When asked to choose a “difference maker” who would help the Washington Capitals win their series against the New York Rangers, I picked Mike Knuble. He doesn’t have the blazing skill of Alex Ovechkin, the pure passing ability of Nicklas Backstrom or the feast or famine routine of Alexander Semin.
Instead, Knuble distinguishes himself by his ability to score “dirty” goals, aka ones from the dangerous areas in front of an opposing goaltender. That’s a useful skill in the regular season – which explains why he has six straight seasons of 24 goals or more – but it becomes a vital ability in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, that willingness to go to those high-impact areas takes its toll, especially for a 38-year-old forward like Knuble. CSN Washington’s Ryan O’Halloran reports that he’s likely to miss tonight’s Game 4 matchup with an undisclosed injury, which puts two lesser known players under the spotlight.
Raby reports that speedy, low-finesse winger Jason Chimera will get many of Knuble’s top line minutes while right wing Eric Fehr will get back into the lineup. Chimera told reporters that he hopes to use his speed to create pressure on the forecheck, but won’t make the mistake of thinking that he can bring the same skill level to the ice as his probable linemates Ovechkin and Backstrom.
Chimera skated with Backstrom and Ovechkin for a stint in January.
“Just playing my game and finishing my checks is the biggest thing I can bring to them,” Chimera said. “Speed-wise, I can get there and forecheck and hopefully that will help them out. If I play my game, I think I can help them out quite a bit.”
Said Backstrom: “He’s played with us before and hopefully it can be easy for us. We’ve had a lot of different line combinations during the year so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
In many ways, Chimera is the opposite of Knuble. He plays limited time on the penalty kill (20 seconds per game to Knuble’s 1:45 so far in the playoffs) and cannot finish scoring chances particularly well, but his speed gives him one huge advantage over the underrated power forward.
We’ll see if Washington can win a tough Game 4 without one of its grittiest goal scorers. It should be a fun one tonight.