The Washington Capitals must win their next two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive. Yet, if you think the players are figuratively drowning in a sea of anxiety, you’d be wrong. So. Very. Wrong.
For example, let’s take a closer look at this post-practice interview with Jason Chimera.
Photo: Rob Carr
After Monday night’s anarchic attempt at a hockey game, the Washington Capitals held a 3-0 series lead. In 180 minutes of hockey, the Philadelphia Flyers took 96 PIMs. Washington’s power play was eight for 17. The Caps, it seemed, were in for a long layover before facing the winner of the Rangers-Penguins series.
“Everything they’ve gotten to a point we’ve given them,” Wayne Simmonds said in the minutes after Game Three ended. “We’ve got to stay out of the box.”
The Flyers have done that the last two games, reducing Washington to five power plays in Games Four and Five. Without that boost, the Caps fell when the series shifted back to Verizon Center Friday night. They outshot the Flyers 44-11 — shot attempts were 82-27 — but lost the special teams battle. Philadelphia had six power plays while Washington’s deadly man-advantage unit was limited to three.
“We were in the box a lot,” Tom Wilson, who did not receive any infractions, said. “Yeah, we had a lot of shots, but we have to do a better job of getting to the interior and staying out of the box. If we play 60 minutes five-on-five, I don’t think you see that team standing up by the end of it.”
Photo: Rob Carr
The Capitals penalty kill was the second-best unit in the league during the regular season, killing 85.2 percent of opponents’ chances. Yet on special teams, it was overshadowed by the power play, which finished fifth. While the PK doesn’t provide between-the-legs passes or booming one-timers, it has kept the Capitals in control of their first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Washington’s penalty kill is a perfect eight for eight. Going back to the last five games of the regular season, the opponents’ power plays have been stopped 21 times in a row. Despite outshooting the Capitals 61-54 overall in the first two games, the Flyers have scored just one goal. Washington has six, including three power-play goals, good for a 2-0 series lead.
“We got our butts on the line,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said after Saturday’s Game Two loss.
Photo: Rob Carr
Steve Mason knew the questions were coming. He did not hide from them. For him, the only way out of one of the most embarrassing moments of his life was through it.
“I messed up,” Mason told reporters after a 4-1 loss in Game Two of the first round against the Washington Capitals.
Less than two and a half minutes into the second period, Mason allowed a rolling ground ball to pass through his legs. Mason had made an impressive save a minute earlier, possibly tweaking a muscle, but he denied that played any part in what happened next: a puck deflected by Jason Chimera at the redline that slid into the back of the net with Mason frozen in place.
“It’s my fault and I realize that,” Mason said.
Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Holtby got a roughing minor, his third minor penalty of the year, after Sean Couturier got a wee bit too close to Holtby’s cage.
Through two periods of play, this Caps-Devils game is like trying to stay awake in a pitch black room after pulling three consecutive all nighters. But there have been some funny moments. Matt Niskanen gave birth to a hockey puck in first period. And in the second period, one of the strangest scrums of the season happened.
The play starts when Nate Schmidt blasts a shot from the point. Devils goaltender Scott Wedgewood can’t corral the rebound so the Caps’ third line consisting of Tom Wilson, Jay Beagle, and Jason Chimera start digging for the rebound. Wedgewood would eventually collect the puck for a whistle, but boys will be boys and there was some pushing and shoving.
There are many ways to appreciate the 18th goal of Jason Chimera’s season, scored in the second period of Sunday’s Caps-Pens game.
You have to see this.
Entering the season, there were plenty of reasons to doubt if Jason Chimera could be a meaningful contributor. Save for the playoffs in which he look re-energized, 2014-15 was a lackluster season for the Ice Cheetah, spending time as both a healthy scratch and a fourth liner in Barry Trotz‘s first season behind the Caps’ bench. Combine that with this being Chimera’s second mediocre regular season over the previous three seasons (2013-14 being the exception) and Chimera now entering his age-36 season, many people, myself included, were skeptical of his ability to contribute in 2015-16
But somehow, someway, Chimera’s production has bounced back. There’s plenty of reasons to be suspicious of how sustainable this production is moving forward, but that doesn’t take away the 30 points Chimera has chipped in through the first 54 games.
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