Jay Beagle tried.
Preparing for warm-ups prior to Game 6 against the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals forward leaned on trainer Greg Smith for the final approval to play. He already suffered a broken left foot in Game 5 and played the majority of Game 5 on it.
“I put my skate on, went in to Smitty’s office and said, ‘It hurts’. So he basically said, ‘Go give it a try and if you can’t go, you can’t go. We’ve got [Jeff Halpern] to go in,’ ” Beagle recalled. “I walked back, put on the top half of my gear, was walking out to the ice and they were both standing there talking about it and I think from what they could see they were like ‘OK, you’re going to be useless out there.’ There’s no point.”
Beagle wanted so badly to play the final two games of the Caps’ series and season, but he had surgery to repair the broken bone the next day. Suffered on an Anton Stralman shot on the penalty kill, the broken foot ended what was a tumultuous season for the 26-year-old.
“It’s been a roller coaster. It didn’t start the way I wanted it to and it didn’t end the way I wanted it to, that’s hockey,” said Beagle, who suffered a concussion Oct. 13 in a fight with Pittsburgh Penguins tough guy Arron Asham. “Injuries happen and hopefully it will make me stronger as a player and as a person. You really appreciate the good times when they happen once you’ve gone through some adversity. I’m looking forward to next year already.”
Beagle next year should be the Caps’ third- or fourth-line center, as his role increased greatly in recent months along with his improved faceoff prowess and penalty-killing and shot-blocking ability.
Looking back, Beagle drew plenty of praise for playing on a broken foot and doing his best to do so again.
“He wanted to play, and he was willing to do whatever it took to play. Unfortunately it was broken in a place where you just don’t have any balance and he couldn’t skate,” general manager George McPhee said. “When he couldn’t play, he was really upset. I remember going in the locker room after, because he’s in there by himself, to tell him we were really proud of him. He tried. He gave us everything.”
Beagle became the Caps’ most improved player and earned even more respect for trying to play hurt.
“It’s encouraging. You know the guy wants to win, you know he wants to play his heart our for his teammates. That all you can ask for out of a teammate,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “He tried to strap it on for Game 6, but we could see that it was killing him not to be out there. We wanted to win so that we could get him back in the lineup, and it wasn’t to be. A guy like that, you don’t find too many of them.”