Caps Bring Along Another Baby BluelinerPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov made his NHL debut with Washington on Monday night against Phoenix at the tender age of 20. Orlov skated 11:56 and registered three hits on the night. Monday’s game was the 152nd career NHL contest for Karl Alzner, the defenseman chosen to serve as the young Russian’s partner for his first NHL contest. The 23-year-old Alzner is still less than three years removed from his own NHL debut at the age of 20, on Nov. 26, 2008. “I thought Orly did good,” says Alzner. “He made some really nice plays. He executed the system well. Sometimes you don’t really know if he understands what you’re saying because his English isn’t that good, but he knew exactly what we were supposed to do in the neutral zone hinges and stuff. He did it well. It was good to play with him.” With veteran right-handed shot Dennis Wideman on hand and veteran lefty Roman Hamrlik available as well, choosing Alzner as Orlov’s first partner says a lot about the Caps’ opinion of Alzner, still a young blueliner in his own right. “Alzy is just Mr. Reliable,” says caps assistant coach Bob Woods. “He’s a guy who is going to talk to him and he’s going to be in position all the time. He’s going to make Orly’s job easy, that’s what he does [when he is paired] with Carlson. He’s just a smart player. “If you could pick a guy [for Orlov] to play with, he’d be my first choice because he’s reliable. He’s always going to have your back and most of the time he makes the right plays. That’s valuable at this level. You can play a long time in this league just by doing that. He’s never going to be flashy; that’s not his game. But he’s one of those guys who is usually a plus on the scoresheet. You think about those three games we struggled there, he was the only plus guy we had.” John Carlson was several weeks shy of his 20th birthday when he made his NHL debut on Nov. 20, 2009. Mike Green debuted on his 20th birthday. Jeff Schultz was 20 when he skated in his first NHL game. The Caps have had some success bringing in defensemen at or near the age of 20 for their first look at the NHL level. “I think with our young guys we’ve been pretty blessed,” notes Woods. “You look at Alzner, you look at Carlson and even Orlov now. They’re guys who for young guys seem to have a lot of confidence, which is nice. “Carly is learning his game. He’s only going to get better as he understands the game better, when to take chances, when not to. But he’s a guy who can make the big plays. [Monday] night, he coughs up the puck and they score. But how does he respond? He goes and scores a goal himself. He didn’t let it bother him. Some young guys, they’d have been rattled the rest of the game. That’s one thing with our young guys, they seem to be able to move on and that’s important.” If Orlov is still around when Green gets healthy again, the Caps could have as many as five homegrown defensemen in the lineup at the same time. As it is, they’ve had four such players in their lineup for several nights this season. Look around the league and you won’t find many clubs who can make that claim.
Winning Monday night’s game over the Phoenix Coyotes stopped the bleeding for the Washington Capitals, halting a stretch in which the Caps were 3-7-1 in their previous 11 and 1-5-1 in their previous seven. Now they’ve got to stitch that wound and start it to healing. The hockey equivalent of that