MONTREAL - It goes without saying that Nathan Beaulieu would have preferred to enjoy a better finish to the year.
The Canadiens' defenseman watched from the press box as his teammates were eliminated after head Claude Julien elected to make him a healthy scratch for Game 6 of their first-round series against the New York Rangers.
The 24-year-old Strathroy, ON native still focused on the positive aspects of his 2016-17 campaign, though, refusing to feel any self-pity.
"Obviously, it's disappointing. A lot of positives coming out of this year. It's bad the way it ended, but try to find some positives heading into the summer. It's the best way to look at the situation," indicated the Canadiens' No. 28 during the team's season-ending media availability session in Brossard.
Even if being knocked out of the playoffs early was frustrating for the group as a whole, Beaulieu is adamant that his season wasn't from a production standpoint.
"It was a pretty good year. I had almost 30 points. I played almost 20 minutes a night. It's pretty good for 24 years old. I've got to take that as a good stepping stone. Obviously, it ended in an extremely negative way, but I can't dwell on that going into the summer. I've got to look at the positives and the good things that come out of it," said Beaulieu.
Beaulieu hit several personal highs this past season, including games played (74), goals (4), assists (24), points (28), shots (118), average ice time per game (19:28), and power play points (2g - 10a). The 2011 first-rounder also scored the first game-winning goal of his career.
He enjoyed his most productive game on January 4 against the Dallas Stars when he registered a three-point night, scoring a goal and adding two assists.
Beaulieu insists that the highs and lows of the last few months haven't affected his confidence. That's why he believes he still has his spot on the team.
"I obviously want to be here. Obviously, I still believe in myself and know I can be a big part of this team. It's tough to put a fingerprint on it right now, but I feel like I'm still a big part of this team on the back end, and I feel like the organization still thinks that from talking to them, so just another big summer for me and get ready to come back to work again," said Beaulieu, who claimed the Memorial Cup with the QMJHL's Saint John Sea Dogs in 2011.
Beaulieu started the season playing alongside veteran Shea Weber, but the pairing didn't last long. When asked if he felt that he'd been given the opportunity to put his skills on display night after night, he had a categorical response.
"Yes. If I'm in the lineup, then that's really the only opportunity I need. I played almost every game, besides a couple of injuries and situations, but I think if they're putting me on the ice, that's pretty much the only opportunity they can give me. The rest is left up to myself," he admitted.
As for playing to his potential, according to Beaulieu, he "could have been better".
"If you look at the numbers and everything else, it was a pretty good season, but personally I obviously would have liked to be in a different situation," mentioned the 6'2, 205-pound rearguard.
Video: Nathan Beaulieu à propos de son rôle dans le futur
Beaulieu also confided that he took away an important lesson from his fifth pro season, the first three of which he spent shuttling between the AHL and NHL ranks.
"You can't take anything for granted. We finished first, and you go into the playoffs with such high hopes and you get knocked down pretty quick. That goes with the mental part of the game. The biggest thing is just to stay even-keeled, and you can't take much for granted because it switches on you pretty quick," explained Beaulieu.
"I look at everything more as a team situation. We had such high hopes going into the playoffs. We thought it was going to be such a special year and we thought we had the team to do it. But, it was disappointing, so you've just got to learn to swim with the punches. It was disappointing. You've got to get over it quickly and move on from it," he added.
Beaulieu will become a restricted free agent on July 1, and he would very much like to sign a new deal with the Canadiens.
"I want to be here for a long time and do my part. If I'm playing at my best, it doesn't matter which role I play. I think the team will benefit from it," he concluded.