Reporting Colin Dunlap
There’s so much BS, coach-speak, player-speak, mincing of words and even downright untruth disseminated in locker rooms to reporters that it all could be dizzying.
Was it a lower-body injury?
Wait, was it an upper-body injury?
Think if the Pittsburgh Spirit were still around, their players might be having out-of-body injuries?
Is the guy out for undisclosed reasons? A personal issue?
Who the heck ever thought of the PUP list, anyway?
Did your favorite player sit because of a coaching decision? Is the guy on your fantasy team a healthy scratch or nursing a nagging injury?
Is the status of a participant questionable, probable or doubtful?
Did a player miss practice because of a term that has recently entered the sports vernacular — taking a “maintenance day” to get everything squared away?
All this uncertainty surrounding that portion of the games made something Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said in the aftermath of Tuesday’s 4-1 win against the Ottawa Senators so enlightening.
Just after the Penguins took a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Orpik — whose run of physical play of late has been noticeably ratcheted up — couldn’t have been more candid.
“I hate to say this because the fans pay good money,” Orpik said. “But you do have to pace yourself a little bit during the regular season, physically. Or else, you won’t even be playing this time of year.”
Sound the horns.
Hallelujah should have been playing underneath him.
Certainly, the fans who paid good money to attend one of the regular season games will understand, but Orpik did, indeed, make a statement I can’t remember many — if any — athletes making before. Orpik came right out and said, on Tuesday night, that there are times within the regular season that he harnesses things in an effort to be at maximum production level for the postseason.
Good for him.
Indeed, there are many in the NHL (and all of sports) who feel this way, but few speak with a level of frankness to where they would say it to reporters.
Orpik gets it, however. You can never go wrong with honesty and seasons aren’t identified by regular-season records or plaudits.
No, it’s about what happens in the playoffs, and after missing the first three games of the Islanders series, Orpik was an unlikely hero, scoring the series-winner in Game 6 in overtime.
In the three games he played against the Islanders, he was exponentially more physical than he had been over the final month of the regular-season, playing with an even heightened level of physicality in Game 1 against the Senators.
“I think everyone is banged up, so I hate to use that as an excuse, but I don’t have any complaints,” Orpik said. “I haven’t been 100 percent in 10 years. … I don’t even know what 100 percent is anymore.”
“If you can get out there and skate, that’s good enough this time of year.”
And it’s even better if you can be someone who instills a measure of fear. Orpik has turned back into that person, as evidenced by a hit he laid on Eric Gryba, who never returned after the second period smash by Orpik.
Asked who got the better of the collision, Orpik didn’t hesitate.
“I think I got the best [of the hit],” Orpik said. “I don’t think he came back in the game.”
That’s certainly a fair and accurate assessment.
So, too is this: We are seeing a spike in play from Brooks Orpik in the playoffs because he scaled himself back a bit in the regular season.
Know why? Because he gets it.
Former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Writer Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.