By popular request, here are some things former Penguins defenseman and new Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik has said about Alex Ovechkin over the years. He’s been asked about Ovechkin dozens of time, and in my brief research, he has usually praised him.
May, 2009, after a knee-on-knee hit with Sergei Gonchar
“That’s three games in a row where he’s out there trying to hurt guys,” said Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik. “You just watch the way he hits. And I love the way he plays … but he could get a charging penalty every time he hits. He leaves his feet, and takes countless strides. We’ve gotten lucky up to this point. And he likes to target the Russian guys, for some reason.
“Everyone likes to play hard, and play physical,” Orpik added. “But there’s a line you can’t cross, and a lot of guys in our room felt like the last couple games he was taking shots where he was trying to hurt guys.”
May, 2009, Beaver County Times, when Ovechkin was getting criticized for his celebrations
“People talk about — it’s old-fashioned, guys are supposed to be humble and whatnot — I think a guy like (Ovechkin), maybe his excitement is good for the game,” Orpik said. “You get a lot of fans, a lot of people who aren’t interested in the game paying attention just because they key on to his personality.”
December, 2009, after Ovechkin was suspended for hitting Tim Gleason
“To be honest, I thought he was getting suspended when he hit Kaleta from behind last week,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “If you look at how he hits, it’s all or nothing. He takes 10 strides before he hits guys….
“I don’t know if he goes over the line,” Orpik said. “But I think the way he does it, he’s setting himself up to go over the line. When you take a straight line at people like that, that’s when you get in trouble….
“With the way the game is now, it’s impossible to play that way for 82 games,” Orpik said. “You’ve got to pick your spots, especially in an Olympic year. My personal feeling is, if you play that way every night, it’s going to take a toll on you.”
February, 2010, in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch Olympic preview about Ovechkin and Crosby
“I don’t know if they genuinely dislike each other,” Orpik said. “They don’t know each other, really. I think that’s hyped up. But, in terms of playing, they definitely push each other to be the best one out there. It’s fun to watch, not so much fun to play against them sometimes.
January, 2011, in a Pittsburgh Tribune Review Winter Classic preview
“He tries to beat you one-on-one all the time,” Orpik said. “I don’t know if you can invite it, that’s just the way he plays. (New Jersey’s Ilya) Kovalchuk does the same thing. They get their legs going through the neutral zone, and it seems like they just want to beat one guy.”
December, 2011, in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Caps-Penguins preview
“I can’t remember him ever having a bad game against us, to he honest,” Orpik said. “I think they always get up for us. And especially [Ovechkin].”
December, 2011, in a Pittsburgh Tribune Review Caps-Penguins preview
“He always seems to rev it up against us,” Orpik said.
Still, Orpik wonders if Ovechkin’s brutally physical — some would say reckless — style has caught up with him at age 26.
“That’s tough to do, 82 games with the energy level and physicality he plays with,” Orpik said. “I mean, I don’t care how young you are. That catches up to you with this kind of schedule.” Orpik laughed and added, “I’m not going to say he’s having a down year and then go in there and have to play against him and have him light us up. He’s a pretty competitive guy. I’m sure it’s bugging him. He’s so talented, I think it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out of it.”
February, 2013, in a Washington Post Caps-Penguins preview.
“He’s still the same threat to me,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “Soon as you put your guard down against him, he’ll eat you alive….“I think he’s too competitive and too good a player for [a slump] to last long….“They have a new coach, new system, so maybe there’s a transition period for the team and individually for guys like him, too.”
January, 2014, in another Olympic preview
“Those are two pretty special players,” Orpik said of Malkin and Ovechkin. “I don’t think you can realistically expect to shut them down as much as maybe not let them beat you. On that ice, in their country, they are going to be ready.”
(Bonus Verizon Center quote, from March of 2008, after a game in Washington. “It’s amazing when we play here, how much fan support we get,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s always nice to come here. [The Penguins’ fans] energize you. You almost have a home feeling, with all the fans we have here.”)
(Bonus Alex Semin quote, from February of 2010. “He sells it all the time,” Orpik said. “The kid’s a baby. I’ve got zero respect for the kid. If it was a penalty, it was a penalty. I don’t know. But the kid does that all game long. It’s tough to lose on that.”)