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X-Factor: Chimera continues to break out for Caps

by Tal Pinchevsky / NHL.com

On a team that boasts one of the top superstars in hockey, it's been the no-name underdogs that have made some of the biggest contributions for the Washington Capitals during these Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Matt Hendricks has been everywhere and there was talk before Game 7 against the Rangers that the series could hinge on the health of Jay Beagle, who was barely cracking 10 shifts per game earlier this season.

In a postseason that has seen the Caps thrive in an unaccustomed role as underdog, Jason Chimera has been a major player.

With 14 playoff games in his 10-year career entering this spring, Chimera has shown occasional flashes of playoff heroics since being acquired by the Capitals in 2009. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 4 in Washington's 2010 opening-round upset loss to Montreal, his first NHL playoff goal. Then last season, he notched two more game-winning goals in the Capitals' first-round win over the Rangers.

But it's been this postseason, particularly in the second round against the Rangers, that Chimera has established himself with the Caps. Entering Washington's Game 7 matchup in New York, Chimera's four goals had him second on the team behind Alex Ovechkin and his plus-5 led all Capitals forwards. He earned the game-winner in Game 6 against the Rangers, up to that point the Capitals' biggest game of the season.

While certain players have been relied on to be main contributors on special teams, like Ovechkin on the power play and Beagle on the penalty kill, Chimera has been used almost exclusively at even strength, where more than 98 percent of his ice time this postseason has come. For a disciplined team like Washington, which in the postseason has received the fewest penalty minutes per game of the NHL's four remaining teams, Chimera has had ample opportunity to shine.

It happened quickly for him against the Rangers, where he scored the Caps' lone goal in the team's 3-1 loss in Game 1. He also scored in Game 2, notching Washington's second goal in a 3-2 series-tying victory. The goal, typical of the opportunistic Chimera, was scored on a goalmouth scramble mere seconds after Caps goaltender Braden Holtby stopped the Rangers' Chris Kreider on a breakaway.

But for a player not known for highlight-reel plays, Chimera's finest moment of the postseason may have come in Game 4, when he set up Nicklas Backstrom's goal with a perfect cross-ice pass in Washington's season-evening win.

After going pointless in his team's first five games this postseason, the speedy winger has been playing on the team's top line alongside top-flight playmakers Backstrom and Alexander Semin. And on the heels of his first 20-goal season, Chimera could be a pivotal player against the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals.

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