NEW YORK – Anaheim Ducks
coach Randy Carlyle
thinks Bobby Ryan
can be a 40-goal scorer in the NHL. Ryan, who has hit the 30-goal mark for three straight seasons, knows for sure that he can be: He was six goals away last season and just five off the mark in 2009-10.
But both Carlyle and Ryan agree that the slick-shooting, American-born forward may never reach the plateau that separates the elite from the rest unless he gets his nose dirty more often.
"If you notice a lot of his goals are on the rush, a lot of skill goals, but there is more of an opportunity for him to play stop-and-go, to stop in that area and maybe get a dirty goal, a rebound goal, a tip goal," Carlyle said following Anaheim's 2-1 shootout loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. "There are 10 extra ones a year by just stopping in that area. That'll be the telltale for me if he's going to be able to reach that 40-goal plateau."
Right Wing - ANA
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 6
SOG: 34 | +/-: 2
Ryan's problem is he's already had a great deal of success as the guy who is the shooter on what is arguably the best line in the NHL. He scored 100 goals over the past three seasons while playing most of the time with Ryan Getzlaf
(the playmaker) and Corey Perry
Success like that usually gives a player comfort in the knowledge that what he's doing is working, but even Perry agreed that there's nothing wrong with having two guys on that line who get to the net and stay there.
"He's a shooter and he tries to find that open ice, but (there will be) a time he's going to get that greasy goal, that ugly goal as they say," Perry said. "He's learning and we're trying to help him out with it."
Ryan has the size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) to be the second guy, but he's finding old habits die hard.
"It's hard to break those habits of swinging away from (the net) because I've done it my whole life," Ryan said before admitting he plays too much of a perimeter game. "(Carlyle) has showed me ample video, and when I'm at my best I'm inside the dots and playing with the puck, but (swinging away) is one of those things that I do it and as soon as I do it I know I did it and I try to get back to it. We're going to keep working at it."
The timing for Ryan to add that element of grittiness to his game appears to be urgent because, save for Tuesday's four-goal outburst in Washington, scoring has been an early-season problem for the Ducks. They are 29th in the NHL with an average of two goals per game.
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They got only the one Thursday night from Ryan off the rush, and between the three linemates they have only 23 points in 13 games, an average of just 1.76 points per game. The line averaged a shade less than three points per game last season -- and that was with Getzlaf missing 15 games due to injury.
Consequently, the Ducks have won only five of their 13 games this season.
"Extremely (frustrating), oh yeah," said Ryan, who scored his fifth of the season Thursday. "When you see points slip away and you see games slip away that you could have been the difference in it's extremely frustrating. You start to hold your stick a little tighter, take that frustration away from the rink and you don't succeed at the rink when you're unhappy."
Ryan knows he's guilty of just that, but it's also kind of par for the course for him considering he's a notoriously slow starter. His five goals through 13 games this season are actually one more than he scored through the same amount of games both last season and in 2009-10.
But, to Carlyle's point, it doesn't have to be that way.
"There's another level he's got to get to, for sure," Carlyle said. "That's a work in progress, (but) I know if he would stop in that critical area more often, he'd be rewarded."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl