From Chim-Dog to CheetahPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
We’ve seen how important the first goal of the game has been for the Capitals in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. Washington is 7-1 when it scores first, and 0-5 when it does not. The Caps jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in Wednesday’s Game 6 at Verizon Center, a game they needed to win in order to extend their season. The goal was an Alex Ovechkin power-play strike at 1:28 of the first period, and it came just 15 seconds after New York defenseman Anton Stralman was incarcerated for tripping. Stralman was guilty of tripping Caps left wing Jason Chimera, one of the fastest players in the league. Center Nicklas Backstrom hit Chimera in stride with a pass, allowing the big winger to get his wheels working through neutral ice and gain a step around Stralman. The Rangers’ defender did the only thing he could do, haul Chimera down by any means possible. “Backy is so good at dishing the puck,” said Chimera after the game, “I just wanted to get going. If I use my speed, he’s going to get me the puck. It was a good way to start the game; the power play did a great job. It’s a good feeling when you cause a penalty and [the power play] scores on it. It’s a great feeling.” Washington maintained that lead for the 58 minutes and 32 seconds that remained in the game at that time, the longest any team has kept and maintained a lead in any of the Capitals’ 13 playoff games so far this spring. Chimera’s speed has been a factor throughout these playoffs. His four goals are second only to Alex Ovechkin’s five among all Capitals, and many of Chimera’s tallies – he scored 20 goals during the 2011-12 regular season – are a direct result of teams being unable to contain his breakneck speed. Like many of the Caps, Chimera did not feel he was at his best for Monday’s heart-wrenching 3-2 loss to the Rangers in New York. After helping to create Washington’s early 1-0 lead by drawing a call on Stralman, Chimera added what proved to be the game-winning goal midway through the second when he tapped in a pass from John Carlson on the back door. “I talked to Jason before the game,” says Caps center Brooks Laich, “and I’m not trying to take any credit for anything. He had a fantastic game, but he wasn’t happy with his Game 5. “I told him, ‘Man, just play your game and just do what you do, and you’re so hard to stop.’ “He just kind of looked at me and I said, ‘You’re a heck of a player. You’re tough to stop skating. If you get a puck, just skate. They can’t stop you.’ And that’s what he wants to do. He’s a thoroughbred like that. “Troy Brouwer before the game was calling him, ‘The Dog,’ telling him to ‘Be the dog out there,’ because we call him ‘Chim-Dog.’ I said, ‘Screw the dog. Be a cheetah.’ And [Chimera] goes, ‘Yeah, the cheetah is faster.’ “So he goes out there and after we scored that first goal I came by the bench and gave him a high-five and said, ‘That’s on you, that’s all you. They might have scored it, but that’s all you.’ “And then he gets the winning goal. He’s a very, very good hockey player and he led our team last night.” Chimera’s game-winner makes him the seventh different Capital to score a game-winning goal in Washington’s seven victories this spring. Three of New York’s defensemen – Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal – rank among the top 10 in average ice time per playoff game this spring among all NHL defensemen whose teams made it to the second round. And those three have played more games than any other team in the second round except Washington. Using speed and physicality in an effort to wear down those excellent New York blueliners is key and it helped the Caps to that Game 6 win on Wednesday. The Caps will need more of that from The Cheetah and his coalition in Game 7 on Saturday in New York.
The Capitals played seven straight one-goal games in their opening-round series with the Boston Bruins. Since the Rangers took a 3-1 decision in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Capitals, Washington and New York have hooked up in five straight one-goal games. Six of