Less than two weeks into the season, a number of rookie NHL defenseman have already celebrated their first career goals. St. Louis’ Colton Parayko, for instance, scored two in his third career game. Chicago’s Viktor Svedberg notched his first career tally in his fourth game. This season Buffalo blueliner Jake McCabe had his third crack at the NHL and made good, scoring a tally in what was his 11th career game.
But there was Vancouver defenseman Matt Bartkowski, still waiting to light the lamp for the first time in an NHL contest. Drafted in the seventh round, 190th overall, by the Florida Panthers in 2008, Bartkowski had been dealt to the Boston Bruins before ever suiting up in the NHL. He went on to play five seasons in Boston’s system before inking with the Canucks this off-season as an unrestricted free agent.
In total, Bartkowski had played 136 games in the big league without finding the back of the net. Then, in game No. 137, it finally happened:
Of course, it couldn’t go in for Bartkowski without the Edmonton Oilers looking to see whether or not there was goaltender interference. But when the dust settled, Bartkowski had his first career NHL marker and it only took nearly two full seasons of NHL action for him to get there.
Bartkowski did score a goal in the post-season but those tallies don’t count on end-of-career statistics. So while it’s not the first time Bartkowski has ever scored in an NHL game, it’s the first one that will count towards his regular season totals.
And while it’s not the one-timer blast that goes post and in or a breakaway during 3-on-3 overtime where he undresses the goaltender, Bartkowski will take it for a first career regular season goal. And you can feel safe in knowing that in 50 years’ time he’ll probably be talking about his 100mph blast that nearly ripped the net apart.
Here’s hoping the first one gets the ball rolling for Bartkowski, though. He waited long enough to light the lamp, so maybe he can pop home his second career marker before another 137 games pass.