The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/11/14 at 11:54 AM ET
Updated with more from Nyquist at 1:48 PM: The Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno delivers a different take on Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist's offensive flourishing this morning, snagging comments from Nyquist's teammates as to why #14's taken the league by storm:
"He made a splash right away: first game, two goals, when he came up, so I don't know if it's a surprise," [Daniel] Alfredsson said. "Maybe a surprise he's been able to keep up that pace. We hadn't seen him in the NHL as much. He's made a name for himself, a reputation for himself."
"It feels like he's one step ahead sometimes, knowing where the puck's going to end up, and that's how he scores a lot of goals," [Jonas] Gustavsson said on a recent trip to Toronto. "He's going to the right spots. I'm not surprised that he has been scoring a lot for us. Maybe he's scored more than I thought right now."
"Sometimes in the NHL if you're playing with great players, you're going to find a way to put that in, and he's done that," defenceman Brendan Smith said. "It's been huge for our club."
Whyno continues with more from Alfredsson, Gustavsson, Smith, and this superlative from coach Mike Babcock:
"Gus would tell you that he was a pretty good player when he came out of college, I would assume, and that it took the coaches a long time to figure out he was good enough to play him enough to give him the confidence he needs to score enough," coach Mike Babcock said. "That's probably his theory. My theory is you have to grow as a player and earn your way. I think he's a really intelligent player. He's got hockey IQ off the chart. He makes good plays, he can shoot the puck, he's got a good release but he gets himself in good spots and we've needed him."
Nyquist played with the Red Wings in 2013, when they upset the Anaheim Ducks in the first round and took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to seven games in the second. The Game 7 loss stung, somewhat tainting the playoff experience. Even so, the Red Wings had gone much farther than nearly anyone anticipated.
“You learn that anything can happen, and nothing’s over,” Nyquist said. “Nothing’s for granted.”
Nyquist has realized quickly the importance of embracing each chance to make an impact, not only because it could lead to an even bigger opportunity, but also because it could be the only such chance that ever comes around.
“What I learned as a young player, I think, is you’re probably not going to get too many opportunities,” Nyquist said. “That’s what the older guys told me, at least down in Grand Rapids. You think, ‘Ah, we’ll take it next year,’ but you don’t get too many chances, and you’ve really got to take advantage of every chance you get. Every year you get into the playoffs,” Nyquist added, “you’ve really got to make it count.”
Whether Nyquist and fellow former Griffins like Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Tomas Jurco can continue to be as effective in the playoffs remains to be seen. Veteran Johan Franzen said that while experience never hurts, a lack of previous playoff time hardly renders a player useless.
“It probably depends what kind of player you are,” Franzen said. “Some guys even without the experience, they’re gamers and nothing gets to them and some like that, but for some players it could be a little intimidating, maybe, the first few games before you’re into it because it’s a lot higher pace and a lot more hitting. It’s a tight game out there, so it’s depending on what kind of player you are.”
In Franzen’s opinion, Detroit’s young players fall into the former category.
“Most of them been under the gun,” Franzen said. “We’ve been playing like we have to win for pretty much the last month, so they’ve been under the gun, and they’ve been doing a great job. I think we’ve got a good group of strong-minded guys in here.”
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