Caps hold on for 4-2 win over Toronto
Joel Ward and Jason Chimera may have different skin tones, but they consider themselves kindred spirits.
“We’re brothers from a different mother,” Chimera says with a laugh.
“Me and Chimmer,” says Ward, “yeah, we’re buds.”
Thanks to their familiarity with each other as linemates this season, the Capitals’ veteran bookends are having career seasons in their advanced ages.
In Sunday’s 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chimera, 34, netted his 13th goal and 36th point of the season, leaving him three points shy of his career high.
A few minutes later, Ward became the eighth-oldest player in NHL history to reach 20 goals for the first time in his career, doing it at the ripe age of 33 years and 104 days.
[Our friends at Elias Sports Bureau have provided the complete list at the bottom of this post].
Centered by Eric Fehr for most of the past two months, the third line of Chimera [6-foot-3, 213 pounds], Ward [6-1, 226] and Fehr [6-4, 212] has combined for 44 goals this season.
“I’ve counted on Wardo and Chimmer all year long,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “They play together on the penalty kill and the power play. They’re big bodies that we count on for a lot of minutes to get territory for us.
“It’s good to see them get rewarded because you don’t get a lot of accolades based on that. You know, doing grunt work.”
With Chimera’s speed, Ward’s tenacity along the boards and in front of the net and Fehr’s long reach and strong positional play, the Caps’ third line has been one of its most consistent this season, proving 12 goals in their last 16 games.
“A lot of the time he and Chimmer and Fehrsie get overshadowed because of the names that we have our team,” said Troy Brouwer, who also hit the 20-goal plateau on Sunday. “Night in and night out, I think they are our most consistent line, and that’s why they stick together. They are unsung for us.”
Chimera says it’s his familiarity with Ward that makes the line click.
“When you’re that familiar with somebody, it just frees up your mind and if you ask him it’s the same thing.” Chimera said. “He knows where I’m going and if I put the puck somewhere I know he’s going to be there. It’s a comforting thing when you have that, and Fehrsie has stepped in great.”
Of their 44 goals Ward, Chimers and Fehr have scored this season 35 have come at even strength. Ward has another six on the power play and two more shorthanded.
“We want to contribute five-on-five,” Ward said. “First we want to do that. Obviously, special teams is huge nowadays, but you’re not going to be on the power play all the time or penalty kill. You’ve got to establish a good five-on-five game.
“It sounds like cliche garbage, but get pucks in deep.”
Ward said he lets his buddy Chimera do most of the line’s leg work.
“Chimmer is one of the fastest guys in the league,” he said. “I just try to give him the puck. There’s no secret. The defense is aware when he’s out there. I just try to hide in the weeds and try to look for some loose pucks.”
So far this season, the old man is finding them and making a good friend along the way.
“We pretty much do everything together,” Chimera said. “He’s one of those guys you like to spend time with because he’s a positive person and he’s a good person to be around.”
Oldest NHL players to score 20 goals for the first time:
SEASON YRS, DAYS
1969-70 Schinkel, Ken, Pit. 37, 121
1968-69 Ehman, Gerry, Oak. 36, 146
1978-79 Nedomansky, Vaclav, Det. 34, 317
1970-71 Kurtenbach, Orland, Van. 34, 207
2002-03 Drake, Dallas, St.L 34, 59
1960-61 Kelly, Red, Tor. 33, 229
1967-68 Sutherland, Bill, Phi. 33 ,131
2013-14 Ward, Joel, Was. 33, 104