After the game, Orlov was again happily chatting with reporters. But his face was bruised, and by all accounts, he was lucky a hit from behind by Philadelphia’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare didn’t hurt him worse. The Washington Capitals were lucky, too: After Brooks Orpik left the game because of an upper-body injury, Orlov and fellow young defenseman Nate Schmidt will be leaned on more than they have been in this postseason.
After the game, Trotz said Orpik has an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated Tuesday. The Capitals practiced at noon at Wells Fargo Center.
“We’ll just have to make it work,” John Carlson said Monday night. “He’s been out, I’ve been out for extended periods of time [and] the guys that stepped up are great hockey players and we’re all confident in them. They were, I think, our backbone of success. Just people that have stepped up when guys go down or get injured.”
The Capitals aren’t strangers to playing without Orpik. He missed 30 games because of a lower-body injury earlier this season, and Washington lost just six games in regulation during that time. It’s unclear whether Orpik will miss playing time, but Washington carries two extra defensemen in Taylor Chorney and Mike Weber for situations such as this.
Entering the playoffs, the plan was to lean heavily on the top two defensive pairs of Karl Alzner with Matt Niskanen and Orpik with Carlson. For playoff rookies Schmidt and Orlov, that meant protected minutes, putting them in situations to succeed against an opponents’ bottom two lines. Schmidt played less than three minutes in the first period Sunday night, and he had just 7 minutes and 2 seconds of ice time in Game 1 on Thursday. If Orpik is out, Schmidt likely will be paired with Carlson, as he was earlier in the season.
Orlov has averaged 11:41 time on ice in three playoff games. Both he and Schmidt seemed giddy to just be in the lineup. Schmidt said he felt butterflies in his first playoff game when the National Anthem played.
Orlov said he just tried to take it shift-to-shift. He has often had to balance his offensive creativity with occasionally becoming a defensive liability. It’s something he’s naturally more aware of in the postseason when the stakes on every shift are higher. His game will have to be elevated even more now.
“In the playoffs, it’s a different game, and everybody’s all-in,” Orlov said Monday morning. “You don’t have a chance to make a mistake, because it’s going to be one mistake and you lose the game and whole series.”
Said Trotz before Monday’s game: “I think they’re excited to be a part of it. It’s sort of next-level hockey and getting your first experience is a little bit eye-opening at the same time you love the battles that are going on. You love the emotion, you love the buy-in on both teams. So it’s a special time to be a part of it and I think it’s great experience, just as some of their players are going through their first time. The first time is pretty eye-opening.”