BOSTON -- Matt Beleskey wasn’t going to admit that getting kicked upstairs to the press box for a healthy scratch was a beneficial thing for his game, but it’s difficult to argue with the results for the Bruins.
The rugged left winger finally notched his first point of the season in his 11th game of the year in Boston’s 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden, and Beleskey has been a grinding physical presence in each of the last two games after being scratched on the road last week against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I don’t want to say it helped me. I don’t want to get scratched again you know? That’s not what you want, but like I said [in Tampa] it’s a reset, it’s a time to think about the game, look at it and come back with an open mind,” said Beleskey. “I think the coaches have been helping me work through it and that’s all you can do work hard and hopefully get some bounces, like I did tonight.”
Beleskey and the Bruins second power play unit set the tone for the entire game with the gritty left winger grinding in front of the Buffalo net, chasing rebounds and creating a distraction in front of the Buffalo net that ultimately allowed Brad Marchand to snap off his power play score. Beleskey picked an assist for his efforts battling for puck possession right in front of the net, and with his first point of the 2016-17 season has finally started moving his stat line in a positive direction.
“I think our [power play] unit, especially, we wanted to keep it simple. Both units are trying to keep it simple, shoot pucks and get in front of the net. It paid off tonight,” said Beleskey. “Hopefully [getting to the front of the net] helps a lot, I don’t know. It’s a big part. You try to take away [the goalie’s] ice, create some havoc and guys come in like Marchy [Brad Marchand] did – get a good shot off a rebound. That’s what we got to do more of.”
Later in the period it was a heavy Beleskey forecheck that created a turnover behind the Buffalo net, and then the left winger went to the net to screen for a Riley Nash goal that ricocheted off Dmitry Kulikov’s skate on its way past Robin Lehner. Beleskey didn’t get a point on that goal despite his blue collar efforts to ensure a successful scoring play for the Black and Gold, but his head coach recognized the hard hat efforts following the win.
“He was definitely in the right places tonight. He seemed like a more determined player right now and sometimes, you know, you need to sit out and miss the game a little bit or whatever to really spark things,” said Julien of Beleskey, who finished with three shot attempts and three hits in 15:52 of ice time for a third line that had its best night of the year. “That’s why we do those things. I said it right from the get-go, I’m not punishing him. I’m trying to get him going. Whether it’s that or whether it’s something else, at the end of the day he’s a better player lately.”
It’s tough to argue with the results: Beleskey has been a more focused, productive skater that’s been difficult to lineup against since the scratch last week in Tampa, and the Bruins showed on Monday that they’re a better hockey club for it.