- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Brooks Orpik had to be carried off the ice on Monday night at Wells Fargo Center after taking a hit from Philadelphia Flyers bad boy Ryan White in the second period. If something was going through White’s brain that the hit was a good idea — that it would somehow help his team win Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series — he was wrong.

I suspect, though, that not much of anything was going through White’s small brain other than to hurt another player. He accomplished that, but little else, as the Capitals went on to beat down the Flyers, 6-1, to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Maybe White had a couple of brain cells still left to use for some sort of warped forward thinking, figuring that he would take Orpik out of the series, giving the Flyers a fighting chance to somehow come back — or, at the very least, not be swept in four games.

Probably not, though. That would give him too much credit.

Let’s face it, if White had been in the seats at Wells Fargo Center with the other Flyers fans, he would have been throwing his light show bracelet onto the ice with the rest of the crowd, and probably beating up anyone who dared not relinquish his bracelet for the greater good of Flyers tradition.

All of it, though — White’s hit on Orpik, the gang war that the Flyers tried to start and the crowd behavior — won’t derail this Capitals playoff train, at least for this series.

Brian MacLellan is the conductor, and, as a good conductor, he prepared for this trip long before the postseason began. The Capitals general manager saw White coming in February.

“We are pleased to welcome Mike to our organization,” MacLellan said after they traded for the Buffalo Sabres’ Mike Weber three months ago. “Mike is a stay-at-home defenseman who plays a physical game and is respected by his teammates. We felt it was important to add depth to our blue line by adding another quality veteran defenseman.”

It turns out that it was important — particularly since Orpik had missed 40 games because of a broken bone in his leg.

Now, with Orpik’s status — out for Wednesday’s Game 4, uncertain beyond that — it looks as if MacLellan and Capitals coach Barry Trotz were clairvoyant when they made the Weber trade.

“You saw, first-hand, last year, playing in the Islanders series, you get a couple D-men hurt in a long, physical series, you need a lot of depth,” Trotz said then. “I think we’ve got a good, physical defense, and Mike will add to that depth. … It’s good to have depth. That’s an area that’s hard to fix if you get some injuries there, and we saw it first-hand last year.”

Many have been looking for the difference between perhaps every other single Capitals playoff team and the one that dominated the NHL this season. If indeed the results this year wind up different from the past — no appearance beyond the second round since 1998 — it may be because of the presence of Weber. It may be because of the roster that MacLellan put together.

It may be because of depth, and it didn’t start just with the Weber trade. Opponents saw earlier this season that the strength that would carry the Capitals further than years past would likely be their depth.

In case anyone forgot all of this, Trotz reminded everyone on Tuesday about that well-rounded roster that is built for the rigors of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“Yeah, we’re really deep at that position,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve got eight defensemen that are capable at the NHL level and got a couple in Hershey that have come up and played good stretches for us. That’s an area that I think is a strength of our team. Whoever steps up, it’s a next-man-up mentality. Brooks will miss this next game and we’ll see where it is.”

Where it is will likely be in a game against their next-round opponent — and White will go back to his cave.

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