Matt Beleskey goes from hidden gem to playoff hero
ANAHEIM -- That beeping sound you hear is the dump truck full of cash about to be dropped off at Matt Beleskey’s house.
In Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, Beleskey played hero for the Anaheim Ducks just 45-seconds into overtime when he fowled (get it?!) the Chicago Blackhawks attempt at a full comeback. Linemate Ryan Kesler fired a shot on Corey Crawford, and the winger connected on the far post, flying in front of the Chicago netminder as the puck went behind him.
His goal put the Ducks within one game of the Stanley Cup Final; however, if Bruce Boudreau would’ve stuck with his line combinations from the beginning of the game, this might be a different story.
In Game 5, Beleskey started on the fourth line and Tomas Fleischmann took his place up on the second. Beleskey normally finds himself on the Ducks second line with Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg. The change in lines was a surprise to many who watch the team; however it wasn’t to Beleskey, “I talked to Bruce yesterday. He said he wanted to give them a different look, kind of balance the lines out a little more. Just kind of switch it up … It was nice to get back with them at the end. Obviously it was great to get that goal.”
In previous seasons, Beleskey was often up moved up and down through the lineup, at times playing heavy minutes with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He was the tough guy who would make space for the two superstars, and his stats reflected just that. Instead of scoring goals, he was dropping the gloves.
There was something about the match-up with Kesler and Silfverberg that made Beleskey a different player. He established career highs in goals (22) and points (32) in 65 games played, and most notably, there was a dip in his penalty minutes from 64 to 39, season over season.
“For some reason he’s always in the right spot and puts the puck in for us,” said Silfverberg. “I always know that if I get the puck and throw it at the net, he’ll always be there and manage to find the rebounds. He makes it kind of easy.”
“He skates. He hits. Great shot. He goes to those dirty areas to score, and that’s why he’s been so successful this year,” said Kesler.
He’s your basic, no frills kind of forward. The kind that GMs around the league salivate for.
The 26 year-old winger is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Based on his regular season and playoff performances, he’s about to get paid.
The question isn’t how much, but who is going to endorse the check.
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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter!