Last night Caps' defenseman Brooks Orpik left the game with what was later termed an "upper-body injury" by the team. The full extent of his injury won't be clear until later today (if then), but it does appear as if the Caps might be without Orpik's services for at least the near future. So what does that mean for the team?
Orpik has played in 44 of the Capitals 85 games since the start of the 2015-2016 season, which gives us a pretty big sample size of five-on-five ice time for the Caps in games in which Orpik has played (2039 minutes) and games in which he hasn't (2029). Obviously there are a lot of different factors that have an impact on the most frequently used modern day team statistics (Corsi, Fenwick, Goals For, etc) but in order to keep this simple let's gloss over some of the context and simply look at how the team played during five-on-five minutes when Orpik was in the lineup versus when he wasn't.
The Capitals have performed better as a team in all but one of the statistical categories examined when Orpik played. Granted, that one category was the one that decides games (GF%) but given the other statistics, specifically scoring-chances-for % (SCF%) and high-danger-scoring-chances-for % (HSCF%), it's pretty hard to blame that one on Orpik. While correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation, based upon these numbers it's possible that Orpik's inclusion in the lineup allows the rest of the roster to play in their optimal positions; which, in turn, results in across-the-board improvements - the Caps allowed 30 shots-on-goal-against per game in the games he didn't play during the regular season versus 26.9 in those he did.
The Caps' impressive penalty kill has also been better with Orpik in the lineup - 86.8% successful in the regular season (88.1% overall) with their big-ticket stay-at-home defender in the lineup, 83.7% without him.
Orpik has been victimized on both goals scored against during the Capitals' first round match-up with the Flyers, but that doesn't mean the team would be better off without him. If Orpik isn't ready to go on Wednesday either Mike Weber or Taylor Chorney will take his place. Here are both players five-on-five numbers while playing with the Capitals this year:
Weber plays a style more similar to Orpik's, but his overall numbers have been abysmal since he was obtained shortly before the trade deadline.
It's unclear at this time which player is the seventh defenseman on the Capitals depth chart and which is the eighth... and ideally we won't find out.
Statistics from War-On-Ice