Jay Beagle wasn’t on the ice when Justin Williams scored his Game Five OTGWG. But Beags was the first person Williams credited for his clutch tally when speaking to Hockey Night In Canada’s Scott Oake after the game.
Beagle took the defensive zone faceoff against superstar Auston Matthews that started the whole play. After beating the 19-year-old, 40-goalscorer cleanly, Beagle raced to the bench for a shift change as Matt Niskanen carried the puck into the offensive zone. Williams hurriedly jumped onto the ice and drove the center lane. After taking a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov, Williams beat Frederik Andersen five hole, giving the Capitals a 3-2 first-round series lead.
“Obviously, Jay’s a very important player for us and certainly on faceoffs. He won on this one nicely. I was just waiting on the bench to get out there and he came. My linemates did a great job hunting the puck for me and I was able to walk right down the middle and get [a shot] off.”
Throughout the 2016-17 season, Beagle, whom Barry Trotz affectionately nicknamed “Mr. Fix It,” has played a utility role of sorts for the team, playing anywhere from the first to fourth line. Beagle has also been routinely tasked by Trotz to take the most crucial faceoffs of the year, including some in three-on-three overtime.
“Faceoffs are huge,” Beagle said.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 23, 2017
“The coaches give me that responsibility to take the draws on the d-zone on the right hand side on my strong-hand side,” Beagle said Sunday after practice. “I try to win every single one. Their centermen have done an unreal job at winning draws. The emphasis was on winning draws the last two games. I was just fortunate enough to win that one against a really good centerman and it results in a goal.
“You pick up their tendencies,” Beagle continued. “We don’t see these guys that much in the regular season. You kind of learn as the series goes on what their tendencies are. You can watch all the film you want, but it’s not the same as when you actually get in there and you’re in there in the faceoff circle with them. You start to learn what their different moves are to when you make a different move. It’s almost like a chess match.
So far in the series, Beagle has taken 74 draws, which is second only to Nicklas Backstrom’s 117 attempts. Beagle has won 38 of his faceoffs for a 51.4 win percentage, ranking 35th in the NHL (of players who have taken at least 10 draws in the playoffs). Last year, Beagle led the NHL in faceoff win percentage through the second round of the playoffs.
“I love taking draws,” Beagle said. “As the series goes on, you want to make sure you’re adapting so you can win those crucial [faceoffs].”
On Friday night, Beagle did and now the Leafs are on the brink of elimination.
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