Depth Players: Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik
As we all know by this point, the Washington Capitals went on to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games, giving fans a bit of a relief from the standard seven game series the Caps have grown so accustomed to. The first three games were all Washington, followed by a game four where the Flyers legitimately outplayed the Caps for the first two periods. By the time game five had come, the Flyers were playing collapse defense and relied heavily on lucky outside shots for their offense. Unfortunately, luck was on their side, and Neuvy shut the Caps out 2-0. Game six had a lot of the same style of play, but the Caps weren’t going to allow another lucky bounce to get behind the Beast.
Many people will attribute the wins to our outstanding special teams and our ability to generate 12 goals in the first three games. While they’re not wrong, there is a deeper aspect to our game that changed when the playoffs began.
One thing that began to pick up for this Capitals team was the role of our depth players, primarily guys like Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik. Jay Beagle was incredible for our penalty kill, and he played a crucial role in killing the two minute 5 on 3 that the Flyers had in game six. Without his ability to not only block shots but clear the puck as well, we would not have had anywhere near as good of a penalty kill that we had that series. Beagle anticipated the shots from the point and was able to get in the way of most of them, thwarting many Flyers’ attempted shots. Beagle also had a strong center ice presence on the penalty kill, forcing the Flyers to work the puck around the perimeter without getting many opportunities to pass or shoot through traffic. He also got the nail-in-the-coffin goal in game one, solidifying that big first game win for the Caps.
Geoff Burke, USA Today
Daniel Winnik, while his name might not be high up on the point totals, was another key player that helped the Caps shut down the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. Winnik was really proving his worth as a depth player by excelling at the fundamentals of hockey, primarily the races to the puck and the battles in the corner. Time after time, Winnik was able to outmuscle one or two Flyers’ defensemen in the corner and win the puck to our point or our guy behind the net in the offensive zone. His speed also allowed him to win most of the races to the puck, and helped maintain puck control on the dump and chase. The style of hockey that Winnik plays looks like a younger Jason Chimera aka “Ice Cheetah”, with his speed and strength assisting the depth lines.
There were many things that the Caps were able to put together for the first series, and despite the fact that we let up two losses to the Flyers, Caps fans should have a fair amount of optimism going into round two. The team that the Caps have right now is more complete than any other Caps team in recent history, and the depth of the Caps’ roster is what will burn the other teams out. Right now, the Washington Capitals have all the right pieces to put together a full 60 minute game with two of the best special teams in the post season and a roster that’s deeper than any competition that’s left in the playoffs.
Game one of the Capitals Penguins series is Thursday, April 28th. The Caps will have to come out strong, because this will be the biggest heavyweight matchup of the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.
By Justin Green