The latest edition features Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik:
ARLINGTON, Va. -- As a stay-at-home defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brooks Orpik would be challenged to put his physical strength and mental wits to the test in a battle against Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin on almost every shift in every game between two Metropolitan Division rivals.
There would be hip checks and body bumps that left both players bruised and wondering if there was ever a chance they'd be able to get away from each other.
They never seemed to find a way to do that.
|Brooks Orpik skating at Caps training camp |
"If there is one guy who can hit hard, it's him," Ovechkin said. "It's good to have him on our team now. It was hard to play against him."
If anybody is looking for a single image of what is new and different about the Capitals this season, the Orpik signing is a good place to start.
On Monday afternoon at Kettler Capitals Iceplex he conducted an interview behind the bench adjacent to the entrance to the dressing room while wearing a red hat, a gray T-shirt with a Capitals logo spread across his chest, and red shorts with the logo sewn into the nylon.
The black and gold that Ovechkin and everyone with the Capitals used to associate with Orpik was nowhere to be found. Orpik's wardrobe changed on July 1, when he signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract to play for the Capitals, to join forces with Ovechkin.
He was a first-round draft pick for the Penguins (No. 18 in 2000). He played 703 games for the Penguins. Less than a week into his first training camp with his new team, Orpik is trying to roll with the changes he is experiencing while establishing a new routine in an unfamiliar place. He's also trying to get used to being Ovechkin's teammate.
"It definitely saves your body," he said.
Orpik offered more insight on Ovechkin and the Capitals during an interview with NHL.com on Monday.
Here are Five Questions with…Brooks Orpik:
This is quite a drastic change for you, the biggest change of your career. How has it been to go from one city and one team that you knew so well to a new city and a new team? Has it been easy, hard? Have you encountered surprises along the way?
"We've done it with an open mind. My wife came down a week earlier than I did because I was doing a camp in Boston, so selfishly I came down into a moved-in house with groceries and she had a routine down. So for me it was probably a little bit easier. My wife has family in Silver Springs (Maryland), so it's nice for her too. But just being somewhere for as long as I was it was going to be different, and coming in I felt like I met 40 people the first day I was here in terms of staff and trainers. You meet all those people in a span of about 10 minutes and then you remember only about four or five names.
"That comfort level I had in Pittsburgh is obviously gone in terms of just the familiarity with how things go and different people, but it's been nothing but fun so far. It's been a good change. I think all the guys that were here too were very excited about just having a big change in coaching staff and attitude."
Have you found yourself at least discovering a routine, the right way to drive to the rink, all those daily things you probably used to take for granted?
"Well it's kind of the exact opposite of Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh we did everything downtown and we were at the practice rink like 10 times, whereas here the only time you go downtown is for games. Even morning skates are here [at Kettler Capitals Iceplex]. It's about an eight-minute drive from my house to here, so that's really easy. There's never really traffic in Arlington coming this way. For the game [Sunday] I hopped in with Jay Beagle to see the route so I knew what they were doing. Everyone always says how bad the traffic is here, but I haven't experienced that yet, thankfully. It hasn't been tough. I definitely have some sort of routine down. I know the farmer's markets to make sure the nutrition stays on par."
How much easier is your life now that you don't have to go up against Alex Ovechkin anymore as you did on just about every shift when the Penguins played the Capitals in the past?
"Everyone was asking me about playing him, but when you're battling against him it's 240 pounds you're going up against. Even if you get him good, you're still absorbing a lot of that. He's gotten me plenty of times good. He's that one guy in the League that has that really rare dynamic and combination of physicality and scoring ability. It'll be nice [not to go against him]. I knew about it, but you see it here every day, I've never seen a puck come off someone's stick like it does his. You see it every day and you appreciate it more and more. It's probably no fun for these goalies here, I'll tell you that."
Because of your history of facing the Capitals in a rivalry, has the coaching staff talked to you about what it was like to play them? Have they leaned on your experience and what you saw to help with their perspective on what changes need to be made?
"No, not really. I remember before I signed here I told them what about the group intrigued me. I mean, it's that talent level that's obvious. A lot of people feel they've underachieved with the talent level they have here, but the same was said about the group we had in Pittsburgh the last couple of years. I think it's different in every situation. I didn't really want to give my opinion because I think you can be so far off if you're not in the locker room. From an outsider's perspective, I can just attest to things I saw. I mean, the power play was something you wanted to stay away from. I always thought we had real competitive games against them. It's a big rival, Pittsburgh and Washington, so you get up for those games. I always thought they were a tough team to play against. I'm just not sure what went on the last couple of years."
This group here in Washington didn't get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season so there is that disappointment and bitterness that lingers. With the Penguins last season you got in, but the way you went out left you with disappointment and bitterness. Is that still present even though you're with a new team, or has a fresh start erased that?
"No, I don't think it changes that at all. You hear some older guys say it, that you only get a certain amount of realistic chances at winning, and I think that's what makes it so frustrating. The last couple of years we thought, 'Wow, this is a team that is definitely capable of winning,' and then you don't so ultimately you feel like you underachieved and you're frustrated.
"There was so much changeover [in Pittsburgh] and I think that it made it easier to move on. It's completely new there, probably moreso than here in terms of personnel and how much changeover there was.
"One thing that kind of bothered me too is I remember after last year a couple of guys made comments saying, 'Oh, you've already won a Cup so it's not as frustrating for you.' That really rubbed me the wrong way. I think every year, no matter if you win, the next year it's a different group. It's always a different group. It's always a new challenge. When you experience how joyful that is when you win I think it makes you want to win it even more. I've heard some guys who have won more than one Cup say, 'The first one is always more special.' I don't know if I'd ever be able to say that if I won two. It's a different group and achieving something with a different group makes it a different experience, and I don't think one would be better than the other."
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Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer