There is no player on the Washington Capitals as misundersood as Dmitry Orlov.
|21.6||time on ice per game|
|49.2||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|46.6||5-on-5 expected goal percentage, adjusted|
|48.7||5-on-5 goal percentage, adjusted|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the season. A short description of each chart:
It’s really tough to evaluate Dmitry Orlov in isolation. Over the last two seasons, 73 percent of Orlov’s ice time has been shared with Matt Niskanen, who as we discussed yesterday has fallen off quite a bit. But something interesting happens in the sliver of time when Orlov is not with Niskanen: he does a lot better.
Red is Orlov alone, blue is Niskanen alone, purple is them together:
In the most recent season, Washington’s anemic offense in particular got more active once Orlov got away from Niskanen (and mostly paired up with John Carlson), suggesting that the drag wasn’t on Orlov’s side of the ice. And the gap between Orlov’s red and Niskanen’s blue has grown each season, which could mean lots of things but I think it speaks primarily to Niskanen’s decline.
As a result, and to get a bit more specific, it seems like the Orlov-Niskanen pairing are facilitating less and less offense. They get flummoxed by aggressive forechecks more often and fail to make transition plays into neutral and beyond. The HockeyViz heatmaps below show Washington’s offense over the past three seasons. Red means the Caps take more shots from that location, blue means fewer.
Across three seasons, Washington’s top pairing go from above-average offense (plus-5 percent in 2016-17) to wayyyyy below it (minus-16 percent in 2018-19). Washington’s weapons are worthless with Orlov-Niskanen.
Now, the big blue blob at top left in all three seasons is further evidence that Orlov himself is a reluctant participant in the offense. He recorded just three goals this season and remains in the bottom quintile of defenders in individual shot rate, but that’s not what he’s here for.
Orlov is here because he does well the things that lead to the things we care about. He’s a wildly underrated defensive defender, he’s got a great breakout pass when he uses it, and he can hit like a mack truck when back-checking. Nearly none of those create highlights or good boxcar stats, but they’re fundamental for the role of a shutdown defender.
And that is what Orlov is. Deep down, it’s what he always has been. And whether or not he’ll have Matt Niskanen at his flank this fall, it’s what he will be.
I’ve been asking this one for years, and I’m still unhappy with the answers I get: what actually is Dmitry Orlov’s role?
Read more: Japers Rink
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.