“There is no way to success in art but to take off your coat, grind paint, and work like a digger on the railroad, all day and every day.”
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Jay Beagle is never going to win a scoring championship. Chances are that he will never record ten goals in a season, nor reach the 20-point threshold. Beagle’s pay check in the NHL is a product of his being that class of hockey player called “grinder.” He works third or fourth line minutes, makes life difficult for other teams’ scorers, kills penalties, and chips in the occasional point or two. Well, occasional point. Beagle has not yet had a two-point game in the NHL.
On the other hand, Beagle did make his contributions in penalty killing. He led the team in total shorthanded ice time (101:49) and was in the top-25 in that statistic. In doing so he was on ice for only eight power play goals against. His 4.95 goals against/on ice per 60 minutes of 4-on-5 ice time was not in the same ball park as Selke Trophy finalists Jonathan Toews or Patrice Bergeron, but it was consistent with Mike Richards (5.07) or Dustin Brown (5.09) in Los Angeles, Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim (4.70), or Dan Paille in Boston (5.12; numbers from behindthenet.ca).
Beagle had modest offensive numbers, but what he did post was almost entirely a product of games against Southeast Division teams. He was 2-3-5, plus-3, in 18 games against the division rivals, 0-3-3, minus-4, in 30 games against the other teams in the Eastern Conference teams. Those numbers were a reflection of a drop in scoring productivity. In 79 games covering the previous three seasons he recorded seven goals on 86 shots, an 8.1 percent shooting percentage that is as much as one could ask for from that position. But this year Beagle bumped up his shots per game slightly (from 1.09 over those 79 games to 1.17 in 48 games this season), but his shooting percentage dropped to 3.6 percent. Only Jason Chimera (3.3 percent) and Aaron Volpatti (0.0 percent) has lower conversion rates among forwards.
Odd Beagle Stat… Beagle finished the season a minus-1. That makes him five-for-five -- five seasons in the NHL, all of them finished in minus territory.
Game to Remember… Valentine’s Day vs. Tampa Bay. Jay Beagle does not score a lot of goals, but he does have a certain knack with them. A lot of them are game-winners. So it was on this night when the Caps carried a 2-1 lead into the third period of their contest with the Lightning. Eric Fehr extended the Caps’ lead to 3-1 in the third minute of the period, and a little over four minutes later the Caps had another opportunity.with the fourth line on the ice. Joey Crabb came out of a scrum in the corner to the left of Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon. Crabb fed the puck out to Tomas Kundratek at the right point, who sent it across to Jeff Schultz at the other point. Schultz wristed the puck to the Tampa Bay net trying to create a rebound chance. The puck died in the middle of a clot of bodies where Garon tried to cover it. But Beagle, with two Lightning defenders draped on him, rooted after the puck like a pig after a truffle. Knocked to the ice, Beagle found the puck lying under Garon’s arm, and while lying on his side swept if from underneath Garon and into the net to give the Caps a 4-1 lead. The Caps would need them all, giving up a pair to the Lightning late in the period, making Beagle’s the game-winner in a 4-3 win. It was Beagle’s third game-winner in seven goals scored dating back to the 2010-2011 season.
Game to Forget… February 3rd vs. Pittsburgh. The Caps were coming off a win against Philadelphia that they hoped was righting the ship after a 1-5-1 start. The Caps played the Penguins close, tying the game a two apiece early in the second period on a John Carlson goal. But after the Penguins took a 3-2 lead less than three minutes after the Carlson goal, they blew it open when the big line of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Chris Kunitz came to life, Kunitz getting a pair of goals. The first came when Beagle was a split second late getting his stick in the path of Kunitz’ snap shot, and the second came on a Penguin power play when Beagle very nearly got his stick on a crossing pass through the slot that found its way onto Kuntiz’ stick for a one timer to make the score 5-2 and end the competitive portion of the afternoon.
Post Season… A fourth liner is not expected to put up a lot of points, but on the other hand they cannot be on the ice for a lot of goals in a short series and have his team advance. Beagle did not score much (a goal in a 4-3 Game 3 loss was his only point of the series), and no Cap forward was on ice for more goals (six) in the seven-game series. Five of the goals Beagle found himself on ice for either tied the game or gave the Rangers a lead.
In the end…
Beagle made adequate contributions as a fourth liner in the regular season. Getting scoring at a 14-point pace per 82 games and being on ice for only 14 goals against at even strength is nothing to be disappointed in. However, one of the problems the Caps have had in the post season in recent years is that their third and fourth lines contributed next to nothing in offense and did not make up for it with stifling defense. This was true when the players in question were David Steckel, Boyd Gordon, and Matt Bradley, and it was true this post season with Beagle, Matt Hendricks, or whoever it was that occupied the other wing.
The fourth line contributed two points in the first-round series loss to the Rangers – Beagle’s goal and Joel Ward’s assist on that goal (Ward contributed two assists skating on the third line with Mathieu Perreault and Jason Chimera, and scored a power play goal skating with the top line). The Caps might have weathered the lack of offense, but they could not overcome the goals allowed when the bottom half of the forward lines were on ice. Beagle, as the center of the fourth line, had to be just a bit better. The Caps could have used a lot of players to be “just a bit better,” so in that respect Beagle has company.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America