Counting a one-day stay with the Nashville Predators in 2007, the Washington Capitals are Eric Belanger’s fifth organization during his nine-year career.
During that span he’s participated in four NHL postseason’s and won only one series. A trade from Minnesota to Washington could give Belanger a chance for his first extended stay in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and that’s something he’s looking forward to.
“I think I am already comfortable, and I know I can bring a lot to this team,” Belanger said. “There has been a lot of line juggling to see where guys fit because now that we’re into the playoffs there are going to be different matchups. I think we’re so deep you can throw almost any line out there.”
The Capitals added Belanger on trade deadline day in early March for a second-round pick. It was the fourth time he’s been traded – including two in two days that sent him from Carolina to Atlanta with basically a layover in Nashville.
Belanger has never been a big scorer in the NHL, but the Capitals were keen about acquiring him for his work at the defensive end. General manager George McPhee felt his club was a little thin at center, and the Capitals needed another guy to count on – especially if they run into a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins and their dynamic trio of centermen.
He has shifted back and forth between centering the second and third lines for the Capitals in his brief tenure. Belanger had two goals and six points after joining Washington, but he also quickly became a fixture in Bruce Boudreau’s penalty-killing rotation and was fourth among the forwards in time on ice shorthanded.
One of Belanger’s best attributes is his skating ability. His addition, along with a mid-season trade for Jason Chimera
, has upgraded the team’s overall speed and helps the Capitals wear out opposing defensemen when they’re not worried about trying to stop the team’s elite scorers.
Belanger had a new coach this season in Minnesota, but for the previous two years he played in coach Jacques Lemaire’s defensive-minded, conservative system that didn’t necessarily take advantage of his skating ability as much Bruce Boudreau’s philosophy does.
“I played under Jacques for a couple of years. This year was a little more open in [Minnesota], but this is a very fun system to play,” Belanger said. “When we are all on the same page it is really effective.”