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Beagle has finally landed his 'dream job'

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Beagle has finally landed his 'dream job'

Jay Beagle turned 30 years old on Friday and celebrated by eating a cannoli. Later tonight, with the Capitals making their only visit of the season to his hometown of Calgary, he’ll get together with his family for dinner, but he’s not expecting his mother, Sue, to bake him his favorite cake.

“She would if I told her I needed a cake,” Beagle said, “but we celebrated my 30th birthday before I left (for training camp) with my family on the farm. It was potluck, everyone brought something."

Apparently, it was quite a bash, with somewhere in the range of 50 Beagles roaming the grounds and kids running in and out of an inflatable bounce castle.

There was, after all, a lot to celebrate. Back in July, Beagle was rewarded for his years of hard work and dedication with a three-year, $5.25 million contract. For someone who grew up changing tires at his father’s auto repair shop it was like hitting the lottery.

“When a team’s willing to invest in you and put three years on the table it gives you that much more motivation to give everything you’ve got in the summer and come to camp in the best shape you can and give them everything you can,” Beagle said.

“Every contract I’ve gotten I feel like I fought for and had to earn it the hard way. That’s the way I’ve always lived, to earn everything I’ve gotten. This is the organization I wanted to be a part of I appreciate the fact this team wanted me. I was very happy with the deal.”

After signing his contract, Beagle made it clear that his goal for this season was to nail down the team’s third-line center spot, behind centers Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. He had spent most of his previous five NHL seasons as a fourth-line forward, never averaging more than 13 minutes a night.

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But that all changed in the playoff last spring when Beagle’s ice time jumped to nearly 16 minutes a game.

“Playing against those top two lines on the other team, that’s what I live for,” Beagle said. “I love shutting down their skilled lines. I love playing against the top guys. Fourth lines usually play against other teams’ fourth lines; you rarely get out against the top line.”

After four games Beagle has cemented himself into the No. 3 center spot on a checking line with left wing Jason Chimera and right wing Tom Wilson.

On Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, Barry Trotz used Beagle almost exclusively against top-line center Jonathan Toews and Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was so frustrated with his top line’s lack of production he tried four different wingers, with no success. Two nights later Beagle went up against Carolina’s Eric Staal and held him off the score sheet.  

“There’s no quit in Beags’ game,” Trotz said.

Trotz said he likes the three different elements his third line offers. Chimera is the speedster who gewts in on the forecheck. Wilson is the heavy body checker to keeps everyone’s head on a swivel, and Beagle does the dirty work in the corners and along the wall.

“We all know what to expect from each other,” Wilson said. “We all know that if a guy is a step ahead of the rest of us he’s going to be on first on the forecheck. Chimmer’s always in there because he’s got great speed.

“We’re playing fast hockey. There’s obviously stuff we can clean up, but it’s fun to play with guys who you know are going to bring their lunch pail every game and work hard every shift.”

Following the summer departures of center Eric Fehr and right wingers Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward, Beagle was left as one of only two right-handed centermen (Michael Latta is the other) on the Caps roster. He said he knew that would probably increase his role as a penalty-killing specialist.

“That’s always been a big part of my game and I expect more because we lost three right-handed guys who could take draws,” Beagle said. “When I saw them go I thought, ‘OK let’s start working on my faceoffs a lot more,’ and I focused on that in training this summer.”

Through four games Beagle has won 36 of 57 draws for a 63.1 percent success rate. He is a perfect 9-for-9 in offensive zone faceoffs. But he says he is taking nothing for granted.

“If you get complacent I think that’s when you get in trouble,” he said. “I don’t want to be known as a fourth-line player. I want to be able to play in any situation, really, but third-line center is my dream job. I always wanted that job and this year I’m going to do everything I can to keep it.”

But there is something more that is driving Beagle. At 30 years old he believes he and the Capitals are in their prime to win the Stanley Cup. He agrees with general manager Brian MacLellan’s assessment that there is a two- or three-year window for the Caps to win a championship and applauded MacLellan’s acquisitions of defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen two summers ago and T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams last summer.

