When Anaheim Ducks forward Nick Bonino scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the 2013 playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings, the look on his face showed that perhaps no one was more surprised than him. From his reaction (technically called a celly, as the word celebration is abbreviated in hockey) to the excitement of the announcers as they called the goal, the moment was one some players can only dream of as the pinnacle of their success. Luckily for Bonino, it was only the start.
The Ducks might not have won the series off that goal, but it propelled Bonino into his current breakout season as Anaheim’s most underestimated player. With 16 goals and 24 assists, Bonino has become a secret weapon of sorts. While everyone else on the ice worries about where Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf skate on the power play, Bonino creeps to the net, a move that justifies his unrivaled power play points this year. And his presence in the face off circle has been an absolute game changer in some instances.
Unfortunately for Bonino, the season is on pause due to an injury sustained last Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers. Although predicted to be out at least two more games, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau remains hopeful Bonino will be back in action prior to the Olympic break.
In a bigger picture, the injury leaves Anaheim dealing with the unfortunate repercussions of filling a very large void during an already slightly rough time. Emphasis on the word slightly. Despite recent losses, the Ducks still have the NHL standings lead by five points.
But Boudreau might be hard pressed to find a forward that can actually “replace” Bonino’s current level of play. The determining factors that drive a breakout season are rarely replicated by mere skill and puck possession. With the deepest roster in the league, Anaheim’s options are without a doubt some of the best, but that still leaves fans hoping for a speedy and safe return to the ice for Bonino. Because you never know when the Ducks might need a golden goal again. And that fantastic celly to follow.