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“The chances of me scoring in the finals here aren’t very good,” Brooks Orpik told the Media on Sunday afternoon. Of course, if he’d known all it was going to take to turn the tide on his scoring drought was to openly acknowledge it, I’m sure he would have said something a long time ago. The last time Orpik scored a goal, Las Vegas didn’t have a hockey team, Barack Obama was the President of the United States, the Chicago Blackhawks were the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, and the DMV was coming out of its worst snowstorm in five years, so it really hasn’t been that long.
Orpik has played in the National Hockey League since the 2002-03 season, first for 11 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Capitals the previous four seasons. Despite having 16 years under his belt and one more year to go on his current contract, Orpik has only ever scored 16 goals. That’s an average of one goal a season. His career-high in goals is three, which came in 2015-16, and he hasn’t scored any goals since February 2016. Because of this, the Capitals’ Alternate Captain has been the subject of some heavy, and often times, unjust criticism from the Capitals fan base.
In Game 2 of the Caps’ Stanley Cup Final matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights on May 30, 2018, Orpik ended a 220-game goal drought to give the Caps an insurance goal against the Golden Knights, boosting the Caps’ lead from 2-1 to 3-1. The Golden Knights would strike back again later for a final score of 3-2, making Orpik’s tally the game-winning goal. Surprising many, and displeasing none, everyone from the fans to his teammates were quick to bombard No. 44 with excited congratulations.
“To have success in the playoffs, you need guys, every single guy, chipping in,” Lars Eller told the media after Wednesday night’s victory. “Sometimes they need to chip in in ways they’re not used to. (Brooks Orpik) came up huge for us.”
Many of his teammates feel that Brooks doesn’t get enough credit. “He’s the heart and soul of the team. He does so much. He doesn’t get much credit from anyone that writes about him. We love him to death. He brings it every single night, brings guys along, he pushes guys to be better and shows us the way. He’s our leader and it’s nice to see him get that big goal for us.” said fellow defenseman John Carlson, of Orpik’s big moment in a postgame interview.
Despite his huge goal, a number of fans still clamor about his lack of notable work. Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz believes this is because a lot of the things Orpik does to push the team ahead are things that don’t “have fancy stats”. He then went on to note that Orpik is a crucial part of Washington’s penalty kill, and was a league leader in blocking shots during the regular season.
It should be clear to most people who understand the ins and outs of the sport that regardless of his big goal, Orpik is a key component to the Capitals’ success. A defensive defenseman’s job is not to score goals. It is to be a shutdown player; to be seen and not heard. To do the little things that make it hard for the opposition to get the puck past Holtby and backup Philipp Grubauer. Orpik does this splendidly night in and night out, and for the first time in a long time, he got a taste of the spotlight by ripping the puck into the net behind Marc-Andre Fleury.
Savor this moment, Orpik. No matter what the critics say, you’ve earned this.
By: Chris Laroche