“As soon as he came in Mac addressed the situations we needed and we recognize it,” Beagle said. “It makes it exciting when you see gaps being filled that we lacked in the past.

“This team is built for right now. I feel like this team, since I’ve been here, has been climbing and getting to a point of a championship. I mean, it was on our minds when Bruce (Boudreau) was here, but I feel like we’ve been building up to this.

“Everyone is kind of at their best right now. You feel like this is our chance in the next couple years here. I know from taking with the guys, we want a championship this year. That’s what the goal was all summer while we were training. We’ve just got to continue to keep getting better. It’s a great spot to be in. That’s why I’m so excited about this team.”

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4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

The Caps return to action Wednesday as they host the New York Rangers (7 p.m., NBCSN) in a Metropolitan Division clash.

Here are four things you should be watching for in this game.

The schedule finally gives the Caps a break

The early season schedule for Washington has been bizarre to say the least. Finally, they will be catching a break on Wednesday as the Rangers will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back.

That certainly does not guarantee a victory, but it is something the Caps are very aware of and they hope to take advantage.

“I think speed is a big part of the game and for them to be fatigued off the back-to-back is definitely going to help us whether we move the puck a little quicker than we would in other games just kind of knowing they are coming off that back-to-back,” Nathan Walker said.

“We've got to make them skate, we've got to make their D go back for pucks,” T.J. Oshie said. “I don't feel like they're going to look tired at the start of the game, usually that comes towards the end of the game, second half, and so you've got to work to drain them down a little bit and we've got to take advantage of that opportunity tonight.”

Top-line Stephenson

Stephenson was added to the top line on Saturday with no practice other than the morning skate that day. A few days between games has given him a chance to practice with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and it should pay dividends on Wednesday.

This game also should be a good opportunity for Stephenson who was added to the top for his speed. Playing a tired Rangers team is something he will need to take advantage of.

“It's always tough to play back-to-back and with the travel and stuff like that,” Stephenson said. “For the most part, I think that that's going to be important and just to play a full 60, that's something that we want to get consistent with and we haven't been so far … But for the most part, I think the start will really help us tonight.”

Nathan Walker returns

The Caps made a change to the lineup for Wednesday’s game as Nathan Walker will be in for Dmitrij Jaskin on the fourth line.

When asked why he made the change, Reirden said, “Just a different look. A team that's on a back-to-back, we wanted to really come at them with some speed, tenacity and intensity that we know we always get from Nathan so thought it was a good add into tonight's lineup.

The Caps have got to get more offense from their bottom six and adding the speedy Walker to the bottom six could provide a boost. He has had trouble playing within the system in the past and his play has been more frenzied than controlled at times, but with Tom Wilson still suspended, there’s definitely an opportunity for Walker to earn more playing time depending on how he plays Wednesday.

King Henry remains on his throne

In addition to a tired Rangers team, the Caps are also expected to face a tired goalie.

Henrik Lundqvist started New York’s game on Tuesday and is expected to start again on Wednesday against Washington. That is not confirmed as the Rangers did not have a morning skate because of the back-to-back, but it is believed Lundqvist will play again.

There was a time when Lundqvist was considered the best netminder in the NHL and he is off to a phenomenal start this season with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage in five games thus far.

But how will the 36-year-old goalie handle a back-to-back?

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Caps vs. Rangers: A look back at playoff heroes from the past

Caps vs. Rangers: A look back at playoff heroes from the past

The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers will meet for the first time this season on Wednesday at Capital One Arena (7 p.m., NBCSN). There’s a lot of history between these two teams.

The Caps and Rangers have met nine times in the playoffs, producing a good number of memorable postseason moments and heroes.

Here’s a look back at some of the more memorable playoff heroes between these two teams.

