|Gustav Nyquist celebrates Darren Helm's second-period goal. The two joined forces again in the third period that finished the scoring for Detroit. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings) |
DETROIT – What a year it was for Gustav Nyquist.
“It’s been a fun year for sure,” Nyquist said. “I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many fun moments, Winter Classic, Olympics, I mean, just to be a part of this team has been fun.”
While the Red Wings’ forward enjoyed his breakout year, he certainly has given the Red Wings and their fans plenty of reason to believe that the franchise’s future is bright.
“On the ice he kind of speaks for himself,” center Darren Helm said. “He works hard. He scores. He makes plays. He’s a good – I was going to say second line scorer – but he’s a first top guy scorer. Our top guys work hard and you have to appreciate that. You have everyone following.”
Nyquist finished 2014 with the same scoring potency that he began the year, picking up two assists in the Red Wings’ 3-1 come-from-behind victory over the New Jersey Devils on New Year’s Eve.
Nyquist set up both of Helm’s goals, including the game-tying tally at 17:56 of the second period. Working hard along the half wall, Nyquist came out of a scrum with the puck after battling two Devils’ defenders. Falling forward, Nyquist shoveled the puck to Helm at the side of the net, where the Wings’ center raced around the back of the net and beat Devils goalie Cory Schneider to the far post on a wrap-around.
Johan Franzen also assisted on both of Helm’s goals.
“Mule did a great job there, won his battle, he was kinda tied up so I came close and he popped it in the middle to me,” said Nyquist, who won a silver medal with Team Sweden last winter at the Sochi Olympic Games. “I just tried to spin off the guy then I kinda fell down, threw it on net. I knew Helmer was there and he made a real nice play wrapping it in there. I think it was mostly Helmer’s job there, it was a nice goal for him and it was a big goal for us tying us up going into the third.”
Captain Henrik Zetterberg and Helm added even-strength goals in the third to give the Wings a two-goal cushion late in regulation.
“Big win tonight to finish the year off the right way was huge for us to get back on track after that game against Boston,” Nyquist said. “It’s nice to finish (the year) off the right way.”
Nyquist’s statistics throughout 2014 were chart toppers. He led the team with 38 goals – the same number of goals that Alex Ovechkin recorded in Washington. Nyquist also produced 14 power-play goals and 64 points in 79 NHL games played in the calendar year. His even-strength and power-play goal totals ranked fourth in the league. Only San Jose center Joe Pavelski produced more goals (44) and PPG (20) than Nyquist did in the past 12 months.
Nyquist started this season on a four-game, goal-scoring streak, and on Wednesday he sealed the year with a goal and five assists in the past four games.
Last season, Nyquist’s value was equally immeasurable, especially without Zetterberg (back surgery) and Pavel Datsyuk (knee injury) to rely on. When the team needed him most, Nyquist managed to turn on the scoring spigot, pouring in 12 goals in a 10-game stretch that helped the Red Wings stay alive in the hunt for a 23rd consecutive playoff berth.
He led the Red Wings in goals (28), game-winning goals (six), even-strength points (39) and shooting percentage (18.3 percent). From late January to early April, he scored 23 goals in 28 games when the Red Wings needed his offensive contributions.
Nyquist is now experiencing his first full NHL season after spending parts of the previous three seasons in AHL Grand Rapids. A fantastic skater, he’s capable of undressing defenders in one-on-one situations while scoring highlight-reel goals, like last Saturday in Ottawa when he hung onto the puck for 28 seconds before scoring the game-winner in overtime.
“He’s got a couple goals like that when he’s out battled guys,” Helm said. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s strong and holds onto the puck real well. He makes plays like he did in Ottawa, then there was that goal against Tampa last year. He’s a threat out there every time he’s on the ice. He’s great to have in this locker room.”