BOSTON — Boston Bruins forward Byron Bitz didn’t just survive his first NHL game, he made it one to remember today.
During the Bruins’ 5-1 win over Carolina, Bitz registered an assist for his first NHL point and threw four hits in 9:58 of ice time skating on the fourth line alongside Shawn Thornton and Petteri Nokelainen.
“I think I was more nervous yesterday than I was today. I got out there in warm-up and I felt pretty good,” he said after the game.
“I was just trying to keep it simple – just chip the puck in, chip it out and try to finish all my checks,” he continued. “And if I get a chance to shoot, shoot it.”
He recorded one shot on net and also had two attempts blocked. He assisted on Mark Stuart’s goal when his pass toward Thornton was deflected by a Carolina player to the defenseman. He put his first hit on an NHLer when Frantisek Kaberle went to retrieve the puck behind the Carolina net. The sound of the glass told everyone how juiced Bitz was to get his chance at the game’s highest level.
“I saw him going back for the puck and I wanted to make sure that he had to make a play or hurry up and make a play, and once he did I was going to finish him,” said the former fourth-round pick who’s in his second year of pro hockey after four years at Cornell. “So it worked out well.”
Not to be outdone, winger Martins Karsums also recorded his first NHL point — an assist on Stephane Yelle’s goal — in his second NHL contest.
“At first, they actually didn’t count it to me,” he said about the scorer’s error that was later corrected. “I guess they didn’t see that I tipped it. But after they told me (they changed it) and I was pretty happy about it.”
As for Bitz’s play, you could count head coach Claude Julien among the impressed.
“That’s the one thing that we wanted to really look at, with the speed at this level, how he was going to handle it. And he handled it really well,” Julien said. “He was, by all means, not out of place at all. He fit in extremely well. To compliment more how he handled himself, I thought we played a team tonight, Carolina, that skates extremely well. And if there was going to be a test for him, this was a good one. And he did extremely well.”