Bruins

Beleskey ready to 'perform at the level I know I can' in Providence

Beleskey ready to 'perform at the level I know I can' in Providence

BRIGHTON, Mass – In an unsurprising move given the strong character he’s shown since arriving in Boston, Matt Beleskey tweeted an assurance that he was going to work hard and regain his game after being sent to Providence.

MORE BRUINS:

Beleskey, 29, cleared waivers on Friday afternoon and was assigned to the Providence Bruins, where he'll presumably play in all situations and get plenty of ice time to rebuild his confidence and game while waiting for another chance in the NHL. There’s no guarantee when or if that next chance is going to come given the richness of the Bruins prospect pool at the forward position, but Beleskey said via social media that he was ready to put in the work.

Beleskey still has 2 1/2 years left on a contract that will pay him $3.8 million per season, but he’s hit a wall the past two seasons with just three goals and a minus-18 in his past 64 games for the Bruins. It’s a far cry from the hard-hitting, confident player that posted 15 goals, 37 points and 260 hits in his first season in Boston or the one who popped in 22 goals for the Anaheim Ducks heading into free agency.

Some have speculated that the blue-collar Beleskey isn’t a good fit for Bruce Cassidy’s speed and skill-based system. Others say that the hard-nosed winger hasn’t been the same since injuring his knee at the start of last season. Whatever the case, the hard-hitting, heavy part of his game has been missing the past couple of seasons and the Bruins hope that Beleskey can find it in the AHL.

“Matt [Beleskey] is very well liked in the room. So, no one likes to see a player get waived. The way we look at it as an organization is, he hadn’t played much, and I think the best way for him to get back to helping the Boston Bruins is to get playing,” said Cassidy. “So, he goes to Providence, finds his game, what he did well before previously – from my end, we just thought there were some players in the lineup that outperformed him, plain and simple.

“We are trying to reward the players that earned it on merit and not look so much at maybe contract status, et cetera. You know, within reason. I think some of the young guys have pushed him. We’ve seen it at different positions and that’s as simple as I can make it. Like I said, I like Matt. He’s very respectful of the coaching staff of what we are trying to do. We just felt we had better in the lineup. The team is going well. The decision was made.”

While it’s entirely possible that a stint in the AHL could be exactly what’s needed to light the fire in Beleskey’s game, the truth is that the demotion is an admission by the Bruins that the five-year, $19 million contract wasn’t a good one. Furthermore, it’s not very common for veteran NHL players to come back and regain their former high level once it gets urgent enough that they’re assigned to the minors.

The more likely scenario with Beleskey is that he spends the rest of the season in Providence, the Bruins get the $1.025 million in savings on the salary cap and the team strongly considers a buyout in the offseason. It’s all disappointing considering the signing of Beleskey was their reaction to letting Milan Lucic go in a trade three years ago. They were desperately looking for a big-hitting, intimidating power forward to take Lucic's place in a search that’s still ongoing to this day.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Highlights from Bruins' 4-3 win over Flyers

Highlights from Bruins' 4-3 win over Flyers

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 4, Flyers 3

In Brief: The Bruins started out quickly, scoring two goals in the first before adding a short-handed goal from Chris Wagner in the second and an early third-period goal to put them up 4-0. Philadelphia made it interesting, though, and scored three goals in the third, including two in less than two minutes, before the Bruins finished strong and got the W. Lee Stempniak led the way with a goal and two assists. 

Bruins Preseason Record: 5-0-1

Highlights:

Shorthanded goal: 

What's Next:

WEDNESDAY: vs. Red Wings, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY: vs. Flyers, 6 p.m. (end of exhibition season)

Faster, stronger Ryan Donato a favorite to win a Bruins' forward spot

Faster, stronger Ryan Donato a favorite to win a Bruins' forward spot

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s not a lock until the puck drops opening night on Oct. 3, but it certainly looks like Ryan Donato is going to start this season just as he finished last year. That means Donato will be suiting up for the Bruins in a top-9 winger role where his offensive skills and natural hockey instincts can be used as a big asset for the Black and Gold.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising given that Donato finished strong with five goals and nine points in 12 regular season games once he’d signed out of Harvard, and then the 22-year-old found his way into the B’s lineup at the end of the playoffs as well. At this point Donato finds himself with a couple of different options dependent on the way the rest of the lineup shakes out, but as it stands now it looks like he’ll be either right wing on David Krejci’s line, or manning his natural left wing spot in a third line role with a center to be named later and David Backes.

It’s interesting that the Bruins shied away from using Donato on the right side during last year’s playoffs, but he’s certainly being viewed in a different light this fall after getting some NHL experience under his belt.

“Some of it is circumstance, right? We’re looking to fill that spot. Danton Heinen has looked really good [on the right side] from what I’ve been told. Those are probably options A and B to play on that right side [with Krejci]. I just think coming in at that time of the year last year, [for Donato] it was ‘get one position down.’ He’s got a little more experience under his belt and with the training he’s put in he’s stronger and faster,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Maybe in tight spaces he’ll be stronger on pucks on that off side. But we’ll see. He’s been fine on both sides.”

Either spot would put him in a good position to create offense, obviously, but the right wing position alongside Krejci and Jake DeBrusk would certainly a little more of a premium spot for a talented, natural goal-scorer.

“One thing about Ryan is that he doesn’t overthink things. He just plays no matter what side of the ice he’s on. His strength is still offense,” said Cassidy. “He’s going to produce there no matter which side he’s on. Donato is a bit of a wild card. He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but we like where he’s at. We think that when he’s ‘on’ he can certainly [play a top-6 role]. He’s proven he can score in a short period of time in this league, and he’s doing it again in the exhibition season.”

To Donato’s credit, he’s not taking anything for granted and has the attitude that he needs to win an NHL roster spot with his work in training camp. So far he’s been very good and it’s clear to everybody that the 22-year-old got bigger, stronger and maybe even a little faster over the summer after diligently putting in the work at the B’s practice facility. It was one of Donato’s goals to get in the best position to win a spot on Boston’s roster out of camp and he’s most definitely done that with just three exhibition games left to go in the preseason.

“I trained hard this summer. I think they know my abilities and they know that I trained really hard this summer before coming in to compete for a job,” said Donato. “I’d be cutting myself short if I didn’t believe in my abilities to be a contender for any position on this team. So I want to work hard and hopefully I get to earn a spot.”

With a spot seemingly wrapped up for Donato, the question now becomes whether or not he can produce enough to cement his spot in the top-6, or play a good enough two-way game to be a third liner. If he can score goals and help make the second line a viable offensive force that would take care of one need that this Bruins team clearly had during their second round postseason series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Regular season games are the only proving ground to see whether Donato is a 20-30 goal-scorer or a guy like that Frank Vatrano that teased with flashes without ever actually truly developing at the NHL level. This humble hockey writer is betting more on the former than the latter for Teddy’s oldest boy, but time will tell on all of this for another Donato in Boston.   

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE