The Washington Capitals should bench Brooks Orpik once Karl Alzner is healthy.
Going into the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Washington Capitals defense gave them a huge advantage over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even without Karl Alzner, the Caps have been holding their own against a very good offense. Nate Schmidt has drawn in well for Alzner, who has been out since Game 3. However, Brooks Orpik is having a terrible series.
If Alzner isn’t healthy, they don’t really have any options. Taylor Chorney wouldn’t be a relevant upgrade over Orpik. The Caps don’t have much depth in Hershey. Tom Gilbert, a February addition via trade, isn’t an NHL caliber defenseman at this point. Also, it’s worth noting number 44 is still an important penalty killer for the Caps. So until Alzner is healthy, unless Orpik gets worse, the Capitals are stuck with him.
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However, once everyone gets healthy, the discussion needs to happen. Do the Caps go with Alzner and keep Schmidt in the lineup? Considering number 88 has been adding a lot to the Capitals on offense, the answer to this question should be a resounding “yes”. The question remains though, what should the pairings look like?
Orpik has been on the ice for precisely half of the Maple Leafs 14 goals this series. Of those seven goals against he’s been on for, six of them have been at even strength.
In particular, Orpik was directly responsible for Auston Matthews’ third period goal in Game 4. He blows his assignment, inexcusably leaving the star rookie wide open.
Getting Alzner back will allow the Washington Capitals to replace Orpik on the penalty kill. Schmidt shouldn’t be scratched for Orpik at this point. The former has been one of the Capitals’ best defensemen over the past two games while the latter hasn’t.
Even Barry Trotz is taking notice of how good Schmidt has been. The Capitals defensive depth allows them to have options in case players fail. Right now, Orpik is failing.