Chimera feels Nationals pain

Chimera feels Nationals pain
October 16, 2012, 12:45 pm
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When the Nationals collapsed after leading late in Game 5 of the NLDS on Friday, the story seemed all too familiar for Washington sports fans. Teams falling short of high expectations is not uncommon in D.C. and perhaps no local team has experienced more heartbreak of late than the Washington Capitals. The Caps have won their division four out of the last five seasons and have yet to advance past the second round of the playoffs.

Forward Jason Chimera has been on the last three Capitals playoff teams, including the 2009-10 roster that lost in the first round after winning the Presidents’ Trophy. As someone who has felt the disappointment the Nationals now feel, Chimera says he can relate. The winger was actually at Game 5 on Friday night and saw the Cardinals’ comeback in person.

“It was very shocking,” he said. “It was unfortunate for the city because it would have been nice to have a long playoff run. I felt bad for a lot of guys on that team because I know the position they are in and how that feels.”

Chimera and the Capitals’ collapse in the 2010 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals is probably the best comparison to the Nats’ NLDS loss in recent D.C. sports history. The Caps had the best record in the NHL with 121 points and entered the playoffs as favorites to with the Stanley Cup. They even jumped out to a 3-1 series lead over the eight seed Montreal Canadiens before dropping three straight games to be eliminated.

The Capitals were a young team that encountered a veteran Habs goalie in Jaroslav Halak and a defensive system better suited for the playoffs. Chimera sees a parallel in the St. Louis Cardinals.

“You learn from it. It's hard, it happens, but you gotta take some stuff out of it and learn from it next time,” he said. “If the Cards weren't there they wouldn't have known how to win that game. They just kept chipping away and chipping away and eventually they came back.”

“The Cards are a good team, they've proven it, and they had all the experience on their side. That's I think what helped them.”

Despite the crushing loss in Game 5, Chimera thinks the Nationals have something similar to the Caps in the works, that they could sustain a successful team for years to come.

“I think the Nats got a lot, they are a very young team, they got a lot of the pieces in place that are gonna be here for a long time. I'm sure this won't be the last time they're in that position.  Next time they're in that position they will be better off for it.”

The Nationals certainly had a year to remember and with the best record in the majors and built a significant fan base that is now as strong as ever. Chimera includes himself in that category and says a lot of his teammates now like the team as well.

“They brought a lot of fans on board, it was cool,” he said while wearing a Nationals hat at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “You can see with our team, when we first came in there were 10 guys wearing Nats hats.”

Chimera was at Game 5, but said he couldn’t attend Game 4 because he was at home with his kids. He instead at home on television as the Nationals forced a fifth game on Jayson Werth’s walkoff homer.

“I watched it on TV because I had the kids for the night, my wife was gone. Instead of watching cartoons we were watching Game 4,” he said. “We watched Werth and I was yelling when he hit the home run, the kids were like 'what are you yelling at?' It was exciting, you were right at the edge of your seat. It was a fun game to watch.”

Chimera is on board with the local baseball team, but is no ordinary Nationals fan. Not many have a friend on the team.

“I know Tom Gorzelanny, the pitcher,” he said “We live in the same neighborhood so I've got to know him a little bit. It's nice to kind of pick his brain to know a little baseball too.”

Chimera said he and Gorzelanny talk and “hang out quite a bit” when both are home and have even have exchanged jerseys. Chimera though, of course refers to Gorzelanny’s number 32 uniform as his “sweater.”

Kellie Cowan contributed to this report.