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Lockout affects different players different ways


Lockout affects different players different ways

Let’s face it. From a financial standpoint the NHL lockout is not seriously hurting millionaire players like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Vinny Lecavalier.

The players feeling the biggest sting from the NHL’s work freeze are first- and second-year players like Capitals forward Jay Beagle, who on Monday will go without a paycheck for the second straight pay period.

Unlike Ovechkin, who earns $9.5 million a season with the Capitals and is reportedly fetching $6 million playing for Dynamo Moscow of the KHL, Beagle has been counting on his wife, Ashley, to pay the bills.

Ashley Beagle works at a local hospital as an oncology nurse.

“She’s actually bringing home the dough right now,” Beagle said. “She’s been working long hours. It takes a special person to [work with cancer patients] and she’s great at it, too.”

Beagle said the domestic role reversal has gone pretty well.

“I’m the house wife right now,” he said. “I’m cooking all the meals. I clean the house. But I don’t do any of the laundry. I can’t do that.”

Beagle, 27, recently signed a three-year, $2.7 million contract with the Caps that would have paid him $700,000 this season and $1 million in each of the next two years. While that sounds nice, it is well below the NHL average salary of $2.4 million a season, which is $1 million more than the average NHL salary was seven years ago.

Prior to signing his first NHL contract, Beagle made $65,000 a year in his first two seasons with the AHL Hershey Bears. He then split the 2010-11 season between the Bears, where he made a prorated $105,000 a season, and the Capitals, where he made a prorated $500,000.

It wasn’t until last season that Beagle finally received a full season of NHL pay at $525,000.

Beagle said every NHL player was informed last season that a potential lockout was looming and that they should manage their money accordingly. For someone like Ovechkin, that means planning on life without a biweekly check of $733,727.84.
For Beagle, it means missing out on $51,846.15 every two weeks.

“It’s not like we planned on these paychecks, and now they’re gone,” Beagle said. “Even midway through the summer we were like, ‘OK, let’s go into a mode of saving and watch our spending a lot more tightly.’

“It’s unfortunate for guys who haven’t been in the league that long and have been in the minors for awhile. It hits you a little harder because you don’t have that much money saved up. But when we missed a paycheck on the 15th  [of October], we knew that was coming.”

Beagle insists this lockout is more about principle than it is about dollars and cents. He, like all NHL players, simply wants his current contract paid in full.

According to the players’ union, the owners’ most recent proposal would cut that salary by 12.3 percent. In other words, Beagle’s $700,000 salary would be sliced by $86,100, while Ovechkin’s $9.538 million salary would be sliced by $1.173 million.

That, in essence, is the crux of the players’ argument.   

“A lot of the guys feel the same way,” Beagle said. “We don’t really care as much about missing the paychecks. We just want to get a deal done and get to playing hockey. That’s what bothers me. I don’t look at it and say, ‘I’m missing this much money.’ I look at it as, ‘I’m missing this many games.’ Getting paid is nice, but the bottom line is I just want to get a deal done and play. But I know things have to be worked out. It’s a business.”

Until the league’s owners and players can figure out a way to divide an estimated $3.3 billion in annual revenue, Beagle will continue cleaning the house and cooking up some of the best steaks he and his wife have ever tasted.

“I’ve got some signature dishes she looks forward to coming home to,” he said.

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Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”


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Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

The Florida Panthers played over half of Friday’s game with five defensemen after a hit from Alex Ovechkin ultimately knocked Mark Pysyk out of the game.

Early in the second period, Ovechkin attempted to enter the offensive zone with the puck, but it was swept away at the blue line back to Pysyk. Pysyk quickly chipped the puck away and then was on the receiving end of a hit from Ovechkin.

In real time, the hit did not appear to be a big one. It wasn't even the biggest hit Ovechkin delivered in the game, as in the third period he sent Aleksander Barkov flying with a shoulder hit. But Pysyk went down to the ice after the hit and left the game soon after.

After the game, Florida head coach Bob Boughner did not mince words.

“Pysyk got a high hit to the head,” he said.

When asked if he thought the league should review the hit, Boughner said, “I hope they do because if you see the replay, it's high. It's a head shot. And the league's trying to clamp down on that. Whether there's no call, I don't blame the refs. Maybe they missed it. That happens. But those are the kind of plays that need to be reviewed.”

Based on the replay, it is hard to determine if the principal point of contact was the head. Ovechkin does not launch himself, but does appear to take an upward trajectory into Pysyk. Still, it seems like a hard sell to say Ovechkin was targeting the head.

But the hit did send Pysyk out of the game, and in today’s NHL, when head hits are a big topic of conversation and when a player is injured on a play, the NHL has shown it takes those plays more seriously.

Pysyk returned to the game for one more shift after receiving the hit, but left the game after and did not return.

“Right now we're still getting him checked out, but we'll see more in the morning,” Boughner said.