Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist on his career-high assist mark this season.
Tampa, Fla. — Many fans have noticed, loudly, that Gustav Nyquist is having a career-low goal-scoring season.
But have you noticed Nyquist already has collected a career-best 32 assists?
The goals haven’t come as regularly for Nyquist this season — along with several other Red Wings forwards — but Nyquist, obviously, has been setting up teammates.
And that might be the player, over the long haul, that Nyquist becomes, coach Jeff Blashill said.
“The one thing I’d caution, his goals, in terms of when you look at Nyke’s career, I’m not sure he’ll always be that high, high, goal-scoring guy,” Blashill said. “From the American League, from college, he was a big-time playmaker. He excelled two years in row, scoring lots of goals (28 in 2013-14 and 27 in 2014-15), (but) for him to continually do that, the power play has to be real effective.”
Blashill feels Nyquist has been effective this season, regardless if the goal scoring has been down from previous seasons.
“He makes an impact regardless of whether he’s scoring, or making plays,” Blashill said. “He was playing good early in the season. It’s hard to produce when the power play was as dry as it was, but he’s played well all year.
“He’s at his best when he’s competing hard and skating up the ice, and he’s done that for the most part.”
Nyquist’s vision and instincts on the ice make him a dangerous playmaker.
“He finds ways to score and he find ways to make plays because he’s ultra smart,” Blashill said. “Don’t get me wrong. He may score 30 (goals) again, but I don’t think his career should be judged on goals. He’s going to be a guy who is going to be able to produce points regardless if he’s scoring or somebody on his line, or his power-play unit, is scoring.”
Nyquist is pleased with the assists and points, but would have still liked to have more scored more goals this season.
“Probably the first couple years up here, I had more goals than assists,” Nyquist said. “In my career, though, in college and stuff, I’ve always had more assists and did more passing.
“Obviously I still would have liked to score more goals for sure. I’m not pleased with that and I still think I can score more goals than I’ve done.”
The Red Wings’ deep power play struggles for much of this season is a primary reason Nyquist’s — and other forwards’ — goals-scoring numbers are down.
“I’m guessing none of us have really produced the way we wanted on the power play,” Nyquist said. “That’s cost us a lot of games, and after games we talked about how we had a lot of opportunities on the power play but we couldn’t get that extra goal.
“That (the power play) hasn’t been good enough and a lot of guys feel the same way.”
Young players such as Nick Jensen, Robbie Russo, Xavier Ouellet and Tomas Nosek have gotten valuable experience this season, especially lately with the Red Wings drifting out of the playoff picture.
Their offensive numbers don’t stand out, but that’s not what general manager Ken Holland and Blashill will be looking going forward.
“The biggest thing when we evaluate young players, is do they help you win,” Blashill said.
Blashill saw a lot of players in the American League who are NHL-caliber, but don’t necessarily help their teams accumulate victories.
“There are a ton of guys who can play in the NHL, I’ve coached tons of them in Grand Rapids, but do they help you win?” Blashill said. “As those guys are in the lineup, they’ll be judged partly by our record and how we do against teams.
“They’ll continue to get those opportunities to show, not only can they play in the league, but can they help us win.
Blashill was disappointed for forward Luke Glendening (fractured foot), who’ll miss these final days of the regular season.
“Very disappointed,” Blashill said. “He’s a heart-and-soul guy, somebody that gives you everything he’s got.
“He’s had three years in a row where going into the off-season, he was able to finish the year, but where he’s had issues (injuries) and that’s not easy on your training, so it’s disappointing for sure.”
… Blashill said forward Andreas Athanasiou (back) would be a game-time decision.