Monday, September 23, 2019

Washington Capitals 2019-2020 Previews -- Defensemen: Dmitry Orlov

Dmitry Orlov

“A setback has often cleared the way for greater prosperity. Many things have fallen only to rise to more exalted heights.”
-- Marcus Aurelius

Seven players in the NHL have played in each and every one of the 328 games of the regular seasons schedule over the last four seasons.  The list includes some of the most well-known names in the league.  The list also includes Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov.  Orlov’s streak of consecutive seasons having played in every game might be the most remarkable, given that but for three games played with the Hershey Bears, he missed the entire 2014-2015 season to injury. 

With his durability has come a measure of consistency.  Over those four seasons he hovered around the 30 point mark, from a low of 29 in 2015-2016 and last season, to a high of 33 in 2016-2017, averaging 30.5 points per season.  And even within that is a nested consistency.  His assist totals have ranged from 21 to 27 over that span

Orlov got to that consistent place last season, but he did so inconsistently.  He started slowly (two points in his first 16 games) and finished slowly (two points in his last nine games), and even in between he was up and down with big point months in November (2-6-8) and March (0-9-9), but less productive in the middle (1-10-11 in 39 games over December, January, and February).  The three goals he had for the season tied a career low for a full season (not counting the 2012-2013 season in which he appeared in only five games).

Last season also continued a disturbing trend with Orlov.  His personal shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 continued to erode.  In 2015-2016 it was 53.34 percent and rose to 54.27 percent the following season.  However, in the last two seasons it fell under 50 percent, to 49.54 percent in 2017-2018 and to 48.52 percent last season, although that was still fourth among the nine Caps defensemen to appear in at least 20 games.

Odd Orlov Fact…

Dmitry Orlov did not record a goal on home ice last season.  He has gone 52 straight regular season games on home ice without a goal, dating back to February 11, 2018.  He has not scored a goal in a win on home ice since November 18, 2017, the game-winning goal in a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Bonus Odd Orlov Fact…

The Caps have lost the last eight games in which Orlov skated at least 25 minutes (0-6-2).  Odd, because the Caps were 5-1-2 in the first eight games in which Orlov skated at least 25 minutes.

Extra Bonus Odd Orlov Fact…

The Caps have won 100 games in which Dmitry Orlov has at least one point over his career (100-27-8).

Fearless’ Take…

Dmitry Orlov is in the middle of what might be his most productive years as an NHL player.  He was the 20th defenseman taken in the 2009 draft, and he has outperformed that selection to date.  For example, he is:
  • 10th in games played among defensemen in his draft class (447)
  • Tied for 10th in career goals (33, with Dmitry Kulikov)
  • 9th in career assists (120)
  • 9th in career points (153)
  • 5th in career plus-minus (plus-56)

And, it is his consistency that stands out.  Even though he has played only six full seasons as a Capital, Orlov goes into this season with the chance to tie Matt Niskanen for eighth place in team history among defensemen with five seasons of 25 or more points, and those five seasons will have come in succession.

Cheerless’ Take…

What’s up with the shots on goal?  Orlov had 26 games last season in which he recorded two or more shots on goal, and the Caps were 7-14-5.  They were 20-5-1 in the 26 games in which he did not record a shot on goal, and still, Orlov was a combined minus-7 in those games.

Potential Milestones:
  • 500 career NHL games played (447; he needs 53)
  • 200 career points (153; he needs 47)
  • 200 career penalty minutes (169; he needs 31)
  • 10,000 career minutes played (8,732; he needs 1,268)
  • Top-10 all time in goals scored by a Capitals defenseman (33; he needs nine to tie Robert Picard)
  • Top-10 all time in points by a Capitals defenseman (153; he needs 23 to tie Al Iafrate (176))
  • Top-10 all time in game-winning goals scored by a Capitals defenseman (six; he needs one to tie Matt Niskanen and Robert Picard (seven))

The Big Question… Will Dmitry Orlov find happiness with a new partner?

Dmitry Orlov has those four straight years of playing all 82 regular season games.  Most of that time was spent paired with Matt Niskanen.  Now, Niskanen is in Philadelphia skating with the Flyers, and Orlov will have a new regular partner…eventually.  When you look at the Caps’ defense, you have John Carlson entering his 11th season, Orlov entering his eighth season, and after that a collection of defensemen who will be starting their third (Christian Djoos) or fewer full season (Jonas Siegenthaler, Michal Kempny, Nick Jensen, Radko Gudas) with the team.  The first impression might be that Carlson and Kempny will be the top pair, with Orlov and either Gudas or Jensen on his right side (both being right-handed shots).

Getting comfortable with a new partner might be a bit of a distraction for a player who, while maintaining his consistency in recording points last season, had a devil of a time finding the back of the net.  Of 102 defensemen recording at least 100 shots on goal last season, Orlov ranked 85th in shooting percentage (3.0 percent on 3-for-101 shooting).  He has had an odd pattern of efficient and inefficient shooting over the past five seasons, starting with a 5.1 percent mark in 2013-2014, followed by, in order, 8.9, 4.8, 8.0, and 3.0 percent last season.  Last season was more unusual in that his shots on goal were off by almost 20 percent, to 101 after consecutive seasons of 125 shots on goal.  Orlov will be looking to rebound offensively from a somewhat down season, but he will be doing it skating next to a new partner, too. 

In the end…

It is an odd situation for Orlov.  While he is second in seasons and games played with the club among current defensemen, he is a year younger than Gudas, Jensen, and Kempny.  He turned only 28 years old in July, but only Brent Burns has dressed for more regular and postseason games (383) over the last four seasons than Orlov (380).  He has a level of experience that should prepare him for challenges, but the uncertainty is whether his drop-off last season, both in his goal scoring and his possession numbers, is a reflection of regression in his own play or fallout from the struggles his frequent partner Matt Niskanen suffered.  Or, was it “partner fatigue” for both of them?

Orlov is a fine second-pair defenseman who plays at a consistent level, at least in the offensive end of the ice.  He seems to have outgrown frequently trying for the highlight hit in the defensive end or open ice, usually of the hip check variety, that can leave his partner out to dry if missed.  It is a sign of the maturity in his game.  This season it remains to be seen if he can regain that performance edge in the offensive end of the ice that seemed lacking last season.

Projection: 80 games, 9-27-36, plus-4

Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

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