Gustav Nyquist

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Gustav Nyquist has been a terror everywhere he’s played. In the excellent NCAA conference Hockey East, he put up 144 points in 113 games over three seasons with the Maine Black Bears.

He was okay in the AHL too.

And now in the NHL…

I don’t give a flying fun what you have to say about regression – in fact, eat it, don’t say anything about it – this kid is a pure talent and not a flash in the pan. Let’s just enjoy a player at his most confident discovering his NHL game and devouring opponents in the process. We know he’s not a 70 goal guy.

Anyway, last night the man who prompted this excellent graphic from @wingingitmotown

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…scored just a massive goal for the Red Wings to put them up 3-2 on the Boston Bruins while in the midst of a tight playoff race. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: you need game-breakers, and Nyquist broke this one open for Detroit like a kid at his piggy bank with a hammer.

Let’s take a look at how the opportunity arose, and what went wrong for the Bruins.

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The play starts with Carl Soderberg attacking in the neutral zone. The Bruins sort of have three guys up in the rush (sort of, because there’s no puck support), but really, the Red Wings have all five players back being defensively responsible. That’s some Babcockian neutral zone positioning below. You’ll notice Kyle Quincey, a d-man, is hustling back on the play late, and Detroit has amply covered for him. So the Wings have numbers back, and numbers to the point where Gustav Nyquist can provide additional pressure to the puck carrier.

7:21 to go in a tie game on the road against numbers, you’d like to see this puck get deep. But I suspect you know the outcome, so…yeah. FORESHADOWING, or whatever.

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First off, I wonder if Caron (middle B’s forward) is driving through the mid-lane if Soderberg doesn’t just chip it in behind Lashoff so he can skate into it to start an o-zone possession for the Bruins. I bet he does. When people say “play away from the puck,” that’s what they mean. Half the time you dictate what your linemate does with the puck.

Anyway, Soderberg, knowing he doesn’t have support should dump it (preferably a hard wrap, seeing his linemates on the far side of the ice). He tries to make a play, which I usually support. And actually, he gets across the blueline without issue. But with my perfect hindsight, I can tell you taking on three guys just inside the blueline is a dicey call to make.

So, Soderberg cuts in.

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Now this, to me, doesn’t seem like a great part of the ice to attack. While it’s wide open in there, at NHL speed, I’m more concerned about the numbers situation. That ice will get eaten up quick.

So he sneaks past Nyquist and above Brian Lashoff (that’s actually pretty crap D by Lashoff to just surrender the blue there given the support he has), and heads to that yawning area of open ice. Like the good player he is, he gets his head up to see who’s comingHOLY$#%!THERE’SAGUYTHERE

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He goes from cutting offensively to realizing he’s in the trolley tracks – keep in mind, he doesn’t know if that’s Scott Stevens or Nathan Gerbe – takes, his mind off the puck for a second, and loses it while bailing out.

Gustav Nyquist gets the puck.

***

Let’s switch gears for a second to see what’s happening with the Bruins defense, shall we?

***

Andrej Meszaros and Johnny Boychuk have both been on the ice for about 50 seconds when Soderberg takes the puck up through the neutral zone. The Bruins have solid possession, and while 50 seconds isn’t the longest shift for a d-man, it’s definitely time to get off, because if you get caught out after missing this change opportunity, whoa buddy, you’re in trouble.

Chara hits the ice as Meszaros is coming off, and he’s likely to fall in on Boychuk’s left (it’s closer) as the guy just off the bench. Hamilton gets a leg up on the boards knowing Boychuk is going to be looking to change with his partner Meszaros.

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Look what Boychuk is seeing in the frame above: his teammate has strong possession in the offensive zone. That’s a faaairly safe time to change. Not the safest given Soderberg is making a play, but you do have to trust that your teammates will do the right thing, so he pivots to make a change and get Hamilton on the ice.

The timing of the turnover and his pivot are insane. They almost happen at the exact moment.

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Annnd we’re off.

Chara sees Nyquist grabbing the puck, and does what the best defenseman in the world do: takes a few strides up, then pivots backwards so as to not allow a bad gap. His long reach allows him to back off earlier than most d-men, meaning he’ll usually be okay body position-wise even if someone gets by his stick.

Hamilton, who has jumped onto the ice, doesn’t seem to realize what’s happening for a couple seconds. He takes a moment scanning before taking any strides.

So Chara gaps up…

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…realizes that he’s flat-footed in a one-on-one versus the meep-meep RoadRunner, and has to get his speed up. That means crossing over, which means…night night. Hamilton, meanwhile, has fully slammed the panic button, but is starting from a stop.

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The second Chara crosses over here to try to ramp up his speed he’s pretty much cooked. He veeerrrrrrrry nearly pokes the puck from Nyquist right around here.

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What impresses me from Nyquist after this, aside from the raw wheels, is that he doesn’t settle for an outside shot. That’s confidence right there. He cuts in against Chara’s stick to get a better shooting angle…

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…and at this point, the B’s Ds are helpless. Hamilton’s two-zone lead was devoured by being flat-footed (he’s actually a nice skater too), and Chara just got caught in a tough position. I bet he actually makes a play on a guy who isn’t in the top 5% of speed in the league.

Nyquist’s work isn’t done though. He still has to beat the best goalie in the league. He winds up for the slapshot…

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“jkjkjkjk lololol”

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…but hesitates, and freezes the goalie. Rask is in full block mode expecting the slapper, and drops his glove. From there, Nyquist puts it over that, and just inside the post.

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And that’s all she wrote. I took this Vine so you guys could take another look at the footspeed of Nyquist on this play.

In the end, a turnover at a bad spot on the ice in a bad time led to what looked like a bad change (mostly bad luck on the timing), and the Bruins were never able to recover.

Game, Red Wings.