benefited. At the start of the clip, Orlov pinches down along the far wall to disrupt the Leafs’ attempt the clear the zone. While it doesn’t lead to immediate possession, it discombobulates Toronto and eventually leads to the goal that tied the game at 4. Orlov does have support as he makes this move, as Brett Connolly has cycled high to cover the point. Further, the Leafs aren’t exactly positioned for a jailbreak if the pinch goes awry. But still, this is another example of Orlov not taking the safe route and it paying off for his team.
This isn’t to say that every Orlov mistake should be excused or that he shouldn’t dial back the risk at times. But as maddening as some of his decisions can be at times, it’s important to keep the positives of Orlov’s style in mind when he commits horrendous turnovers. In the end, hockey is a game about goal differentials. Last night, Orlov showed an example of why he’s a net-positive when it comes to goals for his team.
Headline photo: Geoff Burke
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