Brooks Orpik is a lot of things as an NHL player.
He is a tough, physical defender that has been accomplished enough at his craft to play more than 1,100 games (regular season and playoffs combined) at the highest level. He is a Stanley Cup champion and an Olympic Silver Medalist. He is, on many occasions, a quotable player, if you care about that sort of thing.
One thing that he is not as an NHL player? A goal-scorer.
This is not an insult. This is not a slight on him as a player. This is simply an objective, statistical fact that really can not be disputed. He simply does not score goals. He is not an offensive player in any way. In his 1,128 career games he has scored a total of 19 goals at the NHL level. This fact is what made his goal in the second period of the Washington Capitals’ 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night such a stunning moment.
It was not only just the 19th goal of his NHL career, it was his first goal since February 26, 2016, a goal-less drought of 220 consecutive games.
It also goes in the books as a game-winning goal in a Stanley Cup Final game and only adds to the shock.
Given that Orpik was probably the least likely option on the Capitals roster to score a game-winning goal in this series it made me ask myself a totally random question: Is Brooks Orpik the unlikeliest player to score a game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup Final?
This is, after all, a player that averages less than two goals for every 82 games he played.
So let’s do a little digging.
Using the hockey-reference database was able to filter out every game-winning goal in a Stanley Cup Final game dating back to the 1987 series, so just a little more than three decades worth of games. From there, I looked at every player that scored a game-winning goal and looked at which players had the lowest goals-per-game average (again, regular and playoff games combined).
These are the bottom-15 players on that list.
Not only is Orpik at the top of that list, there is really almost nobody close to him.
Fun list here.
Obviously that is a lot of “stay-at-home” defenders that are not known for their offense. Freddy Gaudreau is a fascinating one at the top because he actually scored two game-winning goals in the Stanley Cup Final a year ago for the Nashville Predators.
There are also a couple of winners in Cup-clinching games on there, including Ulf Samuelsson (Game 6, 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Minnesota North Stars) and Uwe Krupp (Game 4, 1996, Colorado Avalanche vs. Florida Panthers).
There is obviously a lot of randomness and good timing here. If Vegas doesn’t score a goal later in the second period to make it a one-goal game Alex Ovechkin gets credit for the winning goal and gets another checkmark in his favor in the Conn Smythe race and Orpik’s goal is just an insurance marker. The fact Orpik scored a goal in any situation is an eyebrow raiser because it simply does not happen very often. The fact all of the stars aligned in a way to allow him to get a game-winning goal in a Stanley Cup Final game is just … stunning and not at all what anybody could have reasonably expected.
Sometimes to win a championship you need some unexpected contributions like this. The Capitals are getting a bunch of them right now. That is a pretty good sign.
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub