Theme: “Have faith and pursue the unknown end.”
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes
It might surprise more than one Caps fan to know that Jay Beagle played in 31 games this past season; 30 of the last 50 regular season games, in fact. He did most of his work in the middle of the season, playing in 21 of 22 games between December 15th and February 6th. The Caps were 10-4-7 in those games.
The 2010-2011 season was one more step on Beagle’s patient climb up the hockey ladder. Two years at Alaska-Anchorage in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, part of a season with the Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL, three seasons with the Hershey Bears, two of which included short stints with the Caps. This season, Beagle split his time roughly in half between Hershey (34 games) and Washington (31 games). He set career bests in games, goals (two), points (three), shots, and average ice time. But what stands out, if anything, is that both of his goals this past season were game winners – December 21st against New Jersey, and again on December 28th against Montreal. Happy Holidays. His overall numbers looked like this…
Drilling down into Beagle’s numbers, there wasn’t much to get excited about. His 1.48 goals for/on ice per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 was by far the lowest on the team for forwards playing in at least 20 games. Even though his 1.90 goals against in such situations was respectable enough, the lack of offensive contributions meant that his plus/minus on ice per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 was among the worst on the teams’ forward cohort (-0.42, third worst). And the difference between his plus/minus on ice and that off ice per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (-1.58) was worst among Caps forwards playing in at least 20 games (numbers from behindthenet.ca). Still, his numbers were generally an improvement upon last season…
Odd Beagle Fact… In 35:43 of total shorthanded ice time, Beagle was on the ice for one goal. His was the fewest goals against per 60 minutes of shorthanded ice time of any Caps forward playing in at least 20 games and recording at least ten minutes of total shorthanded ice time for the season.
Game to Remember… December 28, 2010. He recorded less than ten minutes of ice time, and he attempted only one shot on goal. But Beagle made that shot attempt count as it got past Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price to open the scoring in a 3-0 Caps win in the last game before the January 1st Winter Classic game in Pittsburgh.
Game to Forget… January 14, 2011. The Caps got off to a good start against the Vancouver Canucks with a goal in the game’s sixth minute from Matt Hendricks. But less than three minutes later Beagle was on the ice when the Canucks tied the game. He was unable to catch Jannik Hansen circling behind the Caps net and could not prevent Hansen from feeding Alex Edler for the equalizer. Beagle was a victim of bad luck in a way, on what would be the Canuck’s third goal. He was headed off the ice as Jason Chimera had his pocket picked in the neutral zone, leading to a breakaway for Daniel Sedin that put the Canucks up 3-1 on their way to a 4-2 win.
Post Season… Beagle did not dress for any of the nine post-season games played by the Caps.
In the end, Beagle’s play was anonymous in its way. In 31 games he did not record a game better than plus-1 and had only two games in which he was minus-2. He was, for the most part, a player who chewed up ten minutes or so of ice time without much undue hazard to the scoreboard, either for or against. Going forward, though, the question about Beagle might be whether he can assume the “energy” forward position that has been manned by Matt Bradley (our next subject) for the past six seasons in Washington. Bradley is an unrestricted free agent coming off a deal that paid him $1.0 million a year. Beagle is signed through next season with a cap hit of $525,000.
One of the things that haunted the Caps this season was how little production they got from the third and fourth lines. Beagle has contributed about a point every other game in his career in Hershey (129 points in 211 games). Given that Beagle contributed only two goals and three points this season with the Caps, his ticket to a permanent spot on the roster might be proving whether he can at least move the needle closer to the level of production he displayed in Hershey. That is the unknown end Beagle is left to pursue.
(Photo: Lou Capozzola/Getty Images North America)