Bea­gle, hard-work­ing fourth line thriv­ing with­out light­ing the lamp

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY STEPHENWHYNO

Brooks Laich and other Washington Cap­i­tals play­ers ac­knowl­edged Tues­day night they were watch­ing the out-of-town score­board, just tak­ing a glimpse to see if the di­vi­sion-lead­ing Florida Pan­thers were win­ning.

For­ward Jay Bea­gle, on the other hand, wasn’t look­ing.

“Not at all,” he said with a laugh. “I just try and stay fo­cused on what I’m go­ing to do. And I think if I started think­ing about some­thing else — I don’t have the tal­ent or the skill to be a Brook­sie.”

In­stead, Bea­gle had one of the best games of his NHL ca­reer, as part of a strong ef­fort by him and his line­mates, Jeff Halpern and Joel Ward. Though the fourth line hasn’t been pil­ing up of­fen­sive num­bers of late, it has been do­ing the per­fect job of grind­ing down op­po­nents by hold­ing onto the puck in the of­fen­sive zone.

“It’s huge when you play down low and you cy­cle,” Bea­gle said. “You wear down their de­fense and you cre­ate mo­men­tum for the team, and that’s what we’re out there to do.”

The best ex­am­ple of the fourth line’s suc­cess came in the Caps’ 2-1 win at the Pan­thers on Feb. 17, when Ward, Halpern and Bea­gle cre­ated the blue­print of how to cre­ate en­ergy with­out putting the puck in the net.

“You need to get all groups . . . go­ing. You can’t win the game in the first pe­riod, so I think it’s im­por­tant for us to wear the other team down as much as you can,” Ward said. “Hope­fully we can stick to that and try to keep that go­ing.”

They’ve done just that in re­cent games, in-

clud­ing Tues­day’s over­time vic­tory against the New York Is­lan­ders. Laich was quick to praise all three play­ers when asked about Bea­gle’s night.

“Ac­tu­ally I thought that whole line was good. I thought Halpy and Wardo and Beags were buzzing,” he said. “They had real good cy­cle shifts, and then also they had a cou­ple three-on-twos.”

Coach Dale Hunter wasn’t afraid to put the fourth line out there against the Is­lan­ders’ top trio, a trend that could con­tinue if it keeps play­ing what Ward called a “struc­tured style” of hockey.

“They’re play­ing hard. They’re out­play­ing other teams. I could put them against pretty much any line,” Hunter said. “They’re re­spon­si­ble de­fen­sively, but they’re forecheck­ing and they’re cy­cling the puck well.”

Bea­gle was par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive, putting up a ca­reer high with five shots Tues­day. He called it a “fun game” to play, as it fit his style of out­work­ing op­po­nents.

The 26-year-old has a work­out war­rior rep­u­ta­tion that finds its way onto the ice, even though Bea­gle doesn’t have the fin­ish­ing tal­ent of many NHL for­wards.

“The work ethic is huge. He’s a great kid and his work ethic is what gets [it] done,” Hunter said. “He’s an­noy­ing to play against be­cause he works too hard out there.”

As if it’s pos­si­ble to work too hard, es­pe­cially for a fringe player who has spent his fair share of time with the Caps as a healthy scratch.

“You wouldn’t want to play against him be­cause you know he’s go­ing to play both ways — de­fen­sively, of­fen­sively — and he’s just a hard-work­ing kid,” Hunter said.

Bea­gle is one of just a few Caps play­ers left with­out a goal this sea­son, though the 31 games he missed with a con­cus­sion skew that statis­tic.

Still, he’s mak­ing an im­pact de­spite not putting up a lot of num­bers.

“He goes a hun­dred miles an hour ev­ery­where,” Laich said. “His role is a six-to-eight-minute guy, and it’s tough to be a stand­out player with those min­utes, but I think he does a great job for us.”


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