A little more than 11 minutes into the first period Sunday night in New York, the Capitals shuffled their defensive pairings and promoted Dmitry Orlov to a spot in the top four alongside John Carlson.
Orlov, 22, skated 18 minutes 3 seconds in the 4-1 win over the Rangers, which is the most he has played in any of the four games he’s appeared in this season, and had a strong overall showing including many shifts where he faced a one-on-one matchup with Rick Nash.
Asked why the switch was made, Coach Adam Oates deferred to assistant coach Calle Johansson.
“That’s Calle’s call quite honestly, he sees something in the forecheck, the matchup, liked something Dima was doing and put him with Carly and they had a good game,” Oates said. “They’ll start that way tonight.”
Oates didn’t single out Orlov for individual praise but focused on the defense playing well as an entire group in New York — which they did, intercepting passes and helping to move the puck cleanly out of the zone for the bulk of the contest.
“I liked all the defense the other night. I thought it was one of our better games from start to finish,” Oates said. “Of course you make mistakes, but for 60 minutes I thought that was the best. We put the puck in the right places, we complemented our partner, we got it out, we didn’t give them second and third waves, much better than we’ve been doing.”
It will be interesting to see how long Orlov stays as part of the top four. He’s long been projected to have the ability to play those types of minutes and situations, but this is the first time he’s had the opportunity to face them during Oates’s tenure as coach.
Tuesday also marked the 30th day that Orlov has been on the NHL roster this season, meaning he cannot depart for the KHL in Russia on Jan. 1, 2014.