Nick Ritchie was the first to spot an airborne puck and the first to get his stick on it as he swatted home his first goal of the 2016-17 season.
If Nick Ritchie wasn’t a first-line winger for the Anaheim Ducks, maybe he could head back to his hometown and give the Toronto Blue Jays some help on offense. At least that’s what his game-winning goal Sunday night against the Vancouver Canucks would suggest.
Ritchie, 20, came into the Ducks’ home opener without a single goal to his name despite spending a fair share of his time alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but coach Randy Carlyle relying on the trio for some offense finally paid some dividends Sunday when Ritchie broke through for his first goal of the new campaign. It came in a similar fashion to what the Ducks had probably been hoping, too.
After Perry and Getzlaf maneuvered their way into the Canucks’ zone with a neutral-zone interception-turned-counterattack, Getzlaf fired a shot that was deflected out of the way by Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler. Nearly everyone lost sight of the puck, but Ritchie spotted it just before Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, and the young Ducks winger waited for the puck to drop to a spot that wouldn’t constitute a high stick before batting it home:
That’s not exactly the equivalent to a home run, sure, but score it at least a double for Ritchie there.
If it was hard to tell that almost no one on the ice knew what had happened leading to the goal, watch Getzlaf after the puck crosses the goal line. He celebrates like he’s just scored a playoff go-ahead goal, when, in fact, he’s only registered the primary assist on a bizarre goal by Ritchie.
The Ducks have to be hoping that Ritchie’s goal helps spark his offensive contributions because they were looking for much more than one goal and two points out of the youngster six games into the campaign. It would help Ritchie, too, to find some consistency, because as he’s struggled to find the score sheet, his ice time has been incredibly erratic. He’s averaging more than 16 minutes per game, but after starting with games of about 17 and 21 minutes, two of his past three games have seen his ice time drop to roughly 12 and 14 minutes.
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