It’s nice to be able to call tonight very slow in the life of the Pittsburgh Penguins. 3 days removed from their last game and still 48 hours away from their next, the Pens are getting some much needed rest. Practice took place today, but as has been the case all year, many of the guys were taking “maintenance days.” Time to rest and heal up from bumps, sores and bruises is crucial right now. It also gives us time to talk about and explore different areas of the pens organization and take a deeper look into some of our players. I’d like to take the next few minutes to talk about the guy I think is under-appreciated the most on the penguins roster, Brooks Orpik.
That smile you see in the picture has happened maybe 4 times in his life. The rest of the time this mans demeanor is all business. He’s big, strong, intimidating, vocal and 100% all man. His numbers won’t knock you out of your seat, nor will his shot, but if you are a well educated hockey fan, you see what he brings to the game and to this pens team through his play, the kind of play that wins games but doesn’t end up or show on the score sheet.
The next time he is on the ice, just watch him. Whether even strength or on the penalty kill, Brooks Orpik is, if nothing else, RELIABLE. He is physical and will knock you off the puck. He is the guy who makes the defensive play before a big offensive play takes place. That is to say that if Ovechkin was cutting in with no one on him while Backstrom hovered the puck behind the net or in the corner, Brooks Orpik is the guy using his strength to knock down Backstrom, take the puck and move it up the ice and, most importantly, help us gain control. These moments happen multiple times every night, they just go unnoticed or unappreciated.
There is always that I and many of you will remember him by. What a human being. The crowd caught fire after that shift. 30-40 seconds of ice time by one man changed a game. It’s not the only time that happened, its just the most famous.
Orpik is a captain on any other team. Instead he sits quiet behind the media attention of Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, Letang, Neal and others. Guys who show up on the score sheet. But thats not his style, nor what Shero pays him for. We want the anger, the grit, the reliability, the amazing skating in and out of the zone, the guy who crushes people along the boards and cuts off passing lanes to defuse any plan of a scoring change. He is the heart of this team, as much as crosby and malkin are the offensive juggernauts.
Find me a stanley cup team who didn’t have an Orpik. The caps dont have one and we know where they stand as far as important hardware goes (team wise, brag all you want about individual awards….yawn…) He is vital in the success of this team. He blocks shots, he hits and hits hard, he is a vocal leader and a role model for our young talent pool of prospects. Joe Morrow and Simon Despres (not the same kind of player) see what it takes to be a penguins defensive warrior because of Orpik. Stop looking at the stat sheet and just follow him the next time you watch a game. He is a smooth skating, puck controling, crisp passing, big hitting defenseman who has brought the penguins to the top of the team defensive stats categories throughout the leauge. We lead statistical categories because of him. We have success because of him. For all those reading this, salute #44. He is the heart of this top defense. Go Pens.