1990: John Druce’s monster postseason

Before Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Devante Smith-Pelly’s 2018 postseason heroics, there was John Druce. In the 1989-90 season, Druce scored eight goals and 11 points in 24 games for the Capitals. No one could have possibly predicted what he was going to do in the playoffs that year.

Druce became unstoppable in the playoffs in 1990, scoring 14 goals and 17 points in 15 games, but it took him a while to get going.

Washington defeated the New Jersey Devils in six games of the first round setting up a second round matchup against the first place Rangers. Druce had three goals against the Devils, but exploded against the Rangers for nine goals and 11 points in just five games, including a hat trick performance in Game 2. The Caps went on to cruise to a 4-1 series win over New York. It was the first time in franchise history the team advanced past the second round.

1991: Alan May’s first playoff goal

Local legend May scored only one playoff goal in his career, but it was a big one. It came in 1991, Game 4 against the Rangers. Washington trailed the series 2-1 at that point, but in the third period May managed to whack the puck through the five-hole of Mike Richter to give the Caps a 3-1 lead. The goal would prove to be the game-winner and tied the series at 2 games apiece. Washington would not lose again in that series.

2009: Sergei Fedorov scores the Game 7 winner

In Alex Ovechkin’s fourth season, the Caps made the playoffs for the second consecutive year. After finishing first in the Eastern Conference, expectations were higher for Washington than the year prior. Their first round opponent was the Rangers who proved to be a tougher out than most had expected.

New York stunned Washington by winning three of the first four games of the series. The Caps battled back to win the next two to force a Game 7. With the score tied at 1 late in the third period, 39-year-old Fedorov, who was acquired at the trade deadline the year before, took the puck from his own zone, streaked down the right side of the ice, pulled up at the faceoff dot and fired a wrister that beat Henrik Lundqvist to the top shelf.

The goal would prove to be the series winner giving Washington its first playoff victory in the Ovechkin era and the first since 1998.

2011: Jason Chimera scores in double OT

Meeting in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, the Caps took a 2-0 series lead on the Rangers in 2011. New York hoped to even up the series when play shifted to Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won Game 3 and the two teams battled to a 3-3 tie through 80 minutes in Game 4. Finally in double overtime, Chimera finished off the blue shirts.

Chimera tried to shoot on net, but the puck was blocked Bryan McCabe and headed towards Lundqvist who was poised to cover it up and stop play. Marian Gaborik got his signals crossed, however, and swept the puck away from his own goalie and right to Chimera who had followed up his shot. With the puck behind Lundqvist, Chimera had an easy tap in for the winner.

2013: Mike Green’s one-timer wins it in OT

As a defenseman, Green was a player with some flaws to his game in his own zone. When he was in his prime, however, there were few blue liners as clutch offensively.

In the brief Adam Oates era, the Capitals made the playoffs only once and faced the Rangers in the first round in 2013. Washington took Game 1 and looked to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. Both teams battled to a scoreless draw through 60 minutes in Game 2, forcing overtime.

Steven Oleksy took a delay of game penalty early in the overtime for the Caps. Washington killed it off and Ryan McDonagh returned the favor with a delay of game penalty of his own five minutes later. That was the wrong team to give a power play to.

Dmitry Orlov faked a slap shot then passed it to the point for a Green one-timer. The shot deflected off Derek Stepan, off the post and into the net.

2015: Joel Ward scores the game-winner with one second left to go

Ward pulled off perhaps the most remarkable finish to a playoff game in Caps history. After dispatching the New York Islanders in Round 1 in Barry Trotz’s first season behind the bench, Washington faced the Rangers in the playoffs yet again for the fifth time in seven years.

Both teams traded goals in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden and it looked like the game was headed to overtime. With just five seconds left, Nicklas Backstrom hit Dan Boyle in the corner to free up the puck. Ovechkin snatched it and skated behind the net. The Rangers got caught watching Ovechkin and lost track of Ward who was by himself in front. Ovechkin fed Ward who scored with just 1.2 seconds left on the clock to give Washington the improbable win in regulation.

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