Now, for his next magic act, Dmitry Orlov will … ?
Less than two weeks after arriving on the Bruins blue line, The Amazing Orlov — known as “Dima” among teammates — already has been crowned the NHL’s First Star of the Week (announced Monday) and piled up an eye-popping 3-6—9 line across his five games in Black and Gold.
We haven’t seen a Bruins defenseman deliver points like that since Ray Bourque’s sunset days. For those new to the rink, that was in the late 1990s, when the aging icon in the No. 77 sweater had his name engraved five times on the Norris Trophy and had that pesky itch to win a Stanley Cup. But, oh, could he still rip it.
In less than a fortnight, Orlov, 31, has become the back line’s bonding agent, the glue guy who makes everyone back there look better, play a touch bigger and faster, more confident.
Raise your hand with me now if you’re among the many who didn’t know he was exactly what the Bruins needed back there. With Orlov aboard, a team already running away with the Presidents’ Trophy only picked up the pace (now 10 wins in a row and counting).
The old Bruins, Games Nos. 1-57, looked marvelous well before the Amazing Orlov arrived. Now they’re more marvelouser than ever.
So, what is next?
Perhaps, and potentially as early as the Oilers’ visit to Causeway Street Thursday, we could see Orlov draw No. 1 point duty on the sagging power play. At this point, it’s more why not than it is why.
In their last 15 games, the Bruins have been a melancholic-if-not-outright-depressed 5 for 48 (10.4 percent) on the advantage. The last time they scored more than one PPG in a game? That was a 2-for-4 performance, part of a 7-3 win over the Panthers Dec. 19, with winter yet to be officially upon us.
Now it’s almost spring, the crocuses are about to pop, and the Bruins are still searching the woods for a back-end trigger guy.
A bona fide No. 1 point man is a horrible thing to waste. And, yes, we witnessed the Bruins win their Cup in 2011 (their lone title now in over a half-century) with a similarly sad-sack attack on the advantage. Anyone care to run the FanDuel odds of winning a Cup with a 10.4 percent PP unit? Ain’t good. Take that to the bank.
Some important subtext here on Orlov’s 3-6—9 line to date:
In his five games, he attempted only 10 shots, an amount top shooter David Pastrnak (he now of 44 goals) often squeezes off in a single night’s work. Of those 10 Orlov shots, eight made it to the net, while the other two were blocked. Not a single off-net misfire in the bunch.
Oh, and the obvious: Three of them actually went in the net, including one while he was on No. 2 PP duty. A fairly small sample size, but he has shown he has both the eye for when to shoot, and the requisite accuracy for getting it through the opposition’s forest of legs and sticks and skates.
Prior to Orlov’s insertion in the lineup, Bruins blue liners had two power-play goals in 57 games, among the lowest yields in the NHL. One came from Hampus Lindholm, the other from Charlie McAvoy, who has been coach Jim Montgomery’s top choice on the No. 1 unit since the start of January.
Montgomery over the last 2-3 games has paired Orlov with Lindholm in a two-man shoulder formation as part of PP2. It has shown some promise, and maybe Montgomery will stick with it, leaving McAvoy as the lone D-man on PP1.
But following another lackluster PP performance Saturday — 0 for 3 vs. the Rangers — Montgomery noted it could be time to “tinker.”
“Uh, that’s going to be put in the blender here, as in a think-tank blender,” he said when queried directly about the power play. “Because we’ve got to get better. We’re not creating enough scoring chances, so that’s something we are going to look at.”
The luxury of taking a flyer with Orlov back there now, with a 13-point lead over Carolina in the NHL’s overall standings as of Tuesday morning, is again … why not? In Saturday’s postgame presser, Montgomery, tossing out numbers, figured his club could win only five of the final 20 games and still finish in the top spot, thus clinching home ice for however far they go in the postseason.
(Aside: We put in a call to the Smoots Dept. at MIT to verify Monty’s math, and let’s just say those guys were floored.)
In the later years of his long Capitals tenure, which included a Cup win in ‘18, Orlov saw plentiful point duty, but mainly on the second unit, behind hard-firing John Carlson. His main role on the PP was helping get the puck to Alexander Ovechkin (he of 816 career goals, 296 on the power play). When a guy can shoot a puck through a brick wall, the point man is, shall we say, encouraged to dish him the puck.
Pastrnak is the big shooter for the Bruins on PP1. Unlike Ovie, whose favorite spot to hammer is high in or above the left circle, Pasta’s chosen delivery spot is around the left circle’s dot. He has minted money (including a recent $90 million payday) from that GPS pin location.
We’ve yet to see if Orlov could dish directly to Pastrnak down from the point, which would be the first, and greatest, test. Or perhaps, with Orlov more inclined to shoot himself, and present a threat, Pastrnak would be seen more frequently higher up on that left wing, ready to tee it up Ovie-style.
The possibilities here seem endless. Granted, it’s also possible that Orlov won’t surpass the production or impact we’ve seen from him to date. But this is no rookie; he’s a solid and tested product, and he’s working now on a team that is arguably more complete, or deeper, than the Capitals squad that he won the Cup with in 2018.
Perhaps there is more Amazing to deliver.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.