Caps @ Penguins Game Day Buzz: Letang iffy? Player reactions on Ovechkin; Has Orpik changed his game?


Is Kris Letang’s status for tonight up in the air? Letang left the morning skate early after the Penguins power play session and head coach Dan Bylsma was very coy about whether Letang will play. Letang, though, looked fine on the ice this morning but he obviously has something bothering him.
If Letang is a no-go, Dylan Reese will enter the lineup. “{He’s} a guy whose played quite a few NHL games,” Bylsma said. “Skating defenseman and can play a lot of different spots. He’s not a real big guy but is a gritty player with his speed and how he plays the game,” Bylsma said. Bylsma claimed Reese could also see time on “second power play” when he gets in the lineup.
WBS teammate (1st part of season) Robert Bortuzzo on Reese. “Good puck mover,” Bortuzzo said.

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With Alexander Ovechkin’s fall from being one of the NHL best players, the Washington Capitals – Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry is starting to lose some it’s lust but don’t tell Dan Bylsma or his hockey club that the Capitals are not a dangerous team. They still are and always play well in Pittsburgh.
“We just played them two days ago and {they’re} still dangerous,” Bylsma said. “Power play as dangerous as it’s ever been.”
The Capitals come into tonight’s game dead last in the NHL and they’ve been outscored a striking 36-23 for a minus-13 differential. The 7-3 Pittsburgh Penguins are a +11 goal differential. 16 Capitals are minus players on the season.
At 5-on-5, the Capitals are minus-9, giving up 23 5-on-5 goals against and scoring just 14 goals. The Penguins boast a +7 differential at 5-on-5 with 22 goals and 15 against.
It’s clear that Alexander Ovechkin is no longer the same player but no one from the coaches to the players will admit that. “Still same guy to me when I play him,” Brooks Orpik said. Orpik said Ovechkin is the toughest player to play against, “Definitely in the east,” Orpik said, while also naming Milan Lucic and Rick Nash.
Dan Bylsma also echoed the same comments from Orpik. “I don’t see a lot different,” Bylsma said. “Guy can skate, physical. All those things”


After the Penguins put up six goals on Braden Holtby Sunday afternoon, Michal Neuvirth will get the start for Washington.
Neuvirth is 1-4-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average this season, but he’s been very good against Pittsburgh, going 2-0-2 with a 1.46 GAA, .948 save percentage and two shutouts vs the Penguins in four career starts.
Marc Andre Fleury will get the start in goal for the Penguins and It will mark just the second time this season Fleury will start two straight games. Fleury is 4-2-0 with a 2.44 GAA and .907 sv% on the year and coming off his strongest game of the season vs the Islanders. Fleury at home is 1-2-0 with a 3.75 GAA and .825 save percentage. In 21 games vs Capitals, Fleury is 11-7-2 with a 2.71 GAA and .909 save percentage and 1 shutout.


The tape will say defenseman Brooks Orpik is a different player. He is being more responsible in his own end and most importantly not running around. Orpik is averaging nearly two hits less per game but he said today he’s not playing any differently than he’s ever played, but head coach Dan Bylsma seems to disagree and is seeing what the tape shows; Orpik being a more patient player.

Bylsma glowingly talked about Orpik’s play who earned our only A- in our player grades at the 10 game mark. “Just seeing more of patience been pretty remarkable,” Bylsma said. Bylsma claimed the “image” of Orpik is his bone crushing hits in the 2008 Cup Finals and running around for hits. Bylsma said today we’re not seeing that from Orpik this season, which is playing a part in him ranking 2nd in the NHL in blocked shots with 29. “Last game he had one time where he really ran to get a hit,” Bylsma said who praised the Orpik’s “gap play” this season.


One key for the Penguins during their four game winning streak has been production from the back-end. During that span the Penguins have received 13 points from their bluelines, getting 5 goals and 8 assists.
*Kris Letang (2 goals – 3 assists – 5 points – +4)
Simon Despres (2 Goals – 1 Assist – 3 Points – +5)
Robert Bortuzzo (1 Goal – 1 Assist – 2 Points – +5)
Paul Martin (0 Goals – 2 Assists – 2 Points – -1)
Deryk Engelland (0 Goals – 1 Assist – 1 Point – +6)


Top pick Derrick Pouliot is in town taking part in meetings with the team. Pouliot has been injured and it’s not clear if he came to town to get evaluated but he will be heading back to juniors this week.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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