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Tarasenko, Orlov share bond ahead of season opener

Blues forward, Capitals defenseman grew up playing together in Siberia

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- It was Vladimir Tarasenko's day with the Stanley Cup, but Dmitry Orlov couldn't resist the opportunity to remind his good friend who won it first.

So Orlov, who won the Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018, found a moment that day in Novosibirsk, Russia, to point out to the St. Louis Blues forward where his name was already engraved on it.

"When we were standing by the Cup I said, 'You see who is the last team who won it? So you can find me,'" Orlov said.


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Tarasenko's name is on there now, too, and, by coincidence, Orlov and the Capitals will be at Enterprise Center on Wednesday to open the season against the Blues as they raise their first championship banner (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

"We've been friends since we were like 10 years old. I would say best friends," Tarasenko said. "He's my best friend and it's crazy. We always talk about [winning the Cup] and we get it two different years."

Tarasenko and Orlov met while growing up playing against each other in Siberia. Orlov was a defenseman with a youth team in his hometown of Novokuznetsk, Russia, and Tarasenko, a Yaroslavl, Russia, native, played for a team from Novosibirsk, where he lived with his grandparents.  

"We played each other a lot, and then we played together in some region tournaments and we get our friendship from that," Orlov said. "From then, we were always together and have a connection."

Orlov, who was selected by the Capitals in the second round (No. 55) of the 2009 NHL Draft, and Tarasenko, who was taken by the Blues with the No. 16 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, helped Russia win the gold medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship and have remained close throughout their NHL careers.

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Orlov is godfather to Tarasenko's 3-year-old son, Alesksandr, and Tarasenko is godfather is Orlov's son, Kirill, who was born June 28. Tarasenko and his wife, Yana, welcomed their third child, Artem, on June 7, five days before the Blues won the Cup with a 4-1 victory against the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden.

After Washington's bid to repeat was ended by the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Orlov was rooting for Tarasenko to get his chance with the Cup. Tarasenko called Orlov the night the Capitals won the Cup by defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the 2018 Cup Final, so Orlov returned the favor.

"After we won the Cup, he called me and I was not able to pick up at first, but I called him back and he was surprised I called him back," Orlov said. "He was like, 'I thought you are not going to call me back.' So I did the same thing to try to catch him and he picked it up right way. I said, 'Congrats,' and I was happy for him and his wife and family. 

"It's a long wait for him, too. He came through a lot of injuries."

When Tarasenko asked Orlov if he would come to Novosibirsk for his day with the Cup on Aug. 18, he was a little surprised when Orlov accepted his invitation.

"Yeah, I was thinking he was joking," Tarasenko said. "But he said, 'I'm coming.' I'm like, 'OK.' … I asked him, 'If you don't win (in 2018) and I win, would you have come?' And he said, 'No.' Me, I would say the same way. You just don't feel right."

Tarasenko wouldn't have been able to attend Orlov's day with the Cup in Novokuznetsk last summer anyway because he spent most of that offseason in Miami, Florida, recovering from shoulder surgery. But Orlov said he wouldn't have asked Tarasenko even if he had been in Russia at the time.

"I didn't ask him because I know we always [chirp] each other who win (the Cup) or not," Orlov said. "Right now, it's at 1-1."

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By coincidence, the Cup accidentally was shipped to Novosibirsk on Orlov's day with it, delaying its arrival in Novokuznetsk and some of his plans for the celebration.

"So the Cup went first to his hometown and then it come to mine," Orlov said. "We started laughing when we remembered that and said, 'It's something special when the Cup comes the second time to the same spot.'"

This time around, Orlov had to juggle his schedule a little to make it to Tarasenko's celebration. Orlov attended the first birthday party of Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin's son, Sergei, in Moscow earlier in the day, but arrived in Novosibirsk in time for Tarasenko's private Cup party in the evening. 

While there, Tarasenko and Orlov posed for a photo lifting the Cup over their heads together.

"I think his day was good and my day was good," Orlov said. "Every person has a different vision of that day and you try to get the best for your family, for the friends, for the parents. You have to enjoy it because it's not easy to win this Cup. You fight for that for your whole career."

On Wednesday, Tarasenko and Orlov will begin their race to see who will be the first to win the Cup a second time. But for now, they're each happy the other has done it once.

"It was our dream for our lives, and it becomes realistic," Tarasenko said. "So this means a lot for us."

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