It may have taken longer than expected, but Capitals winger Jason Chimera is having a remarkable breakout season.
As of this morning, Chimera has 10 goals, ahead of everyone else on the team, including superstars Nicklas Backstrom (nine), Alex Ovechkin (eight) and Alexander Semin (five).
But is a 30-goal performance really within reach?
Chimera has never scored more than 17 goals (2005-06 season) nor has he scored at a better rate than .21 per game. Statistically, a 20-goal season would have been a longshot, but 10 goals in 25 games makes it seem a near certainty. But 30? That will be tough.
The first obstacle is age. Since the Original Six era ended in 1967, only 13 players have hit the 30-goal plateau for the first time at age 32 or older.
The second obstacle is a lack of power-play time. Among 30-goal scorers, only Don Luce, Don Marcotte, Dave Pulin, Doug Small and John Tonelli accomplished the feat with one or none of their goals coming on the power play. Chimera's career high in power-play tallies is two, which he accomplished twice. In addition, the 18 seconds per game Chimera is seeing this year with the man advantage is half of what he got last year (0:36), so we shouldn't expect much offensive production from the power play.
The final obstacle is an anticipated regression of his shooting accuracy, which is probably not sustainable.
It looks like Chimera's increase in shooting percentage is a byproduct of working closer to the net than in years past, but it isn't. He is only shooting two feet closer on average than he did last year, certainly not enough to justify such a jump in accuracy.
It also looks like he has been on the ice for more even-strength scoring chances per game, but the team is generating 2.9 chances per game with him on the ice, almost identical to the 2.8 they generated last year.
Coming into this season, Chimera had scored 98 goals on 1,085 shots, making him a 9 percent shooter for his career. This season, he is at 15.4 percent – a huge increase. It's unlikely Chimera suddenly figured out how to score goals in the NHL at age 32, so we have to assume that good fortune is the driving force.
So how many goals can we reasonably expect from Chimera?
Supposing his shots per game remains the same (2.6), there is no significant change in how Coach Dale Hunter uses him on the ice and his shooting percentage starts to regress to his true talent level, a 20-25 goal season is well within reach.
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