The player we saw in Brooks Orpik Monday night and again Tuesday night vs the Washington Capitals was the player we saw on a regular basis three to four years ago. Orpik for much of this season has looked like a third pairing type defenseman on the decline, but the last two games vs the Capitals, Orpik completely shutdown the games best goal scorer in Alex Ovechkin.
“Monday night and maybe even more so {Tuesday} tonight , Orpik was really good denying him the puck, denying him the space and confronting him when he had the puck,” head coach Dan Bylsma said following the Penguins 2-0 win yesterday. “Monday night, he was physical, he was hard. That’s a physical matchup that he brings to that matchup, that defensive matchup. You know Ovechkin is going to play a hard game, and Brooks has matched it in the last two games. Matched it with eight hits Monday night, and tonight maybe not as physical but as hard on him in taking away his time and space,” Bylsma said.
Bylsma had his stats wrong, Orpik was credited with 3 hits Monday night and 7 hits Tuesday night but point is the Orpik we saw the past two games is still the player that the Penguins feel is going to be there come post-season time. Wishful thinking? We’ll find out soon enough.
Penguins officials feel that big games and big situations against players like Ovechkin bring out the best in Orpik, such as the team feeling he graded out very well in the Olympics. Anytime I’ve asked around about Orpik’s struggles this season, the sense seems to be Orpik’s struggles have been overblown….The eye test says differently.
The possession game at 5-on-5 for Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby improved dramatically the last two games vs the Capitals.

While it’s a very small sampling, the little things that Lee Stempniak has brought to the table could be a big factor for the lines improved possession game.
Stempniak is not a typical top-6 forward and expectations shouldn’t be high on him scoring many goals, but the little things he does really stood out in the home and home series vs Washington.
“Sometimes it’s the simple plays and the smart plays that play well with Crosby,” Bylsma said Tuesday night. “He’s been hard on the puck, able to support the puck and they’ve been able to get offensive zone time because of it,” Bylsma said of the top line.
The Penguins are hopeful that Beau Bennett’s examination next week puts him on track to return to the lineup in the next 10-14 days and sources say the coaching staff would love for Stempniak to hold down the first line right wing spot.
The coaches are said to still be infatuated with this idea that Brandon Sutter and Beau Bennett together on the third line WILL add a scoring dynamic on the third line in the playoffs that the Penguins haven’t had since Jordan Staal.
At the end of the day, though, I think the best fits will be Bennett with Crosby, and Stempniak on the third line, but for now, Stempniak has been a very good fit the past two games from the standpoint of doing the little things such as wall play in the offensive and defensive zones.