Six minutes and 59 seconds into the second period of Washington’s eventual 4-3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets, Dmitry Orlov announced his arrival to the NHL with a perfect, textbook hip check on Blake Wheeler.
Orlov recorded the first NHL point of his career in the second period Wednesday night as well, with an assist on Nicklas Backstrom’s tally. A noteworthy, or GIF worthy, hit and an assist – not a bad night’s work for the rookie blueliner.
“I think he’s been playing real good, and he’s moving the puck good – he’s skating, he’s hitting,” Backstrom said of his newest teammate. “If you look at him out there, I don’t think it looks like he played his second game. It looks like he’s been playing a hundred games.”
During training camp, Orlov’s high-risk, high-reward style was the center of attention, but during this recall, the 20-year-old Russian has consciously reined himself in a bit. That self-control has impressed his teammates and the Capitals’ coaching staff.
That Orlov, listed at 6 feet, 210 pounds, likes to play a physical style adds another dimension to Washington’s overall game. Coach Bruce Boudreau said after Wednesday’s game that Orlov may “catch some people by surprise” with his willingness to step up and make the big hits like the one he dished out on Wheeler.
Part of his willingness to make those hits comes from being relaxed, even in this early stage with the Capitals.
“I feel a lot more confident now because my teammates who are around me are helping me out a lot, giving me advice,” Orlov said through an interpreter Wednesday night. “That’s why it builds confidence.”
During Thursday’s practice, Orlov saw time patrolling the point on the Capitals’ power play. Don’t be surprised if he gets some in-game work there as early as today’s matinee contest against the Rangers.
While many may have expected Orlov, who has a cannon of a slap shot, to be added to the power play, Boudreau said he wanted to give the rookie time to work with the system before overwhelming him with too much on his first recall. That Orlov is a left-handed defenseman helps out as well, rather than having to use a forward in that position.
“He’s a skilled player and I didn’t just want to throw him in cold to the game on that; I wanted him to see some video and practice it before we give him the opportunity,” Boudreau explained. “He’s a skilled offensive player and he was good at it in Hershey. Obviously that’s part of our game that’s struggling right now so we’d like to be able to see a little bit more of him and we might be able to use him on it [Friday].”