Last summer, the Capitals decided to fortify their blue line by signing free agent defenseman Taylor Chorney. That seemed like a wise move when Brooks Orpik suffered a lower body injury and sat out 40 games.
Before the NHL trade deadline in late February, the Caps decided they needed even more insurance on the back end and traded for veteran stay-at-home blue liner Mike Weber.
Just in case.
Now might be just-in-case time.
Midway through the second period of Monday night’s 6-1 rout of the Flyers in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series, Orpik was helped off the Wells Fargo Center ice after taking a big, clean hit by Flyers forward Ryan White. The right side of Orpik’s head hit the glass along the boards, jarring loose a metal stanchion.
Orpik fell to his knees and needed assistance from defense partner John Carlson and athletic trainer Greg Smith to get down the tunnel for evaluation. After the game Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he’ll know more about Orpik’s upper body injury after he is re-evaluated on Tuesday.
“We’ll just have to make it work,” Carlson said. “He’s been out, I’ve been out this season for extended periods of time, and the guys that stepped up are great hockey players. We’re all confident in them. I think our backbone of success this year has been people stepping up when guys go down. They’ve played awesome hockey for us and if that’s the case we’ll be looking for that.”
In the 40 games Orpik missed this season while waiting for what he called a broken bone to heal, the Caps went 30-6-4. During much of that time, Nate Schmidt moved up onto a top pairing with John Carlson, while Chorney paired up with Dmitry Orlov.
That could be exactly what happens if Orpik is sidelined an extended period of time. Or, Caps defensive coach Todd Reirden could move Orlov onto a pairing with Carlson and use a third pairing of Schmidt and either Chorney or Weber.
Because of the physicality of Monday night’s game – the Flyers outhit the Caps 45-26 -- it seems more likely that the 6-foot-2, 212-pound Weber could make his Caps playoff debut in Game 4.
It was clear after Game 3 that the Caps were not happy with the Flyers’ tactics after falling behind by two goals in the third period, most notably Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s check from behind on Orlov, which resulted in a five-minute major, game misconduct and automatic review by the NHL Department of Player Safety.
“We just tried to stay positive and play through it and save our lives,” Orlov said. “They hit from behind and into the boards. It’s not hockey.”
Trotz was upset with the way the game deteriorated in the third period, when the Flyers took eight penalties and allowed four power-play goals.
“We’re OK with the physical play,” Trotz said. “They’re much different team here in Philadelphia than they were in Washington. They came with everything. We’re OK. I think we’re a bigger team than them physically, but we’re more concerned about winning the series.”
Braden Holtby said he expects to see a more disciplined Flyers team in Game 4 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
“They’ll be desperate, obviously,” Holtrby said. “I’m sure that’s something they’ll focus on, not taking so many penalties. They’re an NHL team. They’re going to be composed and come out with the best effort to extend their season.”
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