Byron Bitz was signed in the summer of 2011 to supply the Canucks with size and toughness. He missed the entire 2010-11 season dealing with hip and groin issues, and the problem lingered on throughout training camp and into the beginning of the 2011-12 regular season.
He finally made his debut with in February of 2012. Bitz went on to record four points in 10 games with the Canucks, including three over a two game stretch in early February. For that brief period, head coach Alain Vigneault played a hunch by sticking Bitz on the top line with Daniel and Henrik.
Bitz rewarded his coach with a breakout performance against the Predators on February 7th. Although his time on the first line was short lived, Bitz provided some excitement in a largely disappointing season for the Canucks (it sure feels strange writing that about a first place* club).
In the goal below, Bitz buries a nifty back hand saucer pass from Henrik into the back of the net.
Let’s break it down.
Bieksa bodies a Predator forward off of the puck, and the rest of Nashville’s players head off for a line change. Because, you know, that is a great idea with the Sedin twins about to turn the puck up the ice. Someone doesn’t want a minus beside their name (I am looking at you, Mr Weber…).
Sergei Kostitsyn appears to be stuck in quicksand, as Bitz skates past him to turn a 2-on-2 into a 3-on-2 rush for the Canucks.
The Nashville defenseman covering Bitz has to back off a bit as Daniel is out wide (and it makes sense to cover the former Art Ross winner over Bitz). The defenseman on Henrik has a tight gap, but that doesn’t matter. There are few players in the league better on their back hand than Henrik (Thornton, Crosby, and Datsyuk are all in the conversation).
A quick bench shot of Ryan Kesler limping off of the ice – I am going to wager a guess he ended up being OK.
Henrik’s pass is literally perfect. He puts just enough speed on it to get to Bitz before the backchecking forward can intercept it. And he places it just far enough in front of Bitz so he can step into it with some power.
Bitz wasn’t done with this goal, either. Later on in the game, he set up Daniel for a tap in goal with a beautiful pass from behind the net. It only took him 20 or 30 minutes to do what Steve Bernier never could – figure out how to not screw up while playing with Daniel and Henrik.