Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov has rarely talked about the goal he scored last March on Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, but the footage of the slap shot from the point has made plenty of rounds in their hometown of Novokuznetsk, Russia. Patrons at a sports bar there have been known to show the clip to Bobrovsky in jest.
“They always show my goal to him. My friends said that,” said Orlov, who planned to cut off communication with Bobrovsky this week as the Capitals prepared to host the Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The series will feature five Russian players — including Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetzov for Washington and Artemi Panarin for Columbus — but Orlov and Bobrovsky share their own special bond. They consider each other best friends, talk often during the regular season and have spent holidays together during brief breaks from their respective teams.
Kuznetzov and Panarin also grew up in the same town of Chelyabinsk, Russia; Kuznetzov said he would greet his old friend in the hallways if he encountered him, but there will be very little communication after that.
“It’s part of life. You play against you friend and you forget about it on the ice. You play hard and play for your teammates; it doesn’t matter who you play against,” Orlov said. “We’re probably not going to talk.”
“Business is business. So I agree with him,” Bobrovsky said. “On the ice, there are no friends. We’re all competing against each other.”
The friends find themselves in similar situations. Orlov is an integral piece of a Washington team that is trying to break through in the postseason after years of failure; Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, has gone 3-8 in his last two trips to the playoffs, including a 1-4 mark in an ugly first round loss to Pittsburgh last year, and owns a career postseason playoff save percentage of .887.
Columbus Coach John Tortorella said those playoff experiences were important to Bobrovsky’s development and that the more experience in high-stakes situations the better for a goalkeeper.
“I think Bob’s in the good spot,” Tortorella said. “… He went through some struggles, some really good minutes in games. I think Bob said it at the end of the playoffs last year, it’s an experience. It’s a process he’s going through and he’ll learn from it.”
While Orlov said he planned to catch up with his best friend after the series, Bobrovsky kept it light on Wednesday in the visiting locker room of Capital One Arena. He triggered laughs from reporters as he talked about the bar patrons in their hometown who have given him grief for the goal he gave up to Orlov last year.
“I try to not think about those things, but in these circumstances, only he can win,” Bobrovsky said. “Nobody saw how many shots he took before and didn’t score. That’s the thing. Once he scored, they talk a lot.”