Defenseman Dmitry Orlov stood at his locker and placed the blame squarely on his shoulders. The Washington Capitals had just suffered a second straight regulation loss, falling to the Islanders on Thursday night, and the first two New York goals happened as a result of his blunders.
The Capitals flat-lining power play arguably carries as much — if not more — fault, but as Orlov has taken on a larger role this season, becoming more reliable defensively has been important for him. Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said he’s “pretty happy with Orly for the most part all year.”
“We all make mistakes,” Trotz said. “He knows when he makes a mistake, so we made the mistakes. It’ll be a ‘we’ thing. Just like everybody else, sometimes they end up in the back of your net. Sometimes, they don’t. It’s about the ‘we’ in that, but that’s admirable of him to do that.”
Washington re-signed Orlov, a restricted free agent this summer, to a one-year, $2.57 million deal two days before the start of training camp. At issue in the negotiations was Orlov’s role on the team moving forward. With him having the highest offensive upside on the team, the Capitals promoted him to a top-four role to start this season.
Skating with a new partner in John Carlson, Orlov’s minutes are up more than three minutes per game from last season, when he was on a third pair for most of the year. He has one goal and six assists in 22 games.
Orlov missed the entire 2014-15 season with a wrist injury, and his occasional defensive miscues last year were in part attributed to him losing a season of development and having to play catch-up. The Capitals coaching staff also felt that Orlov’s chances for outweighed his chances against. More responsibility this season meant he needed to take a step toward tipping that ratio even more in favor of the Capitals. Before Thursday night, Orlov had been better at balancing taking risks offensively and not being a defensive liability.
“I’ve tried to do less mistakes,” Orlov said. “I’ve tried to play every moment differently. Like if I see, I can make a play, I will try to make a play. If not, try to chip it and get it out of our zone. Today, I did not, and it cost a goal. I need to see the play again and try to not do this anymore.”
With the third period starting scoreless on Thursday night, the puck bounced through Orlov’s legs at the offensive-zone blue line, and as he skated to retrieve it, his stick outstretched, he couldn’t corral it. New York’s Casey Cizikas knocked it away from him, setting up a breakaway for Shane Prince.
“It was bad bounce, but still, I can have the puck on the second [chance], and I just need to probably make the simple play, throw away somewhere and not give the chance to the guy to take the puck and give the puck to the other guy to go to the breakaway,” Orlov said. “It’s my mistake.”
Less than four minutes later, Orlov turned the puck over directly in front of goaltender Braden Holtby, as John Tavares pounced on his giveaway and set up a Brock Nelson goal to lift the Islanders to a 2-0 lead.
“I tried to make a pass through the middle,” Orlov said. “Their guy was there, so I need to make simple play and don’t try to do too much on that moment. … I did two bad mistakes, and it cost our game.”