ANAHEIM -- Matt Beleskey remembers sitting at home with a shoulder injury during the hours and days leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline in March.
There was some speculation the Anaheim Ducks would trade Beleskey, who was having his best season in the NHL and looked attractive to teams in need of a versatile left wing.
"[I was] extremely nervous," Beleskey said. "Watching and having the chance of being traded was something I definitely didn’t want. Once that was over, it was a huge weight off my shoulders."
Beleskey wasn't traded, and he’s repaid the Ducks handsomely by following up his career-best 22-goal regular season with a fruitful Stanley Cup Playoffs. He enters Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks at Honda Center on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) on a Ducks record five-game playoff scoring streak. He is the first NHL player to score in each of the first five games of a series since Mikael Samuelson of the Vancouver Canucks in 2010 against the Los Angeles Kings.
“He’s had some injuries this year that have set him back a little bit at times, but he’s been scoring big goals for us all year long, and it’s nice to see him do it in the playoffs as well,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said.
Getzlaf has seen the maturation of Beleskey, a 26-year-old who debuted with the Ducks during the 2008-09 season. There have been injuries, waivers, a coaching change, and uncertainty over his role in the organization with so many other young forwards trying to claim a job.
"[He] went through his ups and downs learning how to be a pro," Getzlaf said. "He wasn’t given things. He wasn’t a first-round pick that was given an opportunity to play on the first line right away. He had to kind of work his way up, and he stayed with it and stayed with the organization the whole time."
Randy Carlyle put Beleskey, a fourth-round pick (No. 112) in the 2006 NHL Draft, on a line with Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and Bruce Boudreau reunited them earlier this season. Beleskey had 15 of his 22 goals in his first 34 games.
Some observers cited playing with Getzlaf and Perry as a convenient reason for Beleskey’s production. But Boudreau repeatedly defended Beleskey, who scored 17 goals with the game tied or the Ducks trailing.
Beleskey thanks Boudreau for putting him in more offensive situations, first with Getzlaf and Perry and now with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg on Anaheim’s second line.
"I think that’s something that I’ve taken advantage of, and I still want to keep working and progressing on that, but it’s that confidence of going out there and expecting to score and help your team in that sense," Beleskey said. "That’s what I’m trying to do."
Left Wing - ANA
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 5
SOG: 22 | +/-: -2
Beleskey’s playoff output comes after he played nine games from Feb. 15 to the end of the regular season because of a shoulder injury and a lower-body injury. He scored one goal in that span. It also comes after a torn abdominal muscle forced Beleskey out of the second-round series last season, when he watched Anaheim lose to the Los Angeles Kings
from his couch.
To have his current role is something that Beleskey puts in perspective from earlier in his career. He can count the number of setbacks.
"Four years ago I was on waivers," he said. "I’ve been sent down. I’ve stayed down, played in the minors. It’s kind of been all over. We’ve had contracts [where] I didn’t know what was going to happen. Trade deadline, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’m just happy I’m still here and I want to do as much as a I can for this team."
Beleskey can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. But sometimes the things he worries most about never happen, just at the trade deadline.
"It was kind of a crazy day, and things can happen, but I’m glad they stuck with me," Beleskey said. "I still hope we can figure this out after the season and I’ll still be a Duck next year."