Major strength of Beagle's: puck protection

A lot of people watching the playoffs these days may be tuning in to see the Washington Capitals play, and finding themselves curious about who this guy Jay Beagle is. Well, he’s the center who logged more minutes than another Caps forward last game, and I’m here to fill you in on the way he plays.

Beagle and I were teammates for two seasons during our time at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and I got to know him pretty well. I’m proud of where he’s at (y’know, the whole “getting more ice time for the Washington Capitals in playoff games than Alex Ovechkin” thing), so I thought I’d share a little bit about his game then and now for those of you who are unfamiliar with him.

First off, Beegs (as he’ll be known henceforth because it feels weird to write about him formally) is one of the best puck possession players I ever played with. It’s not necessarily that he was always trying to push to the net with it, but man, the guy could just have it for entire shifts. He was big for team momentum that way, he’d just wear d-men down. He was fun to play with, because he’d dish it if you were open, and you got to spend most shifts in the offensive zone.

As he still looks, he’s got a sort of gangly game, but it’s surpring how in control he really is. His long reach helps him constantly influence plays, and that’s an underrated skill. D-men trying to break the puck out of their zone were usually hampered just enough to have their pass tipped, or made weaker, or they’d have the puck straight out stripped.

Of the basic, core elements, he doesn’t do anything particularly exceptional (I mean compared to NHLers now, not your average human). He can skate well but he’s not the quickest. He’s big, but not the toughest. He can shoot, but not the hardest. Because of those things, he’s never going to develop into an exceptional offensive force or anything, but you want him on your team because of what I was just talking about – he’s not really bad at anything.

He works his tail off, and is smart enough to kill penalties well (his reach and ability to influence, again, make him a great killer). If you need him on the PP he can pass well and has good vision, he can finish if the opportunity is presented, he can stand in front, he hustles to recover rebounds, and he hustles to recover dumped pucks. There’s a reason he’s getting so many minutes with Dale Hunter: he can just…whatever.

In the NHL you’re not going to win on Jay Beagle’s back, no offense to my friend. But he’s certainly not going to cost you. And with your fourth line players, we see that a lot – this guy hits hard, that guy fights well – but then they’ll kill you with the odd dumb play. Jay doesn’t make too many mistakes.

So for a Capitals team that’s often been in my Systems Analyst posts for boneheaded defensive plays (the Caps are one of the most talented teams in the League, but when they mess up, they mess UP), it must be a breath of fresh air to have Beagle out there knowing he’s reliable.

As both UAA alum and a friend, I’m hoping he continues to be a stabilizing force for a team that could use one. The Caps are LA Kings-East this season – if they get hot at the right time, it’s not impossible to imagine either lifting the Cup.