In light of Donald Trump having been elected President of the United States (seriously though, did that happen!?), I guess that we should all be a little more careful about writing things off too soon. That said, odds are that Bruins left wing Matt Beleskey won’t be a Hall of Famer or even an All-Star in the NHL, but that doesn’t mean he can’t play an important role this season. One of the reasons that Boston (7-6) has gotten off to such an uneven start to 2016-17 is its unbalanced scoring from four lopsided forward lines.
Their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak has been fantastic from day one. The second line of Ryan Spooner, David Krejci and David Backes has been fine (when they’ve been together). The problem has been a disastrous third line of Beleskey, Riley Nash and Austin Czarnik. Before Monday, nobody on the third line had even scored a goal before Nash was credited with a tally that bounced in off of a Sabres players' skate. Head coach Claude Julien can’t expect his third line to produce every game, but going 11 games without recording a single point is beyond pathetic.
In his second campaign with the Bruins, Beleskey is one guy you should really expect more out of on that sputtering third line. He assisted on Marchand’s power-play goal against Buffalo that gave the B’s a 1-0 lead early in the second period. He was also in the right spot (by driving to the net) for Nash’s pass that eluded his stick blade but still took a lucky bounce for the Bruins. Finally, Beleskey stood up for his teammate (Marchand) in the third period when Sabres forward Derek Grant cross-checked Boston’s newest star into the net. Julien could sense that Beleskey was pressing a bit so he took the veteran out of the lineup last Thursday in Tampa Bay. Apparently, the move worked as Beleskey has cobbled together three quality performances in a row since then.
“He was in the right places (vs. Buffalo) and more determined,” said Julien on Monday. “I felt like he needed to sit out to spark things, it wasn’t a punishment. I thought it would make him a better player.”
Heading into free agency, Beleskey cashed in with a career-high 22 goals for Anaheim in 2014-15. Last season with the Bruins, he scored only 15 goals in 80 games. If he’s going to get regular power-play time with Boston as he has the last few games (and assuming that unit isn’t completely useless like it was before Monday), finishing with a goal total somewhere in the teens feels reasonable. For Beleskey, it’s all pretty simple.
“I don’t want to be scratched again," he said. "It made me think about the game and look at everything with an open mind.”