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Photo credit: Frank Franklin II

At 12:40 p.m. on Saturday, Jay Beagle won the opening faceoff of game two of Metropolitan Division Final against the New York Rangers. Instead of controlling the puck, however, the Capitals allowed the Rangers to set up for a rush out their defensive zone. As the Rangers took the puck up the ice, Washington’s top forward and defensive lines jumped on the ice. Brooks Orpik didn’t do so fast enough. Jesper Fast fed the puck to Chris Kreider in front. Thirty-eight seconds into the game, Washington was down one-nil. By the end of the first period, New York had a two-goal lead. The Caps had been outshot 15-4, completely outmatched for the first 20 minutes of play.

“I think we had a great start,” defenseman Marc Staal told reporters at the team hotel on Sunday.

But instead of sitting on their lead as they did in game two, the Rangers only plan to press more on Monday.

“It’s one thing to stay patient,” Staal said. “I think it’s another thing to stay aggressive.”

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Breaking Down the Rangers’ Third Goal in Game Two

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With 14 minutes left in game two, the Rangers’ Derick Brassard found himself all alone in front of Braden Holtby. With Matt Niskanen and Jay Beagle in the rear view, Brassard scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Here’s a view of Brassard all alone, just before the goal. Niskanen (blue arrow) and Beagle (black arrow), look like they’ve completely blown their assignments on this goal, meanwhile John Carlson (red arrow) is hanging out up by the blue line.

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(Note the color assignment of the arrows, they’ll be used throughout.)

But, if the entire sequence leading up to this play is taken into account, it becomes hard to find any fault with Niskanen on this goal.

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The hockey gods just gave the Capitals the biggest gift ever and they could not convert. As John Carlson dumped the puck into the corner, instead of going behind the net, the puck richoeted right into the left circle where Jay Beagle was standing. Beagle put the puck on his forehand and pumped a shot on net, but Halak somehow made the save.

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A game after earning his first career double-digit goal season, Jay Beagle has suffered an upper body injury. In the second period against the Rangers, Beags took a rough run from Dan Girardi in the neutral zone.

As Beagle reached for the puck, a charging Girardi hit Beagle in the left shoulder. The hit followed through to Beagle’s head. The Caps forward spun in the air and landed hard on the ice.

Beagle went to the locker room, but came back for two more shifts late in the second period. He did not return for the third.

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Here’s Every Top-Line Beagle Goal, For and Against

Jay Beagle, Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin

Photo: Alex Brandon

Jay Beagle is having a career-best season. With 10 goals and counting, he’s got more offensive flair than ever before. That offense has come with criticism– not for Beagle himself, who is a talented and beloved bottom-sixer, but for the coach(es) who deployed him on the top line with Alex Ovechkin.

We, among others, criticized Adam Oates for playing Beagle and Ovechkin together in 2013-14. In 42 minutes together last season, Beagle and Ovechkin and were outscored 8 to 1 and outshot 94 to 58. This season, inexplicably, Barry Trotz has used Beagle and Ovechkin together even more (112 minutes and counting), though he’s seen much better results.

In 2014-15, Beagle and Ovechkin get outshot by merely 15 shot attempts every 60 minutes, which is only as bad as, say, John Scott.

Hockey, I’ve been told, is about results. So here’s every top-line Beagle goal I could find from this season.

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So happy he’ll cut you. (Photo: @WashCaps)

Jay Beagle was absolutely dominant tonight, helping the Caps outshoot the Sabres 18 to 4 while he was on the ice during 5v5. The handsome pup even scored a goal while skating in the top six, after Troy Brouwer flubbed his initial shot attempt.

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Photo credit: Christian Petersen

Coming into 2014-15, Jay Beagle had never scored more than four goals in a season. For a fourth line center, that’s fine. Under Barry Trotz, however, Beagle’s playing time has increased. When the Caps took the ice against the Leafs on Sunday, Beagle was slotted in the top-six alongside Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer. By the end of the game, Beagle was the top-line right wing, a position he has occupied many times this season.

But here’s the rub: despite a career-high nine goals and 17 points for Beagle, he brings Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom down. I love Beagle. He’s a great face-off man, a solid fourth liner, and a fantastic guy. He is not, however, qualified to play on the first line. Analytics — and the singularly important eye test — back this up. Trotz disagrees though.

“Beagle’s like my lucky charm,” Trotz told reporters when asked about the rotating right-wing spot. “When I put him up there ,we score. I know you analytics guys don’t like his numbers, but we score and get back in the game. There’s reasons for that.”

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Jay Beagle has 19 goals in 229 career games. Six of those goals have come this season, surpassing his previous career high of four despite the Caps being just one game past the halfway point. When Chris spoke to Beagle last month, the Caps dogged Center credited his offensive surge to the faith Barry Trotz has placed in him, as well as his own renewed commitment in the off-season to becoming a better offensive player in 2014-15.

“Trotz puts a lot of faith in me and puts me in big situations,” Beagle told RMNB in December. “I’m grateful for it. I don’t want to let him down, I don’t want to let my team down, I don’t want to let myself down. You get those opportunities and you make the most of them.”

Beagle’s producing more points than ever before in his NHL career. He’s made plays that have left Alan May speechless. His production rate during 5v5 has increased dramatically this season.

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Here’s a look at what may be driving Beagle’s breakout offensive season.

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Kuznetsov

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Before this season, Evgeny Kuznetsov had only played sparingly at center in his hockey career. But with the Capitals lacking in center depth, head coach Barry Trotz has tried to convert Kuznetsov and fellow rookie Andre Burakovsky into pivots. Both struggled earlier in the year, with Burakovsky getting scratched and eventually moving back to wing. But Kuznetsov has stuck and is finally adjusting to the new role. Against the Avalanche on Monday night, Kuznetsov was an offensive force, with four shots on net, a shot off the crossbar, and a myriad of drives past the Colorado defense.

“He’s got really good vision, he’s got great hands, and he’s skating well,” Trotz said after the game. “I think his puck protection has been really good, his detail in the D-zone has been really good. You get chances, you’re gonna produce. I think he’s a very talented guy.”

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Eric Fehr is God: Caps Blank Pens 3-0

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Yep.

I spent my Saturday at Nationals Park — well, until NHL PR literally chased me out. The stadium is nearly in its full party dress with fake domes, banners, and a sheet of ice with logos on.

But alas, there were still more games on the calendar before New Year’s Day. Tonight the Caps visited Pittsburgh. A bunch of the Penguins have mumps. Crosby had mumps. Mumps makes your face big. Okay, we got that out of the way.

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