Unexpected Heroes

Although it takes 16 victories to win the Stanley Cup, it only takes one player to score one Cup-winning goal.

During some past Cup finals, unexpected heroes have stepped up to take home the big prize. The list of all-time Stanley Cup-winning goals includes the names of many star-players such as Brendan Shanahan (Detroit, 2002), Brett Hull (Dallas, 1999) and Mark Messier (New York, 1994) but other teams had surprising players come forward to make their team the ultimate winners.

Mike Rupp, New Jersey, 2003

Rupp, a 6-foot-5 left winger from Cleveland, OH, was originally drafted in the first round by the New York Islanders but was never signed. He was then selected 76th overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2000. Three years later, he played 51 games with the team before entering the playoffs with only 11 points that season.

The Devils met the Ducks in a Game 7 showdown where goaltender Martin Brodeur stopped all 24 shots. At least one shot from the Devils needed to get past Jean-Sebastien Giguere if the Devils were to win, and one finally did when Mike Rupp scored at 2:22 of the second period. Jeff Friesen added two more and the Devils won the Stanley Cup at home by a final score of 3-0.

Rupp has played the past two seasons in Pittsburgh, where he has accumulated 36 points. He will be an unrestricted free agent this July 1.

Frantisek Kaberle, Carolina, 2006

Frantisek, brother of Boston Bruin Tomas Kaberle, was selected in the 1999 draft by the Los Angeles Kings in the third round. He moved from L.A to Atlanta and finally landed in Carolina at the start of the 2005-06 season.

The Czech defenseman scored six goals during the regular season and added four during the playoffs. One of them fortunately occurred at the start of the second period, when he scored the game-winning goal in a 3-1 game seven victory against the Edmonton Oilers. With Eric Staal, Rob Brind’Amour and Erik Cole as teammates, most people wouldn’t have picked Kaberle as the playoff hero.

Kaberle played another three seasons with the Hurricanes before moving back home, where he currently plays for the HC Pardubice in the Czech league.

Travis Moen, Anaheim, 2007

Moen, a Swift Current, Saskatchewan native, was selected 155th overall in the 2000 entry draft by the Calgary Flames, but never signed an NHL contract and continued playing with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL for five seasons. As a free agent, Moen signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2002 and was traded to the Anaheim Ducks before the start of the 2005-06 season.

In 2006-07, Moen tallied 21 points on the third line. The Ducks qualified for the playoffs and made it all the way to the finals against the Ottawa Senators. In Game 5, Moen scored the cup-winning goal in a 6-2 victory. The left winger scored at 15:44 in the second period, giving the Ducks a 3-1 lead, before adding an additional goal and inspiring teammates Francois Beauchemin and Corey Perry to do the same.

With veteran players Teemu Selanne and brothers Scott and Rob Niedermayer, Moen’s heroics were unexpected but appreciated. Moen currently plays for the Montreal Canadiens.

Maxime Talbot, Pittsburgh, 2009

The Lemoyne, Qubec native was selected 234th overall in the 2002 NHL draft.

At the start of the 2004-05 season, Talbot was signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins and was assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. After an impressive training camp, Talbot made the NHL roster for the 2005-06 season.

Talbot had a few chances to be the unexpected hero; in Game 5 of the 2008 Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings, he scored the tying goal with 35 seconds remaining, allowing Pittsburgh to score in triple overtime to keep their hope of winning the Cup alive. However, the Penguins lost the series in six games.

In 2009, Max tallied only 22 points during the regular season, as the Pens returned to the Cup finals for the second consecutive year against Detroit. Talbot scored both of the Penguins’ goals in the seventh game of the series to capture the Stanley Cup. Many believed superstars Crosby or Malkin would appear on the score sheet, but Talbot led the team in the final game. He currently awaits a new NHL contract as a potential free agent in July.

With Vancouver heading into Boston with a 3-2 lead in the series, we wonder who their unexpected hero might be. Even with star players Ryan Kesler and the Sedin Twins on their roster, the Canucks still might bring home the ultimate prize thanks to the surprising heroics of defenseman Christopher Tanev or right winger Victor Oreskovich. Or, if the Bruins can push the series to a seventh and deciding game, will we see Andrew Ference or Shawn Thornton score the Cup-winning goal?

It’s been proven before: superstars don’t always score when it truly matters.

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