At the end of this season, Jason Chimera will be 37. Nevertheless, the bottom-sixer known for his hands of stone is undergoing a revival. On November 11 against Philadelphia, Chimera scored two power play goals, his first game on the man advantage this season. In his nine games on the power play, Chimera has six points.
“Just a fine wine,” Chimera said, comparing himself to another high quality aged product. “Like French Oak or the new stuff, the steel cask maybe.”
The Capitals were up 4-0 against the Tampa Bay Lightning with just over nine minutes to play. The game looked well in hand. Then Dmitry Orlov attempted to flip a puck out of the defensive zone. Instead, it was battled down by Anton Stralman past the blueline. Stralman then reentered the zone. The play looked, at game speed, to be clearly offside. The Capitals benched roared at the linesmen. Nevertheless, play went on. A few seconds later, Tampa had a goal, the start of an impressive third period that could have cost the Capitals the game.
“I thought it was, but I mean I can’t see that,” Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said. “You usually have plays like that just blown down.”
The Caps clearly expected it would be. Jason Chimera, Andre Burakovsky, Jay Beagle, Trevis (?) Chorney, and Orlov all stopped for a second. In the meantime, the Bolts set up in the offensive zone and Brian Boyle one-timed a puck past Holtby.
For the last few years, when you think of Alex Ovechkin, or even the Capitals, you are drawn to their savage power play. Since Adam Oates took over, it has been at the top of the league, ranked first in last season, second in 2013-14, and first in the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season. Ovechkin is the heavy artillery. Last season, Alex Ovechkin accounted for 42 percent of the Washington Capitals’ power play goals. From 2012-14 seasons, Ovi was responsible for nearly four tenths of the man advantage tallies. Year after year, he fired shot after shot from the same spot. There was little change in the result: a whole bunch of goals.
This year, however, something has been different. Through 20 games this season, Ovechkin had just one power play marker. The numbers tell a pretty clear story: Ovechkin just isn’t getting as many shots attempts on the man advantage.
But Friday night, Ovechkin was peppering Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilvskiy on Washington’s first power play. His first five shots went wide or were saved. His sixth attempt in under two minutes hit the back of the net, set up by a brilliant pass from Jason Chimera. It marked Ovechkin’s third power play goal of the season.
Midway through the third period of Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, Dmitry Orlov turned the puck over at center ice and started a wild chain of events. The Capitals, in the middle of a shift change, watched helplessly as Oilers’ stars Nail Yakupov and Taylor Hall raced in alone on Braden Holtby.
But the Oilers didn’t score! Or even get a shot off. Hall fumbled Yakupov’s pass and as the Oilers regained possession of the puck, Karl Alzner— playing man-to-man defense against Teddy Purcell — blocked a shot from the point with his shin pads.
The puck squirted to center ice and sprung Alzner, he of 14 career NHL goals, on a semi-breakaway.
The Capitals were dramatically outplayed Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers. Nevertheless, they won, thanks almost entirely to Braden Holtby‘s 33 save shutout.
“I think the guys had a lot more to do with this one than it looked,” Holtby told reporters after the game. He was, it seems, the only member of the Capitals who thought that. In scrum after scrum, Holtby’s teammates lauded his performance, which was highlighted by a stunning save on Eric Gryba to keep the game scoreless in the third period.
“You’ll be seeing the replays of the save probably the rest of the year if you missed it,” said Tom Wilson, who assisted on the game’s only goal, a late third period strike from Dmitry Orlov. “He’s unbelievable. Honestly, we lose that game if he’s not in the net. If we have any other goalie in the league playing that game, we don’t win this hockey game.”
On October 12, 2013, Nate Schmidt made his NHL debut against the Colorado Avalanche. A little more than two years later, Schmidt has played 83 NHL games. His journey to the NHL has been unsteady with his coaches trying to figure out whether he’s an AHL prospect, a healthy scratch candidate, or typical third pairing defensemen. But Schmidt is none of those. In fact, he may be one of the better defensemen in the NHL. And with a lower body injury sidelining top pairing defenseman Brooks Orpik, Schmidt finally has a chance to prove it.
“I don’t think we’re seeing anything different,” head coach Barry Trotz told me of Schmidt’s play. “Nate, we felt, we had the most trust in at this point that we moved him up, gave him the opportunity. The things that he does well is skate. He’s skating and getting up ice, getting back on the breakouts, hard on the forecheck, and he defends well because of his mobility and stick. He’s a very effective player for us.”
Jason Chimera was the goat against Dallas. On Alex Ovechkin’s special night, the 36-year-old wing turned the puck over right in front of the net. With 8:50 remaining, Jason Spezza scored giving the Dallas Stars a 3-2 win.
Ever since the Capitals drafted Evgeny Kuznetsov in the 2010 draft, the young Russian has tried to emulate Russian NHL superstars. One of those superstars is 37-year-old magic man Pavel Datsyuk, whom Kuznetsov will face tonight in Detroit.