After inserting defenseman Taylor Chorney into his first game with the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, Coach Barry Trotz wasn’t overflowing with praise on Chorney’s performance, but no glaring errors was enough to keep Chorney in the lineup for the next game.
Chorney was more noticeable in Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, but it was for good plays rather than head-scratching ones. Entering training camp, Chorney appeared to be vying for the seventh defenseman role after signing a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Capitals in July, but inconsistency with the third pair created opportunity for the 28-year-old journeyman, who has played in two straight games over Nate Schmidt.
“In a couple real key moments, he had good blocks and good box-outs,” Trotz said Saturday. “I thought he made good decisions. He was confident when he had the puck, and sometimes you have to skate pucks out of trouble and he was able to do that. He was pretty solid.”
Reliability has been a question mark with the third defense pairing. The top two pairs are veterans who skated together last year in John Carlson, Brooks Orpik, Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen, but the initial third pair of Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov was relatively new to the defensive corps. Schmidt played in 39 games with the Capitals last season, splitting time in the NHL and the minors. Orlov has looked somewhat rusty after a wrist injury kept him out of NHL games for 17 months.
Enter Chorney, who has appeared in more than a dozen games only once, with the Oilers in 2010-11. Chorney averaged 16 minutes, 35 seconds per playoff game for the Penguins, recognizing the opportunity. Before Pittsburgh promoted him from Wikes-Barre/Scranton in March, he had made just 63 career NHL starts, compared with 62 AHL appearances in the 2014-15 regular season alone. He didn’t register any points against the Rangers, but he was noticeable enough to get a one-way deal.
Now, the focus has shifted to staying in the lineup.
“I got an opportunity to kill a couple penalties, and I think that’s something I can find a little niche doing and contribute when I get the opportunity,” Chorney said of Saturday’s game. “It’s just being more comfortable every game and every shift.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I’m going to be going end to end or doing anything too crazy, but you realize that maybe you have a little bit more time with the puck and maybe you can make more plays, but at the same time, your job is still the same. Just be reliable and keep it simple.”