Thursday, July 01, 2021

Washington Capitals: 2020-2021 By the Tens -- Defensemen: Dmitry Orlov

Dmitry Orlov

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
-- Warren Buffett

Dmitry Orlov was the 20th defenseman taken in the 2009 Entry Draft.  He is one of 18 defensemen of the 70 taken in that draft still active in the NHL.  He is eighth among that active group of defensemen in career regular season games played (567), eighth in goals scored (45), seventh in points (202), fourth in plus-minus rating (plus-77).  He compares well with his draft cohort, but he is also quietly climbing the ranks among defensemen in Capitals franchise history, too, either in or knocking at the door of the top-ten in a number of categories.  Orlov finished the 2020-2021 season 12th in franchise history in games played, tenth in goals, tied for ninth in points, and sixth in plus-minus rating.  He is also tied for second in overtime goals in team history (two), ninth n game-winning goals (ten), seventh in average ice time per game (19:53; minimum: 100 games), second in credited hits (877), fifth in blocked shots (626), and second in takeaways (310).

In 2020-2021, Orlov had what might have been a career year had the schedule been a full 82 games.  As it was, he still doubled his goal total (from four to eight) despite playing in 18 fewer games (51 versus 69 last season).  He had 22 points, just five fewer than last season, he had a plus-minus rating of plus-16, and he had two game-winning goals.  Over an 82-game season, that works out to a 13-23-36, plus-26 season, a season that would have eclipsed his career high in goals (10 in 82 games in 2017-2018), finished one short of his career high in assists (27 in 82 games in 2016-2017), topped his career high in total points (33 in 2016-2017), and would have been topped in plus-minus only by his plus-30 in 2016-2017.

Fearless’ Take… Orlov’s 2020-2021 season started slowly, owing to his missing four games under COVID protocol.  But his ten-game splits thereafter showed steady improvement until the last, abbreviated split.  And, while his overall offensive numbers were impressive enough, when you take away the 18 games to start his season that straddled the four games he missed to COVID protocol, it was even more impressive.  He was 7-14-21, plus-19, with an 11.7 percent shooting percentage over his last 33 games (17 goals and 52 points per 82 games).

Cheerless’ Take… There is the old time on ice thing with Orlov who, like a lot of defensemen with good offensive numbers, have a difficult relationship between time on ice and wins.  Orlov’s was just strange, as if there was a “sweet spot” of ice time.  The Caps were 21-10-4 in 35 games in which he skated at least 18:34 (not bad) and were 2-5-0 when he skated 16:58 or less.  But there were those nine games over which he skated between 16:58 and 18:34.  The Caps won all of them.

Odd Orlov Fact… One would think a defenseman recording a lot of blocked shots in a game would ben on the losing end of many of those games, but Orlov had a different sort of relationship.  The Caps were 5-0-0 when he recorded three or more blocked shots but just 11-8-1 in 20 games in which he had none. 

Odd Orlov Fact II… When Orlov struggled, he struggled, at least with the top end numbers.  He had an even or worse rating in 28 games.  He had one goal and one assist in those 28 games.  Not surprising if you think about it, but it does illustrate the degree to which he contributions matter.

Odd Orlov Fact III… The Caps were 7-2-1 in the nine games in which Orlov took penalties this season.

Game to Remember… May 5, 2021 vs. New York Rangers.  With the season winding down, the Caps visited Madison Square Garden for their last game on the road portion of their schedule, the second of a two-game set against the Blueshirts in Manhattan.  The Caps won the first game of the set, 6-3, two nights earlier, although Orlov was quiet (no points, one shot on goal).  The second game of the set was highlighted by more contributions from the Caps defenseman.  After a scoreless first period, the Caps broke through just 12 seconds into the second period on a power play goal by T.J. Oshie.  The Caps would score twice more in the period, Orlov assisting on both goals.  The second of those assists, on a goal by Nic Dowd, was Orlov’s 200th career NHL point.  The Rangers scored early in the third period, but the Caps scored an empty net goal late, Orlov again with an assist.  New York scored a window dressing goal with 16 seconds left to make the final a 4-2 Caps win.  Orlov finished with his first three-assist game of his career, and his only three-point game of the season and 26:13 in ice time, his second-highest of the season.

Game to Forget… February 1, 2021 vs. Boston Bruins.  After opening the season with a nine-game points streak, the Caps hosted the second of a two-game set against the Boston Bruins at Capital One Arena to open February.  The game opened with the Caps coring the first three goals in the opening 28:35 of the game, but they gave it all back, and more.  Boston scored five unanswered goals skate off with a 5-3 win.  In what was Orlov’s first game back after a four-game COVID-related absence, he posted no points, no shots on goal, one shot attempt, and was on ice for the game-winning goal for the Bruins.  He finished with 15:24 in ice time, his third lowest total of the season and lowest on home ice.

Postseason… In the five-game opening round loss to Boston, Orlov recorded three assists and was a minus-1, the same numbers he put up in eight games in the 2020 postseason.  It extended a disturbing postseason trend for Orlov, who has not scored a goal on 33 shots in 20 postseason games over the last three years (0-10-10, minus-4) despite averaging 23:39 in ice time.  In fact, in six trips to the postseason, the only one in which he did record at least one goal was in 2018, when he had two in 24 games in the Caps’ run to the Stanley Cup.  That would also be the only one in which he finished with a “plus” rating (plus-5).

Looking ahead… Dmitry Orlov has two years to run on a six-year/$30.6 million contract.  Looking at his immediate cohort of defensemen (age 28-32 (Orlov will turn 30 next month), cap hit of $4.5-$5.5 million), he looks like a bargain, ranking second among the nine defensemen in that cohort last season, second in points (second in plus-minus), and doing it with a comparatively light ice time load (seventh of the nine defensemen).  The issue going forward will be if he can, as he did this season, build on the consistency he displayed in production over the 2015-2016 through 2017-2018 period when he played in every game and posted point totals from 29 to 33 points.

In the end…

John Carlson gets the attention, especially in the offensive end of the ice, from opponents and media alike.  But Dmitry Orlov has quietly established himself as a solid performer, providing a measure of stability and consistency in production that has gone largely unnoticed.  That is not always a bad thing, but being a player of value, which Orlov has been, regardless of the level of attention he gets, will be an indispensable element in the Caps’ effort to return to the short list of Stanley Cup contenders.

Grade: A-