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Caps' Orlov says he's ready to take his career back


Caps' Orlov says he's ready to take his career back

Dmitry Orlov didn’t have to answer the question; his smile gave it away.

It’s been nearly four months since Orlov laid to rest the most frustrating season of his career and he is now ready to lay to rest the persistent questions over the surgically repaired wrist that stole his 2014-15 season.

“I feel good,” he said with a smile. “I’m ready to go. My wrist is fine right now. I can shoot, I can do everything. I feel good, I feel fine and I’m ready to play. I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Orlov, 24, had just finished another practice session at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where teammates backed up his assertion that he is ready to fill Mike Green’s skates as the Caps’ No. 5 blue liner alongside Nate Schmidt.

 His shot, they said, is a dead giveaway.

“I think he looks great,” Caps defenseman John Carlson said. “He’s been here pretty much all summer with me and he looks better than ever. He went home (to Russia) for a little bit and by the time he came back it was crazy different. He’s skating great, he handles the puck just as great as he ever used to and his shot is definitely there again.”
Orlov said that at the conclusion of last season, one in which he practiced but never played a game for the Capitals, he took three weeks off to let his body rest. His mind needed a break as well.

“It was tough to see him last year,” said fellow Russian Stan Galiev, who has been friends with Orlov since he was drafted by the Caps in 2010, one year after Orlov was selected in the second round.

“He was down so much mentally. I’ve known him for five years and he’s probably the hardest-working player I’ve ever seen in the gym. I think he’ll have a great regular season.”

Orlov had just completed his third season with the Capitals when he fractured his wrist while playing for Russia during the 2014 World Championships . He underwent reconstructive surgery but his recovery was slowed by an infection and there was fear he might never regain the strength and flexibility needed to play in the NHL again.

At one point last season Capitals coach Barry Trotz wondered if Orlov’s playing career was in jeopardy.

“I understand it’s hard not playing for a whole season,” Orlov said. “I tried to be positive all the time. Of course, I had some negative days. But I try to forget that and not think about it.

“Everybody has injuries. My injury was longer than expected, but I just need to be focused on this season and every game be part of the team and help the team make the playoffs and win the Cup.”

Orlov began skating in Russia in early July, working out with Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who wanted someone to fire pucks at him. Orlov was happy to oblige.

“Bobrovsky said my shot is good,” Orlov said.

Although he’s a completely different player than Green, Orlov has the potential to be a dynamic presence on the Caps’ blue line. In his first three NHL seasons he carved a reputation as a big open-ice hitter who could move the puck as well as he could shoot it.

Orlov, who broke into the NHL as a defense partner for Green, said he’s ready to take on the challenge of a full-time role.

“Mike was a big part of the Capitals team,” Orlov said of Green. “He gave the team everything when he played here and he’ll play good in Detroit. He’s gone and somebody should play good, whether it’s me or Nate or (Taylor) Chorney.”

Orlov and Schmidt played together in Hershey and Orlov said each knows what the other brings to the table.

“We understand how we need to play,” he said. “He’s a good skater and he can make a good pass and join the rush. He’s easy to play with for me.”

This could be a make-or-break season for Orlov. He is entering the final year of his contract with the Capitals, which included a feud with former coach Adam Oates, who was reluctant to play him at the start of the 2013-14 season.

“Honestly, I’m not thinking about this being  my contract year or not,” he said. “I just want to play, try to play better every game and try to get my confidence back. Just play and enjoy.”

If Orlov can reclaim his zest for the game, Galiev and former national teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov say the sky is the limit for him.

“He looks very hungry,” Kuznetsov said. “Like a tiger. I’m very happy for him.”

“I’ve seen his shot several times and I would say he’s back,” Galiev said. “He loves hockey so much and he’s tired of practicing. He wants to play. He hits people and he hits them hard. I can’t wait to see him in a game.” 

MORE CAPITALS: Alex Ovechkin, Vladimir Putin team up to face students

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

The 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship is coming to a close this Memorial Day weekend.

After two weeks, the sixteen team field has been narrowed down to four with the world championship now on the line in Slovakia. 

The two group winners, Canada, the top-ranked team in the world and 26-time IIHF Champions, and Russia, who rolled through the group stage with a 7-0 record and a +29 goal differential, are the favorites. Russia overwhelmingly has played like the best team in Slovakia, outscoring its opponents 40-10 behind Nikita Kucherov's 16 points in eight games.

