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Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Beagle ate up tough minutes in the playoffs, but did not contribute much

By The Numbers

Jay Beagle’s offensive contributions to the Vancouver Canucks’ 2020 playoff run can be summed up quickly, because they all occurred in a single game.

Beagle opened the scoring in the series-clinching Game Six against the St. Louis Blues, absolutely ripping the puck past Jordan Binnington.

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His assist on Tyler Motte’s third period 5-1 goal was even nicer, with Beagle stripping the puck from an opponent at his own blueline, skating it the length of the ice, and then dishing a perfect saucer pass to Motte.

Aside from that, Beagle didn’t contribute a single point throughout the rest of the playoffs. In fact, past that point, he only registered three more shots on goal before the Canucks were eliminated. But Beagle was never signed for his offensive prowess, he was signed to shut down opposing teams from the fourth line and kill penalties.

So how good of a job did he do at that?

Many of Beagle’s advanced stats can be largely discounted given the context of his role. Yes, his Corsi For rating of 34.88% was second-worst on the team, ahead of just Oscar Fantenberg, but plenty of that can be attributed to his zone starts. Beagle started just 9.88% of his shifts in the offensive zone, lowest on the Canucks by far — Motte was next lowest with 16.18% — and the lowest of any player who played significant minutes in the 2020 Playoffs.

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At even-strength Beagle was only on the ice for three goals against, and four for, not a bad result for someone who played an average of about 8:30 at even-strength per game.

His Expected Goals rate (38.66%) and Scoring Chances control (36.22%) were both abysmal, but still ahead of other fourth line types like Motte, Brandon Sutter, and Zack MacEwen, each of whom received a much friendlier deployment from coach Travis Green.

Beagle’s control of High-Danger Scoring Chances sat at 44.26%, still in the negative, but eighth on the team overall, remarkable given his zone starts. In this particular statistical category, Beagle ranked ahead of Elias Pettersson.

Beagle won an impressive 57.1% of his faceoffs, including 54.5% in the defensive zone. He threw 8.36 hits-per-60, eighth on the team, and blocked 3.90 shots-per-60, seventh on the team.

But Beagle’s bread and butter has always been the penalty kill. There, the Canucks as a whole finished with a rather mediocre 80%, 15th among postseason participants. Beagle led all forwards in PK time with 61:34 total, and surrendered nine goals against in that time — although he was also on for two shorthanded goals for.

It’s hard to lay the entirety of the penalty kill’s shortcomings at Beagle’s feet, but the fact remains that the Canucks let in 13 powerplay goals in these playoffs, and Beagle was on the ice for the vast majority of them. The same, of course, can be said for Beagle’s PK partner, Motte, as well as Chris Tanev and Alex Edler, but all three of them found other ways to contribute to the team’s success, while Beagle did not.

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Point blank, Beagle was on the ice for more than a quarter of the Canucks’ total goals against this postseason. For a player who doesn’t regularly skate against opponents’ top lines, that’s egregious, and for a supposed defensive specialist, it’s decidedly unencouraging.

The Eye-Test

In many ways, Beagle’s 2020 Playoffs were emblematic of how the Canucks performed at the tail-end of their series against Vegas — devoid of offence, caved in possession-wise, and yet somehow hanging on just enough to avoid being blown out of the water.

Beagle showed plenty of toughness, grit, and perseverance — always the first one in, and the last one out of a scrum — but that only goes so far, and he was largely ineffective in other, more tangible areas of the game.

In terms of the penalty kill, anyone who watched the games will attest that, of the two, Motte certainly appeared to be the superior defender, which leads one to believe that Beagle should bear more of the responsibility for the unit’s deficiencies.

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He was an adequate fourth-line center, and he certainly was handed a difficult assignment, but it’s difficult to argue that his performance was anything other than replacement level.

Clearly, Beagle was a good enough bottom-six presence to help the Canucks get to where they got, but did his play in any way justify his $3 million salary, which will remain on the books for another two seasons?

Well, there’s no salary cap in the playoffs, so let’s not get into that right now. The answer is, in any case, self-evident.

Playoff Grade: D

It’s impossible to give Beagle anything more than a barely passing grade. He did accept a difficult deployment with no complaints, and managed to avoid costing his team too much while performing in that role, and for that — and only that — we must give him credit.