By: Melissa Esing (Off_thepost)
Pittsburgh’s beloved Brooks Orpik was announced on the Team USA roster earlier this week, along with teammate Paul Martin.
Now, as we all can recall in December, Orpik was out for three weeks with a concussion thanks to a classy sucker punch from Boston’s Shawn Thornton.
Clearly, his time off may have prevented him from increasing his points on the year, but it hasn’t necessarily affected his game and the decision to bring him to Sochi.
Last week, he made his return against the Carolina Hurricanes. His physical game was at a minimum, but maintained strong positioning throughout the game, along with contributing an assist for Deryk Engelland. It’s safe to say that Orpik has in fact, returned.
There’s a difference between just being a veteran to the game and being a leader. This 33-year-old is a leader in Pittsburgh, the only NHL team he’s played for. His leadership comes in handy during a crucial time for a team with such young, fresh faces added to the roster.
Throughout his career, he’s lacked offensively and hasn’t been one to rack up many goals. His career best came in the 2009-2010 campaign with 25 points. Aside from that, Orpik is proficient at blocking shots, and his defensive game remains strong. He utilizes his strength and size to the best of his abilities. In his 35 games so far this season, he’s had nine points and a plus-4. He ended the previous (shortened) season with a plus-17.
When the two are healthy, Orpik and Martin are the ultimate dynamic duo, and they’re the top defensive pair for the Penguins. This will be Orpik’s second appearance with Team USA in the Winter Olympics. He previously helped the team to win silver at the Vancouver Games in 2010. According to Orpik, it came as a surprise that he would be playing in the upcoming games.
“With Dan as a coach, I thought maybe we’d get a little heads up,” said Orpik. “I know for the Vancouver [Games], we got a letter in the mail a couple of days prior to the official announcement, so you’d know ahead of time.”
Orpik commented that he and Martin communicate very well together, which is certainly why they compliment each other so well on the ice. Aside from the Winter Olympics, many fans thought that the Penguins’ defense would have a decent amount of struggle with the absence of Kris Letang in the beginning of the 2013-2014 season. That didn’t appear to happen, and a large part of that can be owed to these two.
Last season, Orpik showed signs of his age at times, but those signs greatly diminished while paired with Martin. They were second and third in total ice time among defensemen.
The duo will continue on to try to shut it down in Sochi.