Wings’ Nyquist aims to cash in on created chances
Detroit — Gustav Nyquist is off to a good start, and the way he is playing he probably deserves even better results.
Especially in games like those against the Sabres and the Flames last week, Nyquist skated fast all over the ice, attacking on offense and the forecheck in the opponent’s end, providing some brisk coverage in his own, and making plays in the neutral zone to slow opposing forwards down.
In the vernacular of hockey, he has had jump in his step.
Is he intending more quickness?
“Yeah, I think so. I think that’s our whole team identity, to be honest with you,” Nyquist said.
“I think just overall that’s something we’ve emphasized this year, to play faster as a team, and I think we’re creating a lot more chances this year because of that.”
Heading into the game against the Oilers on Wednesday, Nyquist’s scoring rate would put him around 24 for the season, with 40 points.
He scored once against Calgary. He could have had more.
He did not score against Buffalo. He could have had three.
Among those noticing, coach Jeff Blashill said he talked to Nyquist the morning after he played 20:07 against the Sabres, a few more than usual.
“I grabbed him (Saturday) morning,” Blashill said. “He was excellent. His compete level was excellent.
“He has to compete at that extraordinary high level every night because he’s smaller and he isn’t super fast. But he’s got to compete like crazy, and I think his compete level has been great.
“If ‘Nyquie’ keeps getting those chances, they’ll go in.”
Nyquist said it’s always nice to hear from a coach that effort is appreciated, but goals help the team win.
“Well, sure, I guess it’s nice to hear that you’re creating,” he said. “But, at the same time, (missed scoring chances) are in your mind, too. But you just have to flush that.”
Nyquist said he is happy with the start of his season. But he would like to score at a greater rate.
“I still want to do better production-wise,” he said. “I think it’s been an OK start. Hopefully, I can keep this going and score some more goals.
“Obviously, as long as you’re creating chances, hopefully they’ll start going in. But you’ve got to make sure, too, that they’re going in. You know, I want to produce and when you get a chance you’ve got to put those away sometimes.
“But just keep going, creating chances, and then they will come.”
Three and four seasons ago, Nyquist scored 27 and 28 goals, respectively. He scored 17 and 12 in the past two. But it’s also true the performance of the team declined at the same time.
The Red Wings are scoring more this season, especially during the 6-2-1 run from Oct. 28-Nov. 17, when they averaged 3.3 goals per game.
Last season, they averaged 2.52 goals per game, which ranked 24th in the league. The season before, they scored 2.57 per game, good for 23rd.
Nyquist’s best game of the season came Oct. 13 against the Golden Knights, when he scored two goals and assisted on another.
At 28, he is in his seventh season and the third year of a four-year contract.
The Wings drafted him in the fourth round, 121st overall, in 2008. Through 358 career games, he has 94 goals and 122 assists.
Along with bringing the speed, playing on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and a thriving Anthony Mantha creates some opportunities for Nyquist, too.
“It’s fun playing with him and Hank,” Nyquist said when asked about the Wings’ top line, and especially playing with Mantha, this season.
“It’s been a productive start. He (Mantha) has kind of got all the tools out there. He’s a big body, but at the same time, he can skate fast, too. When he gets a chance he usually scores. He’s got a good shot.
“So, he’s got all the tools to be a really good player.”
Asked if Mantha is creating some space for him, Nyquist said Zetterberg already has been doing that for him.
“Anytime you’re playing with Zetterberg...he kind of takes it up. The way he plays, he usually sucks in a guy or two and then dishes the puck,” Nyquist said. “So I think especially playing with him, that’s been helpful.”
In general, while the Red Wings have only two more points through 21 games this season than last, the team seems more upbeat about its start, including Nyquist.
“We were on the road a lot there,” Nyquist said. “We started the year good and then we had a little down period there for six or seven games. But, overall, we’re right in the hunt.
“I think there’s still some things we can improve on. I think we’ve been playing pretty good as a team.”