“I want to get a feel for what the NHL is like,” Panthers’ rookie Nick Bjugstad said upon his arrival in South Florida on Thursday afternoon. Well, after what seemed liked a guaranteed blowout early on – Nick Bjugstad got more than a “feel” for the game as he saw first hand just how unpredictable NHL action can be as the Panthers’ clawed their way back from the gutter to make the Saturday night’s game compelling down to the final seconds.
In an almost ceremonial fashion, Bjugstad’s first steps onto the ice were greeted with loud applause as fans welcomed their newest Panther to the BB&T Center. Like he had hinted in earlier interviews, Head Coach Dineen wasn’t quick to rush Bjugstad into action as the promising young forward only saw 2:53 of ice time during the first period of play. Although he was only given minimal minutes early on, Bjugstad still showed off his physical play style while dishing out two good checks on Capitals’ skaters.
Throughout the rest of the game, Bjugstad saw his minutes rise each period until finally playing a grand total of 5:20 during the 3rd period – the highest single period total in his debut. Sadly for Bjugstad, the Panthers’ constant stream of penalties throughout the night kept him from seeing greater minutes as the team was forced to lean on their penalty killing unit for much for the game.
After the game, Head Coach Kevin Dineen commented Bjugstad’s debut as well as the unusual circumstances that hindered his ice time:
“He was fine … It’s not easiest circumstances the way the game played out … There was obviously a lot of special teams, most specifically on the penalty kill … the ice time was a little chopped up and that made it hard to find that flow … he gave us a decent showing”
Although the Panthers’ up-and-down evening never really gave Bjugstad a chance to find any kind of a rhythm on the night, his physical play and determination were still put on full display. The final stat sheet for his “de-bujgstad” was as follows: 1 shot, 3 hits, 13:04 TOI and going an impressive 5-for-11 in the faceoff circle.
After the game, Bjugstad commented on what it was like to compete in his first NHL game:
“Eventually the nerves wore out a little bit. It was good to get the first game under my belt.”
With his first NHL game already in the books, Nick Bjugstad will have little time to dwell on Saturday night’s action as the Panthers are set to take the ice Sunday against the Ottawa Senators. Considering how unusual the circumstances were that dictated the team’s play against the Capitals, Bjugstad will look to find his ryhtem against the Senators and hopefully earn his first NHL point.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts on Nick Bjugstad’s debut in comments section below!
Follow All Panther Parkway writers on Twitter: Me @JamesonCoop, Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, Josh Luecht @eyesonsunrise, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger, Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530 and David Lasseter @davidlasseter. Visit our Facebook fan page here and give us a like and share anything you wish with us.