Washington Capitals blueliner Brooks Orpik took center stage Monday, when he addressed the media about his hit on Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta and his three-game suspension.
“I’m disappointed,” Orpik said of his actions. “It’s a split-second decision you make and you just got to live with it.”
Orpik received a two-minute penalty for interference after his shoulder-to-chin hit on Maatta. It was later reviewed by the NHL’s Department of Players Safety, and Orpik had a hearing on Sunday. Orpik may not return until a possible Game 6, and Maatta remains out injured.
Barry Trotz added that he was disappointed with the three-game suspension, but understands the severity of Orpik’s actions and that he needs to face some kind of repercussion.
“I’m disappointed obviously with the suspension. Looking at it, was Brooks a little bit late? Probably,” head coach Barry Trotz said. Looking in back in terms at the series before [Capitals-Flyers], I’m more disappointed at the length than anything. I’m disappointed but not surprised based on who we’re playing and all that. We’ll just go forward.”
Orpik went on to explain how his heat-of-the-moment play developed.
“We made a point before the series to be hard on the guys, especially the defenseman,” Orpik said. “And that’s what I tried to do, and I made a pretty bad mistake with how late it was.”
After the hit, NBC analyst Mike Milbury went on to call Orpik a “predator” and pointed out that Orpik “looks for people who are vulnerable.” Jeremy Roenick agreed, saying that Orpik “does try to hurt people” and “made a complete, utter [move] to hurt Mattaa However, the Capitals completely disagree with that perception and quickly stood up for the former Penguins veteran.
“That’s not him. He’s an honest, hard-nosed player, and I think a lot of players around the league will tell you that,” Trotz said. “If you know anything about Brooks, he’s one of the classiest guys, one of the true pros in the league.”
Orpik also explained how he did not mean to hurt Maatta, and understands the pain he must be going through.
“I was in a similar spot two weeks ago,” Orpik told the Washington Post. “It’s tough hearing people try to say I was intentionally trying to hit him in the head.”
Teammates chimed in to, all taking about how classy of a player Orpik is, and Tom Wilson was quick to explain his anger with the comments.
“I don’t think it’s fair for guys that have the talk shows after the games to be calling Orpik a predator,” Wilson told the media. “Anyone that knows Orpy knows that he plays the game hard, and he plays within the rules. He’s a leader and a good guy, a good honest guy.”
Wilson added that he is “no stranger” to remarks about his play, especially when it comes to the playoffs, but said that “it pisses me off a little bit more when they’re going after my teammates.”
Orpik is not a dirty player, and though he has had history of hard hits and plays, he did not intend to hurt Maatta. It is a tough, intense series, and he had a job to go hard after the Penguins and give his team a chance to win.
That’s what Orpik did, but he went a bit overboard and a little too hard. The suspension is fair, but calling him a dirty player, let alone a predator, is not fair at all.
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.