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Orpik's Play Sets Tone for Pens

by Joe Prince-Wright / Pittsburgh Penguins
Brooks Orpik is not a shouter or a screamer on the ice or in the locker room.

But then again, he doesn’t have to be.

His presence and leadership with his actions on the ice alone send out a message which impacts the whole team. The Penguins' No. 44 is a leader in more ways than one.

Orpik is in his fifth-straight playoff campaign with the Penguins and his hard hitting, no-nonsense brand of hockey has helped his team set the tempo for the series against Tampa Bay, giving the Penguins the chance to clinch in Game 5 on Saturday.

“We don’t want to go back to Tampa Bay,” Orpik said. “That is how we view it. We don’t want to give them any life, especially if you can score early, you put doubt in their heads right away.”

Orpik has led by example for many of the Penguins postseason bids since he arrived in Pittsburgh seven seasons ago. But perhaps this season he has been more involved than ever before.

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In Game 4 against Tampa Bay he recorded a monstrous 40:32 minutes of ice time. This feat left his teammates in awe, as Orpik found a way to keep his level of play so high for such a long period of time in such an intense situation.

“He played 40 minutes in the last game and that’s ridiculous,” said fellow defensemen Ben Lovejoy. “Especially for a guy that doesn’t get any power play time. He has been a monster back there, he is tough to play against and he is efficient. He just keeps playing better and better.”

Orpik undoubtedly set the tone for the series at the very beginning of Game 1 as he hit Tampa’s leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos hard. This hit raised the roof at CONSOL Energy Center as fans and players saw the bruising defenseman make his mark early on.

Forward Mike Rupp certainly felt that hit helped to start their quest for the Stanley Cup off on the right foot.

“He has got that look in his eyes,” Rupp said. “He is finishing his checks. He started off the series in the right way with the big hit on Stamkos. He has been giving us solid minutes every game and the younger guys look to him.”

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He has got that look in his eyes. He is finishing his checks. He started off the series in the right way with the big hit on (Steven) Stamkos. He has been giving us solid minutes every game and the younger guys look to him. - Mike Rupp, on Brooks Orpik
One of those younger guys is Lovejoy. In his first season in the NHL and first playoff campaign, Lovejoy is trying to feed off of the older defenseman’s wealth of knowledge and experience as much as he can.

“He has been great. He has been a leader for the whole team,” said Lovejoy.

Lovejoy also feels that Orpik’s task in this series against Tampa Bay has been made even harder when you consider that he is up against three of the top forwards in the NHL – Martin St. Louis, Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier – every time he steps on the ice.

“It is amazing,” said Lovejoy. “He is not playing against guys who aren’t trying to score. These guys are coming at him and trying to make plays. Even when he may not have anything left in the tank he is still in position and still making plays, and he is still playing really hard defense.”

Orpik is quick to praise the other defensemen around him and believes that the younger defensemen can learn from these playoffs and should use the experience in the future. The experience he has gained over the years has been vital in his own development as a leading defenseman. Orpik believes that factor is vital if the Penguins are to be successful.

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“I think when you are young you kind of underestimate it,” Orpik said. “You’re a little naïve and you say experience doesn’t have that much to do with it. It is big this time of year. I think when you get to certain situations if you have been in them before you know how to react as opposed to just coming into it fresh. You yourself don’t know how you are going to react or how your teammates are going to react. I think it is huge. We learned that the hard way three years ago against Detroit.”

Mike Rupp is also extremely experienced and sees himself and Orpik as crucial leaders in the locker room. Rupp perhaps pays Orpik the biggest compliment of all as he likened him to Hall-of- Fame defenseman Scott Stevens, who Rupp played with in New Jersey when he won the Stanley Cup in 2003.

“I played with Scott Stevens and there are a lot of similarities,” Rupp said. “Not just the hard hitting stuff, but he is a guy that elevates his game in the playoffs. Scotty would have that look in his eyes when the playoffs came around and you knew it was business. He would be a good gauge for the team. Brooksie’s got that same bearing on our team.”
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