Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill on forward Gustav Nyquist reaching 20 goals. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Buffalo – As good a season as this has been for Gustav Nyquist, it could have been even better.
That’s what gnaws at Nyquist, who reached the 20-goal mark Tuesday but believes he could have had more by this point.
“I still think if I look through the opportunities that we’ve created as a line, I could probably have had a few more,” said Nyquist after Thursday’s morning skate, ahead of the Detroit Red Wings’ game against the Buffalo Sabres. “Looking back at the season, I would have liked to have scored on a few more of those opportunities.”
Nyquist hadn’t reached the 20-goal mark since 2014-15, when he scored 27 – after netting 28 in his first full season with the Red Wings in 2013-14.
But Nyquist slid to 17 (2015-16) and then, 12 goals last season, a career-low, although he did have a career-high 36 assists.
Nyquist, 28, has been pleased to see the goal-scoring return.
“Especially looking at last year, with 12 goals, but it’s been nice to feel that you can score,” Nyquist said. “The puck has been going in a little bit more this year.”
While Nyquist’s offense has been a positive, coach Jeff Blashill appreciates the way Nyquist has approached this season.
“Last year he had a similar type of approach, and it’s even increased,” Blashill said. “He and I talked about it the beginning of last season, about the importance of being totally relentless in his approach, and on a lot of nights he’s done that.
“He’s been one of our hardest workers on a consistent basis and one of our biggest battlers.”
Blashill agrees that Nyquist, with just a bit more luck, could easily exceed 20 goals.
“If he gets some of those chances a year from now, we’re sitting at 25 or 26 goals instead of 20,” Blashill said. “He’s had a ton of good chances. The fact he’s gotten to 20 doesn’t surprise me and I think he’ll get more.”
Evgeny Svechnikov eclipsed the 10-minute mark in ice time Tuesday (10:42) – the first time he’s done so in 11 games with the Red Wings.
It was another indication the coaching staff is gaining trust in Svechnikov.
“Being around the team and the guys, around the system, (I’m) learning so much,” Svechnikov said. “It just feels like I’m in my place and it feels way more comfortable.
“Every game is better and better, and every shift I try to do my best. Just trying to make plays and be responsible.”
Blashill is looking for opportunities to use Svechnikov in a variety of ways, on different lines, and expose him to different situations.
“The 10 minutes (of ice time) gives him a little better feel,” Blashill said. “The biggest thing, though, is you still want to make sure you learn the lesson of you need to beat people out.
“That’s what Tyler Bertuzzi ultimately did. He didn’t have lots of minutes but he showed enough in those minutes that now he’s on the first line.”
Red Wings fans have been vocal on social media regarding Svechnikov, Bertuzzi and Joe Hicketts after a handful of NHL games.
Blashill understands it, but says a career isn’t made over a few games.
“The unknown is hope, and I get that, and that’s what gets people excited,” Blashill said. “But we have more information than anybody. So the biggest thing is, one game doesn’t make a career. One year doesn’t make a career. We’ve seen tons of examples in this league of guys who’ve had real good first years and they’re just an OK player in the league now.
“It’s the guys who do it shift after shift and year after year, and ultimately the cream rises to the top and the guys who are elite players will rise.”