Remember Gustav Nyquist?
Remember that guy who potted 28 goals in 57 games, including 12 in 15 games in March, to power the Detroit Red Wings’ injury-riddled offense and lead the team to a 23rd consecutive playoff appearance?
He hasn’t been around for a couple of weeks. His last goal was against the Boston Bruins on April 2. He’s picked up a pair of assists since then, but hasn’t found the back of the net in eight games, including the first two playoff games against the B’s. It’s his second-longest drought of the season, having gone nine games from Dec. 1-Dec. 23. So, basically, December.
So where has Nyquist gone? Considering, you know, that every goal matters when facing a defensive juggernaut like the Bruins.
Coach Mike Babcock did the ‘ole “he’s not scoring, but he’s doing everything else for us” routine with MLive.com:
“It’s not even scoring, you got to compete, you got to get playing like you can,” Babcock said. “Suddenly, instead of being a guy nobody ever heard of, like last year in the playoffs, you’re a guy they heard of. His space is probably a little harder to come by.
“You just got to find your game. The thing I know about Nyquie is he always seems to find his game. I’m not concerned. I had a chat with him last night on the plane. I expect him to be very good.”
One factor in this slump for Nyquist: The return of Pavel Datsyuk from injury. That scrambled the lines for the Red Wings towards the end of the season, as Babcock wanted to see how the pieces fit. Nyquist played with Datsyuk. He played with Johan Franzen and David Legwand.
Against the Bruins, he’s played with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar, mostly against the line of David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic. That trio has produced one goal thus far in the series.
Babcock gets the last change for Game 3 on Tuesday night, and it’ll be fascinating to see what he decides to do: Get Nyquist a more favorable matchup for his offense, or continue to use his line to keep the Bruins’ best offensive group in check.
Which is to say: Can the Red Wings afford to sacrifice Nyquist’s goals, knowing they’re probably not even in the postseason without them?