As of right now, life is pretty good for the Detroit Red Wings.
Another late-season playoff push has the Red Wings back in the playoff picture, thanks in no small measure to the NHL's hottest scorer—Gustav Nyquist.
As Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports recently noted, Nyquist is hardly an unknown when it comes to his overall offensive talent and promise. But, like currently injured superstars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, Nyquist seemed more apt to round out into a playmaker than a pure goal scorer.
The way he's playing right now, Nyquist should forget about ever passing the puck again.
Then again, the sheer unexpected volume of his offensive of late begs the question—is Nyquist really this good?
Nyquist's new found goal-scoring prowess is no doubt aided by a decision to simply shoot the puck more.
As Ansar Khan at MLive.com documented in a recent interview with head coach Mike Babcock:
He’s getting good opportunity, but the other thing he’s doing is shoot the puck; he’s got to continue to shoot the puck. In the National League you score by shooting, not by passing. So he’s done a good job in that area.
Nyquist's decision to shoot more and pass less certainly accounts for much of his current production, but there will come a time when the goals won't be going in as easy.
Nyquist has potted 22 goals in his last 27 games. While this has easily made him the Red Wings' most valuable player during that stretch, it's a pace that seems impossible to sustain.
Nyquist will cool off, that much is certain. However, will his current hot streak simply be a fortunate fluke that has come at just the right time?
Looking at Nyquist's impressive college and AHL career, one notices that while his point production is historically consistent at both levels, his goal scoring has never outpaced his ability to set up his teammates.
This season, his first as a full-time regular with Detroit, Nyquist is on pace to end the season as the team's leading scorer.
For a player who has never had more goals than assists in his career, this seems like a pretty gaudy outlier. After all, it's one thing to shoot more and get rewarded during one hot streak, it's another to be counted on to be your team's go-to guy when goals are needed.
Twenty-seven games is hardly an ample sample size to slap a sniper label on a player. For those who may seek to do so with Nyquist, there may come a time when the label simply doesn't stick.
Still, there is reason to think this kind of scoring ability was in Nyquist all along, and thus, is likely here to stay.
For it is not simply Nyquist's decision to shoot more that has led to his success, but his dogged-determination to dodge checkers and battle through traffic in order to get a shot off in the first place.
As the preceding video evidence shows, Nyquist has displayed that kind of determination since his days at the University of Maine. While not captured in career stats, that's the kind of skill set that is indispensable if one is to become a bonafide goal scorer.
Shooting the puck more can only take a player so far, battling for the opportunity to shoot the puck more is something else entirely.
Will Nyquist's red-hot scoring streak come to an end? Of course it will. However, his ability to battle in order to earn the opportunity to shoot more has taken his game to another level not likely to diminish over time.
In that way, Nyquist has always been this good.
*All stats courtesy of NHL.com and hockeydb.com unless otherwise noted.