Jason Chimera’s finest on-ice moment of his time with the Capitals – and likely his whole NHL career – came last spring when he scored the double-overtime game-winning goal in Game 4 of the first-round series against the New York Rangers. It was more a product of Marian Gaborik’s gaffe than it was Chimera’s hands, as the veteran wing just had to tap the puck into an empty net from the crease.
But Chimera set the whole play up with his speed, putting pressure on the Rangers by zipping down the right wing at Madison Square Garden and putting a meek shot on net. That’s the on-ice value of Chimera, who on Thursday inked a two-year extension with the Caps worth $3.5 million.
“Nobody can skate as well as Chimera, I don’t think, anyway,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I’d love to see him go one-on-one with anybody.”
Currently the NHL All-Star skills competition only gauges who the fastest skater is among those invited to play in the game, and those in the Futures Game. If that were open to anyone in the NHL, fans and Boudreau might get to see just that.
It’s hard, at least at first, to think of someone who’s as fast as Chimera. But defenseman Jeff Schultz had a comparison of sorts.
“From his first couple strides he just takes off. It’s kind of similar to like a Rick Nash,” Schultz said. “Those two guys, their first couple strides are so powerful that they just take off and it’s hard to play catch-up.”
Of course, Nash’s pinpoint shooting ability and general puck-handling skills put him on an entirely different level from Chimera. And while there are some stats from last season that aren’t friendly to Chimera – like him being last in plus-minus among all Caps skaters (h/t J.P. From Japers’ Rink) – his speed can make up for a lot.
“He’s an older guy, but the one thing that’s never going to give out on him is skating, which is becoming so paramount in this game,” Boudreau said.
Brooks Laich noted Thursday that it was obvious that the night before rookie Mattias Sjogren was playing his first game alongside Chimera.
“He can chase down any icing. You just throw the puck down the ice and Chimmer will get it,” Laich said. “Any centerman that plays with him tries to work the puck to Jason’s side because he can hunt it as well as anybody. He’s just got a big, powerful stride. It’s fun to watch.”
Boudreau conceded that Chimera won’t play 21 minutes a game for the Caps, barring injuries, but the 32-year-old is versatile. The coach said he could fill in on the power play or penalty kill if needed, and play both wings.
“Sometimes it’s guys like him that do the work to win hockey games,” Laich said.
The Caps hope that continues for a few more seasons.