By: Will Burchfield
The NHL is driven by speed, now more than ever, and those who can’t keep up are getting left behind.
Not so fast, three Red Wings might say.
Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, reunited by coach Jeff Blashill two games ago, are proving there’s still a place in the league for players who don’t burn holes in the ice.
Theirs is a more deliberate style of hockey, at once calculated and off-the-cuff.
“The one thing about that Zetterberg, Tats and Nyquie line is they all kind of play the same way. I don’t want to call it Euro hockey, but it’s less north-south. It’s a little more east-west than maybe what some other people play,” said Blashill.
Euro hockey is by some means an apt term. Zetterberg and Nyquist are from Sweden, Tatar is from Slovakia. Hockey players of European descent aren’t any slower by nature, but they tend to play a less hurried game. Zetterberg, Nyquist and Tatar are no different. They carve more than they charge.
“That’s why it’s been a successful line, really going back to last year, because they all kind of play alike. They all play off each other. Z and Nyquie definitely have real good chemistry together,” Blashill said.
The three forwards began the 2016-17 season on the same line. They were separated amid Tatar’s woefully slow start, but Blashill saw enough to reunite them later in the year. They quickly fell back into harmony, combining for 26 points in Detroit’s final 10 games.
Zetterberg, Nyquist and Tatar finished the year as the team’s top three scorers, in that order.
When the Red Wings fell into a six-game losing streak last month, Blashill brought the band back together. So far it’s worked. The team has won its last two games and Nyquist, after a slow start, has come alive.
“Confidence is an amazing thing,” said Blashill. “I just think when he’s feeling it confidence wise he’s way more apt to hold onto the puck and make the right play, as opposed to being afraid to make a mistake.”
Nyquist couldn’t get enough of the puck in the Wings’ slump-busting win over Florida on Saturday. Midway through the second he carried it end to end, carefully weaving through the neutral zone before slipping past the defense and burying his own rebound. It was like he lulled the Panthers to sleep.