- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2017

When coach Barry Trotz was hired by the Washington Capitals back in 2014, he inherited Jay Beagle, who at the time was a 29-year-old with 13 career NHL goals to his name.

The perception of Beagle around the league, according to Trotz, was that he was just not a scorer. But after just 46 games this season, Beagle already has 10 goals and 10 assists. Both totals match his career high — with 36 games left in the season.

Improving his offensive game has a focus for Beagle at this stage in his career. For the last several seasons, Beagle believed he was capable of consistently suiting up as a third line center. Given the opportunity last season, the results weren’t there: He finished with just eight goals and nine assists in his 57 games.

This past offseason, the Capitals traded for Lars Eller, who was envisioned as the Capitals‘ new third line center. With Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov already firmly situated within the Capitals‘ top-two centers, Beagle was again dropped to the fourth line.

But Trotz doesn’t see Beagle as a typical fourth liner, a position generally viewed across the NHL as a checking forward — a player used strictly in defensive situations.

Beagle is regularly paired with opposing teams’ top lines and hee’s used on the penalty kill, but the trust Trotz has in Beagle is clearly exemplified when the Capitals play in three-on-three overtime.

Generally, Beagle starts overtime as the center. As one of top face-off men in the NHL, the idea is to have Beagle win the draw, gain possession and switch off the ice as fast as he can to get a more offensive-minded player out in the offensive zone.

But when the Capitals forced an overtime against the Dallas Stars on Saturday, Beagle instead stayed on the ice, joining the rush with Kuznetsov. Just 19 seconds into the extra period, Kuznetsov found Beagle in front of the net for the game-winning goal.

“I feel like with three on three, it’s obviously not my game but I feel like I could be good at it, just because it’s more about speed,” Beagle said. “Speed, man-on-man in the d-zone. Obviously possession is huge, win face-offs. It’s fun.”

The timely goal was Beagle’s fourth game-winner of the season. Beagle ranks among the top five players on his team in game-winning goals.

The offensive production is just another facet of his game that makes him so valuable to the team. In today’s NHL, all four lines have to be capable of scoring in order to be successful. Beagle’s offensive emergence gives the Capitals four scoring lines.

“It says a lot about Jay Beagle,” Trotz said of the veteran’s career-high 10 goals. “He’s just a detail guy. I can play him against top lines, he kills penalties, he does a lot of things. To get 10 goals, that says a lot about him and a lot about his line.”

Beagle gives a lot of the credit to fellow linemates Daniel Winnik and Tom Wilson. Beagle also gives credit to Trotz, who has kept that combination of forwards together for the vast majority of the season. Consistency helps, according to Beagle.

“Putting me, Willy and Winnik together for the majority of the season, you get chemistry, and as a fourth line, you don’t really see that too often where it’s basically the same line for the whole year,” Beagle said. “Usually, you have guys coming in and out, but [Trotz] has kept us together. That chemistry goes a long way.”

To put in perspective Beagle’s strength this season, no other NHL player starts their shift in their own defensive zone more than Beagle, putting him at an instant disadvantage offensively. However, he has more points than the Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan, former Capital and current Calgary Flames forward Troy Brouwer and Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog. Those three players have cap hits of $7.25 million, $4.5 million and $5.6 million, respectively. Beagle carries a $1.75 million cap hit, the fifth-lowest, non-entry level contract on the team.

Beagle has put the Capitals center grouping over the edge, giving Washington perhaps the most talented unit in the NHL. And he did so by working hard on his game.

“He’s a joy to coach,” Trotz said. “He drives practice. He drives a lot of things for us.”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide