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Beagle reveals his 'dream job' with the Capitals


Beagle reveals his 'dream job' with the Capitals

Jay Beagle is a back-woods, no-frills kind of guy, so it should come as no surprise that the 29-year-old center was in a motor home, vacationing with his family in the Alberta mountains, with no cell service, when his agent, Wade Arnott, tried reaching him to get final approval on a three-year $5.25 million contract with the Capitals.

“I had missed my agent’s calls for almost a day, where he had left me four or five messages leading up to this,” Beagle said Monday on a conference call with reporters. “I also had about five messages on my phone when I got cell reception, so I figured I’d better stop and get this thing done.”

Beagle and his family stopped at a kiosk in the town of Canmore, Alberta, where he printed out an email, signed it, and faxed his acceptance back to Arnott and the Capitals.

Beagle will make $1.45 million next season, along with a $300,000 bonus, and $1.75 million for each of the final two years of the deal, giving him a palatable cap hit of $1.75 million. He said getting the third year of the deal was the most important piece to him.

“One of the things I said to [Arnott] is I’d love to have more years than anything,” Beagle said. “My wife loves it there and I have a kid now. We love it there and I want to stay there as long as I can. I just told him years are important and just left it at that.”

Beagle’s signing leaves the Caps with roughly $18.5 million in cap space. Much of that will go toward contracts for restricted free agents Braden Holtby, Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov, who together figure to eat up in the neighborhood of $12 million.

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What Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan does with the remaining $6.5 million remains to be seen, but it appears none of it will go toward unrestricted free agents Mike Green, Joel Ward and Eric Fehr, who plan on testing the free-agent market at noon on Wednesday.

Beagle, who was also a pending UFA, has spent parts of seven seasons with Green, parts of six seasons with Fehr and the past four seasons with Ward.

“It’s always tough,” Beagle said. “You kind of forget that it is a business until something like this does happen. That’s why I’m very blessed to be back with this organization.

“I obviously want all the guys to come back. I’ve had such great relationships with them and fought alongside them and battled with them. It’s always tough when guys move on and you see them in another jersey. That makes me put in perspective how lucky and how fortunate I am to come back to this organization.”

If the Caps are unable to re-sign Fehr, Beagle could inherit his role as the Caps third-line center. Coming off a career-high 10 goals and 10 assists, Beagle said that’s been his dream job since he first turned pro.

“My goal for next year is to have a bigger role on the team and get better and win the Stanley Cup with this team,” Beagle said.

“I don’t really see myself as a fourth-line guy. As an athlete and as a professional hockey player I want to get better every year and have a bigger role every year. I think that’s what makes a team succeed, when everyone continues to get better and continues to have a bigger role.

“I think this last season I kind of showed I can play in all situations. If they need me on the fourth line, I’m definitely there. But I don’t see myself as a fourth-line guy. I’ve always told people my dream job is that checking-line center position.”

Physically, Beagle said he feels as strong as he ever has in his career and plans on spending this summer working on his puck-handling skills, faceoffs and his explosiveness.

“I want to come back into training camp looking better than I did last year,” he said.


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The Lightning are matching their 4th line against Ovechkin...and it’s working

The Lightning are matching their 4th line against Ovechkin...and it’s working

When the starting lines were announced on Saturday, you may have been surprised to hear Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson were starting against Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan.

Because the game was in Tampa Bay, the Capitals had to give their starters first. That means Lightning coach Jon Cooper saw the Caps’ were starting their top line and decided to put out his fourth.

And it worked.

On Saturday, Paquette scored just 19 seconds into the game and Callahan scored 33 seconds into the second period. Ovechkin’s line did not manage a shot on goal for the first two periods of the game. Ovechkin did finally score, but it came late on a six-on-five with Braden Holtby pulled and it was not against the fourth line.

The fourth vs. Ovechkin matchup is something the Lightning began in Game 2. No three forwards have played more against Ovechkin at five on five in any game since Game 2 than Kunitz, Paquette and Callahan. Prior to Game 5, they matched up against Ovechkin around six to seven minutes per game. On Saturday, however, Cooper went all in.

At five on five play, Kunitz was on the ice against Ovechkin for 13:04, Paquette for 13:42 and Callahan for 13:46. The results speak for themselves as that line outscored Ovechkin's 2-0. In fact, for the series Ovechkin has produced six points and only two of them have come at five-on-five play.

A fourth line vs. a top line matchup is a risky move because it takes time away from your top offensive playmakers. You typically see top lines face each other or a first line against a second line because, when you line match you are letting the opposing coach dictate how much your own players play. With a fourth line matchup getting essentially top line minutes, that takes time away from players like Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

If you look at the five-on-five time on ice for Game 5, Kucherov skated 14:06 and Stamkos 13:37 while Kunitz was on for 14:00, Callahan for 14:45 and Paquette for 14:57.

It is a risky move, but it makes sense for the Lightning. Through four games, the Capitals were the better team five-on-five, but Tampa Bay’s power play was unstoppable. Using the fourth line is a good strategy for Cooper in situations like in Game 3 and Game 4. The Lightning slowed Washington’s five-on-five production and Stamkos and Kucherov still produced enough on the power play even with reduced minutes. It also works for games like the one we saw Saturday.

In a game like Game 5 when your team jumps out to a 3-0 lead, you can afford to roll your lines even if it means giving the fourth line more minutes than the first.

You would think a fourth vs. first matchup would give the Capitals a distinct advantage, but it has not worked out that way. The fourth line has been able to stifle Ovechkin and Co. enough and the Lightning's power play has made up the production lost by the first line's reduced minutes. When the fourth line can score two goals of its own, well, that's just an added bonus.

Ovechkin has to lead his line to a better performance in Game 6. If the Caps’ top line can’t get the better of the Lightning’s fourth, then this series will be over on Monday night.


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Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

There was no tougher critic on Matt Niskanen’s Game 5 performance on Saturday than Niskanen himself.

Niskanen and his defensive partner, Dmitry Orlov, were on the ice for all three of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s three goals in the Capitals’ 3-2 loss. That was striking given the Orlov-Niskanen duo is typically Washington’s best defensive pair.

That was not the case on Saturday and Niskanen took full responsibility afterward.

“First three goals are all my fault,” Niskanen said. “I had a tough first 20:30 so I've got to be better next game.”

Pretty much no one played the first goal right.

The goal came just 19 seconds into the game. Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov looked like he could have gotten the puck, but instead played the body of Cedric Paquette. Niskanen stepped up at the blue line, but the Lightning got the puck past him creating a short rush that beat Braden Holtby who was way too far back in the crease.

Yes, Niskanen got caught a bit high, but he was just as at fault as Orlov, Kuznetsov and Holtby.

The second goal happened because Steven Stamkos tripped Orlov to create a turnover and it wasn’t called.

Niskanen got in between Ondrej Palat and the puck, but Palat beat both him and Holtby on the shot. Not sure I would put this one on Niskanen.

The third goal…well, that one was a bad play by Niskanen.

When you go one-on-one with a player, a defenseman cannot allow that player to turn the corner. That’s especially true when that player is defenseman Anton Stralman who is not exactly gifted with blazing speed. This was just a complete misplay.

Regardless of how many goals were strictly on Niskanen, that’s not the point. This was a message not so much to the media but to the team. That message was this: This one’s on me, I will be better next game.

Leaders always take responsibility. Niskanen is taking the blame here and saying he will be better in the hopes the team around him will be better as well.

They will need to be to win Game 6.

“A lot of people counted us out when we were down 0-2 in the first round,” Niskanen said. “Things got hard in the last series where we could have melted and we just kept playing. So that's what we've got to do again, bring our best effort for Game 6 at home, win a game and then we'll go from there.

“But we're focused on bringing our best game of the season for Game 6 and we'll be ready to go.”