It’s a topic that has been broached countless times since last May and has been raised again during these playoffs – the frustration of last year’s postseason, namely a heart-wrenching Game 7 defeat to LA.
But for Matt Beleskey, the disappointment from last spring lies not in what he did in that series, but the fact that he wasn’t able to be there. Beleskey watched Game 7 from his living room couch back home in Barrie, Ontario, unable to move well (let alone play) after suffering a torn groin midway through that series. Beleskey had already been limited in the playoffs because of nagging pain, playing just two games in the First Round series vs. Dallas and still chipping in a goal and two assists. But after taking a hit from Kings captain Dustin Brown in Game 4 in LA, Beleskey was done for the playoffs.
|“Ever since the end of Game 7, I’ve been waiting for that moment, to get back out there. Playoff hockey, that’s all you play for. You play 82 games just to be in a good spot for the playoffs. So it was really exciting to be able to get back out there.” |
“Just having to watch that and not being able to be a part of the team, be with the guys before and after, it was really hard to watch,” Beleskey says.
That’s why being out there for Thursday night’s Game 1 vs. Winnipeg at Honda Center, and again for tonight’s Game 2, is extra satisfying for the 26-year-old.
“Ever since the end of Game 7, I’ve been waiting for that moment,” Beleskey says. “Playoff hockey, that’s all you play for. You play 82 games just to be in a good spot for the playoffs. So it was really exciting to be able to get back out there.”
Count Beleskey among the Ducks who were caught up Thursday night in the electricity of a packed and loud Honda Center.
“It’s playoff hockey. It’s everything you expect,” says Beleskey, who will play his 20th postseason NHL game tonight. “The fans are great here, and we love getting those orange towels going. It’s just a whole different feeling when you’re out on the ice. It’s a fun thing to be a part of.”
And after the Ducks scored three unanswered in the third to down the Jets 4-2 in Game 1, Beleskey is primed and ready to get after it again in tonight’s Game 2.
“It’s exciting. It’s one step closer to the goal,” says Beleskey, who registered three shots in Game 1. “We’ve got one down and 15 more wins to go. This is just one more step, and tonight’s gonna be a good game."
Beleskey, who has played on a dangerous second line with Ryan Kesler and Kyle Palmieri, has more than earned that assignment with by far the best season of his career. His 22 goals obliterated his previous personal best of 11 in 2008-09 and ranked third on the team behind just Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
Beleskey gives most of the credit for his offensive outburst to, “just confidence. Being able to get a few early in the season and getting the coaching staff behind you, being put in situations where they want you to score, and you’re supposed to score. It’s just having that confidence to go out there and expect to score every night.”
|“Since I was like 3 years old, I’ve been running around my driveway pretending to score that Stanley Cup winning goal. That’s everything you dream of, that overtime goal or game-winning goal. It’s something you always want.” |
It’s hard to believe Beleskey is already in his seventh season in Anaheim since getting his feet wet as a wide-eyed 20-year-old back in 2009. He sees a world of difference between that former fourth round pick and the Beleskey of today.
“I think when you first get up here, you’re just excited to play and you’re trying to do whatever you can to stay out there. If you score, that’s kind of a bonus," he says. "Now I’m at the point in my career that I need to be a consistent force both offensively and physically. You expect something big from yourself, it’s easier to make it happen.”
Beleskey was banged up a bit this year again, and only played 65 games, but his eight game-winning goals ranked third in the entire NHL. Now he’s hoping he can get that big goal when it really matters.
“Since I was like 3 years old, I’ve been running around my driveway pretending to score that Stanley Cup winning goal,” Beleskey says. “That’s everything you dream of, that overtime goal or game-winning goal. It’s something you always want.”