The Russian/ Soviet Union team is the only team with more titles than the Canadians with 27 (five as Russia, 22 as the Soviet Union). 

Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin is playing for Team Russia. In eight games he's scored two goals and recorded an assist. 

Canada will face off against the Czech Republic, whose only loss came against the Russians in group play, with a spot to the Finals on the line. Russia will play Finland for the last spot in the gold medal match.

Three of the four teams remaining (Russia, Canda, and the Czech Republic) are the winningest teams in the IIHF's history. The four semifinalists have combined to win 67 of the 82 IIHF World Championships.

When is the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will take place at 8:15 p.m. local time (2:15 p.m. ET) on Sunday, May 26. The bronze medal match will precede the gold medal match at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. ET). 

2019 IIHF World Championship Schedule:

There are only four matches left in the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The two semifinals, the bronze medal match, and the gold medal match.

No. 3 Russia vs. No. 5 Finland, 9:15 a.m. ET, May 25
No. 1 Canada vs. No. 6 Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m. ET, May 25

Loser of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Loser of Semifinal No. 2, 9:45 a.m. ET, May 26

Winner of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal No. 2, 2:15 p.m. ET, May 26

How to watch or stream the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

All games at the IIHF World Championships will be broadcast on NHL Network.

Who is playing in the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will be played between the winner of Russia (8-0-0)/ Finland (7-0-1) and Canada (7-1-0)/ Czech Republic (7-0-1).

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF Championship Finals will be announced on the morning of May 26. 

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

When the St. Louis Blues woke up on Jan. 3, they were in dead last in the NHL. A 15-18-4 record gave them 34 points, less than teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators who would go on to finish the season as the two worst teams. Yes, St. Louis had played in only 37 games to that point, the fewest in the league, but finding a way to climb back into the playoff hunt seemed daunting and unlikely.

Now the Blues are the Western Conference champions and stand just four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

The Blues have been one of the best stories of the NHL season climbing from last place to the Stanley Cup Final. When looking back at St. Louis’ season, there are several moments one can point to as key moments in the turnaround. Craig Berube replaced Mike Yeo as head coach on Nov. 20 and goalie Jordan Binnington got his first start with the Blues on Jan. 7 and never gave back the crease.

But the turnaround really started on Jan. 3. On that morning, the Blues were in last place. That would be the last day they would find themselves there.

And it all started with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

On Jan. 3, St. Louis and Washington looked like two teams headed in opposite directions. While the Blues were in last place, the Caps were rolling with a 24-11-3 record, first in the Metropolitan Division. Washington came into St. Louis on a five-game road winning streak. As if that wasn’t enough, the Blues were also without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

And yet, what looked like an easy win for the Caps turned into anything but. Robert Thomas scored a deflection just four minutes into the game. Washington managed to take a 2-1 lead early in the second, but St. Louis rattled off four straight goals for the 5-2 win. With Washington down only 3-2 heading into the third period, the Blues but on a possession clinic outshooting Washington 14-2 in the final frame.

"We stayed aggressive," Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. "When we're playing in the O zone, the best way to play defense is to play in their end. We kept the puck, we moved the puck, we worked. Forwards were great tonight, protecting the center of the ice. It kind of took their playmakers out of the game."

The Caps’ first shot came 13 minutes into the third. By then, the Blues already had 12 shots and two goals.

Over the course of an 82-game season, teams will lose games against teams they shouldn’t. This felt different. Watching this game, you did not come away thinking the Caps played down to an inferior team. The Blues dominated that game and the Caps knew it.

“They were skating, competing harder, won races, more determined than we were,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “If we’re being honest about it, we didn’t have a very good game, and they played a pretty darn good game.”
More importantly, St. Louis realized it as well. They knew following the game that this was a win and a performance they could build on.

“I think we out-chanced them, so we're building here at even strength,” Pietrangelo said. “It's just a matter of keeping it at even strength and scoring goals. Tonight the goals weren't necessarily pretty but we created a lot of chances."
That night proved to be the first night of the turnaround. From Jan. 3 on, no team in the NHL earned more points than St. Louis’ 65, not even the Tampa Bay Lightning who won the Presidents’ Trophy with an incredible 128 points.

St. Louis was not expected to be bad this season. The team made a number of offseason moves to bolster the roster and many thought they could be real contenders, but they sure did not play like it through the first half of the season. It took a big win over the defending Stanley Cup champs to show them and everyone else just how good they really were. From that point on, they never looked back.