ShareThis Page
Capitals’ Orpik gets another shot at former team |

Capitals’ Orpik gets another shot at former team

David Driver
| Tuesday, April 25, 2017 5:57 p.m
Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik looks on during the second period against the St. Louis Blues, in Washington. After the Capitals lost a double-overtime heartbreaker in the first round, Orpik just wanted to eat and go home to sleep. A veteran of playoff hockey, though, Orpik knew it was better to get another workout in and take care of his 36-year-old body before leaving the arena.
Getty Images
The Capitals' Brooks Orpik battles Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal April 19, 2017, in Toronto.

ARLINGTON, Va. — It did not take Brooks Orpik long to experience an NHL playoff series between the Penguins and Washington from the other bench.

After playing with the Penguins from 2002-14, the veteran defenseman with the Capitals faced his former team in postseason play last year in his second season in the nation’s capital.

Orpik is preparing to face his former team again, as the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins will play at Washington on Thursday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Pens defeated Washington in six games last year, also in the second round.

“I think it is probably an even playing field for each team,” Orpik said after practice Tuesday, noting most of the key players returned from both clubs. “I don’t know if there is an advantage either way as a carryover from last year. Both teams made a few small tweaks to their lineups.”

Washington finished with the most points in regular-season play and dispatched Toronto in six games in the first round. The Penguins had the second-most points in the conference and beat Columbus in five games.

“They are defending champs,” Orpik said. “A lot has been made of the (playoff) format. That is just the way it worked out. There is no use complaining about it. It is the same for them, too. It should be a really good series.”

Orpik, 36, was a first-round pick of the Penguins in 2000. He excelled with the Penguins through the 2013-14 season before playing in 78 games with the Capitals in 2014-15 and in 41 last season while missing 40 games with an injury. The left-handed shooter played in 79 games this season and had 14 assists.

He is one of several former Penguins on the Washington roster, including forward Daniel Winnik and defensemen Taylor Chorney and Matt Niskanen.

Winnik and Chorney were with the Penguins for the 2014-15 season, and Niskanen saw time with the Pens from 2011-14. Chorney, from Ontario, turns 30 on Thursday.

“We have to go through the best to get to where we want to go,” Niskanen said of the Penguins.

The Capitals have won the President’s Cup the past two seasons but have not been to the conference finals since 1998. The Penguins have won the last six playoff series with Washington.

“They believe in the system,” Orpik said. “They bring in new guys, (and) it doesn’t seem like they miss a beat.”

Washington coach Barry Trotz said the main characters have not changed much since last year’s playoffs with the Pens.

“It is a snapshot of last year in a lot of ways,” Trotz said after practice Tuesday. “We didn’t get to where we wanted to (in 2016). Hopefully, this year we can. We have a great opportunity. They are the champs. They are sitting on the throne right now.”

In November, the Capitals beat the Penguins, 7-1, at home.

“Playoffs are a different animal,” Trotz said. “I don’t know how it is going to shake out. They are Stanley Cup champions. They are a great hockey team. It should be a great series. They are the champs until someone knocks them off.”

The Capitals also lost in seven games to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinals in ’09, in six games in the quarterfinals in ’01 and in five games in ’00 in the quarterfinals.

“It will be a really good test for us,” Orpik said. “It is a little different (for me) than playing anywhere else.”

David Driver is a freelance writer.

Categories: Penguins
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.