MONTREAL - For most of us, getting body-checked into a steel goalpost sounds like the very definition of pain, for Nathan Beaulieu however; it’s just part of the job.
Beaulieu’s scary collision with the woodwork traces back to February 22, 2016, when the Canadiens welcomed the Nashville Predators to Montreal for a Monday night match-up at the Bell Centre.
With just over five minutes remaining - and with the score deadlocked at one apiece – Beaulieu made a power move towards Pekka Rinne’s crease, only to be sent flying from behind into one of the always unforgiving goalposts.
“Let’s just say I was fortunate, because it could have been a lot worse. I’ve seen the replay a couple times and it’s just gross to watch. I’m very fortunate that it wasn’t season ending or anything,” admitted Beaulieu, who also gave insight into the moments that followed the alarming impact. “The injury was playable for the first couple of shifts but when we were heading into overtime, I went over to J.J. [Daigneault]and I told him that I could no longer give 100% out there. I wanted to play but I needed to make sure that I didn’t jeopardize the team’s chances of winning.
“Stuff like that happens all the time. You have so much adrenaline going that you don’t know what’s really going on, you just know that you want to play” continued the Strathroy, Ontario native who celebrated his 23rd birthday this past December. “I’m a fighter. I don’t like going down, or staying down, I want to get back up. I knew I would be in good hands with the medical staff but I wanted to at least test it out. The first couple of shifts after really didn’t feel that bad but after that it started to get worse. Once things settled down I knew something wasn’t right.”
As the news of Beaulieu’s injury came directly on the heels of the announcement that regular blue-liners Jeff Petry (sports hernia) and Tom Gilbert (knee) would be require season-ending surgery, the Habs were left with three vacancies on the blue-line to fill.
Fortunately reinforcements from the St. John’s IceCaps - in the form of Mark Barberio, Victor Bartley, Greg Pateryn, Morgan Ellis and Darren Dietz - were quickly called upon to help bolster the Habs blue-line.
“It was our team picture today and I think almost our entire back row was in St. John’s at one point this season. The injuries this year have been pretty crazy, but it has also been exciting to see the young guys step up. In my career, I also needed opportunities like that to help establish myself,” contributed Beaulieu, who plied his trade for 132 games in the American Hockey League before entrenching himself as a mainstay in coach Therrien’s lineup. “Especially with Subby going down, we are now without three of the defenseman that suited up on opening night. We’ve been banged up basically all season. I honestly haven’t seen anything like it before. It feels like there are 12 guys in the infirmary every day.”
MONTREAL - Having already posted new career highs this season in goals, assists, points, hits, blocks and minutes played, it can be easy to forget that the former first-round pick is still adjusting to being an every-day NHLer.
“He’s a young defenseman, that’s still in his first full year in the NHL. For defenseman specifically, it can take more time to prove that you belong in the NHL. We like what we’ve seen so far this year. He’s had his ups and down, just like any player. When we look at our young defensemen, we are looking for quality of play and consistency,” noted coach Therrien, who revealed that Beaulieu is presently considered questionable to play on Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers.
Tuesday’s contest aside, hitting the ice at the Bell Centre for Monday’s practice was an important step in the right direction for the youngsters rehab and especially for his morale.
“There are only so many games left and I hate watching so I am just trying my best to get back out there. There’s definitely a chance I’ll play this week. It’s an annoying injury, but that’s all I can really say about it. My progression has been much more positive in the last couple weeks. I’ve been skating with our strength and conditioning coach,” explained the former Saint John Sea Dog, who was forced to watch the entirety of the Canadiens recent road-trip to California from the sidelines. “Joining the guys on the ice for practice today was just the next step in my rehab, but it’s definitely more fun to be out there shooting on a goalie instead of a 2-by-4 stuck to the net. Today was a good step,” concluded the young rearguard.
Beaulieu’s encounter with the pipes, though painful, remind us all of an important hockey lesson; the posts are a goalie’s best friends.
Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com
Quotes from the room: March 14
Rapid Fire - Practice - March 14
On the bright side