When he was a kid, Byron Bitz imagined his first NHL goal, and the play-by-play went something like this:
Bitz's on a breakaway. He dekes left and right. He shoots and beats the goaltender over the shoulder. The puck pinballed off of the crossbar. Goal!
Alright, so maybe his first NHL goal wasn’t exactly as he’d imagined it, but the humble Bruins forward had a pretty impressive play to register his first Bruins goal and he’ll take that for what it’s worth.
“It was tough to tell [it went in] from my angle,” said Bitz after Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. “Always finish a play to the whistle.”
Bitz who was recalled from Providence on Jan. 10, is not a stranger to lighting up the scoreboard in the AHL, where he recorded 16 goals and 21 assists in a season and a half with the P-Bruins.
He’s also not much of a newbie to registering points in the NHL, as he tallied his first career point (an assist) in that first game against Carolina back in January.
But Bitz scored the second goal of the afternoon for Boston by tapping the puck into the goal after a little jumble in front of the Philadelphia net.
Although it wasn’t that breakaway off-the-crossbar stunner he’d been imagining, he said his linemates and the other guys on the bench were quick to congratulate him for being persistent in front of the net.
He probably also had quite a few encouraging text messages from the folks back home in Saskatoon.
“All of them sit downstairs at home and watch [my games] together,” he said. “They’ve been saying that they’re at the edge of their seats watching when I’m out there. So it’s pretty fun.”
Head coach Claude Julien also had a few kind words for the former Cornell standout.
“He keeps improving every game,” said the B's bench boss. “We really like the way he competes along the walls.
“He doesn’t turn the puck over too often; not afraid to go to the net.
“Obviously he’s got the size and the strength to do that, and I think he plays in his limits and utilizes the assets he has to his advantage,” Julien said.
Bitz certainly understands that his mix of strength, grit and defensive talent is just what the Black & Gold need in their lineup, right now. But he’s always quick to remind himself that nothing at this level is a given, and that NHL playing time is not a right.
“Down there [in Providence] I played more of a penalty-killing, defensive-type of role and it’s kind of similar to what I’m doing up here, so I guess they saw that and wanted me to fill that role up here,” he said.
“When I got called up, you don’t want to assume it’s going to be for the rest of the year,” he said about playing in the NHL. “You take it a game at a time and you never have the next game.
“So with every game...I’ve tried to take advantage of [the opportunity].”
Whatever reservations may still exist in the newcomer’s mind, it is easy enough to see that he will be ready for whatever move comes next.
“I think [my game is] coming along,” said Bitz. “I’m starting to get more confident out there and starting to make better plays, getting some more offensive chances.
“In my mind I want to know that I came up here, didn’t leave anything here and know that I did my best.”