We've now had a full day to digest the awesomeness that was Gustav Nyquist's overtime game-winner against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. Just in case you're still having as much fun watching it as I am, you can take another look at the video above. Pure beauty, ain't it?
Of course, this is sports fandom and you can't have anything truly beautiful without some jealous, bitter-eyed stinklips hating on it for one reason or another. The reason du jour on this one is that Gustav Nyquist is apparently a selfish jerk at best and a danger to his team at worst. It's hard to tell in comments sections and on Twitter who's playing up the angle for a chuckle and who is being earnestly stupid, but fortunately we've got at least one person willing to write an article that dares to ask the question without a shred of tongue-in-cheek.
I won't link it here because giving it pageviews goes against my belief that describing a car crash to somebody is better than driving them to the scene, but here's a snippet.
We'll leave the differential spellings of Nyquist's name, the "a times where" line and the incorrect version of alluded/eluded to different times, but for now I want to focus on the idea that passing the puck would have been better than what Nyquist ended up doing thanks to the dual stupid power of a "what if" game where we ask about a game-winner being scored "better" and the concept where there is apparently no "i" in "team", but there should be four "me's".
So we've got the video, let's look at some of the passing opportunities:
First up, we've got the moment just after Nyquist pulls the puck off the boards on the Cody Ceci turnover.
I drew pretty arrows to indicate direction of travel. Thanks to the Sun Bowl, you can hardly see Brendan Smith at the bottom of the picture. You can't see Helm and Ceci at the net-front in this frame, but that doesn't matter because that's not a good passing lane. Going back to Franzen leaves the Mule in a position to be squeezed in by Cowen and MacArthur. Smith looks like a decent option except Turris is in really good position to keep Smith away from a great shot attempt.
Now let's fast-forward six seconds to the next good passing opportunity.
Hey good job on those four touchdowns, Richard!
This is actually a wonderful opportunity to have the game end on a pass. Brendan Smith is open in the slot with his stick on the correct side while Kyle Turris is not blocking the lane. Unfortunately, as you can see, Nyquist is not in position to make this pass because he's busy leaning hard against his man to shield the puck and by the time he'd be able to turn on MacArthur, the lanes would be closed.
As Nyquist comes around from behind the net, he crosses over with Smith at the outside of the circle while Franzen changes direction from having followed the path of Nyquist's first trip around the net and heads to the top of the zone so he can be the last man back (you know, just in case of one of those turnovers the "what-if" dummies were crowing about).
I cut this off after the crossover, so the assumed pass was just before this part of the sequence. If you assume Smith has the puck on his stick here instead of Nyquist, you're looking at a guy with a very sharp angle on net being made even sharper by Turris already going to him, a passing lane to Franzen is blocked by Cowen, and Ceci can hold off Helm where he is to further muddle Smith's shooting lane.
Just after this is probably the one shot Nyquist has where he both has the ability to make the pass and he's giving a player an actual good lane. Check this out:
A drop-pass to Franzen here gets him to the top of the faceoff circle with a (mostly) clear shooting lane. Turris can release from Smith and get in the lane, but Franzen would have had an opportunity for a snipe. The thing working against this are that Helm's momentum would have already carried him out of Anderson's field of view by then and that Anderson is already square to the middle. Franzen can beat an unscreened goalie from here, but when you compare his shooting option with the one that Nyquist ends up getting later, it's fine how this one goes.
I'm going to skip forward 10 seconds here because after Nyquist starts his second swoop to the corner and then eventually back around behind the net, there's not a passing option which gives an immediate opportunity nor even looks particularly promising to create a scoring chance. Helm holds the near post to keep Ceci away from Nyquist and Franzen goes to the back post to eventually pick Cowen which allows Nyquist the space to get back up to the point with room. The final passing opportunity comes just before the shot that wins the game.
I added the wrinkle of defender movement lines here to illustrate what's going on. As Nyquist comes up, Turris potentially has him in a good position to take the puck, but Nyquist has it far outside his body in a great position for Smith to pick up if Turris goes for him. Cowen is already moving away, so Smith would have a really good chance. However, Turris doesn't go for Nyquist, he coasts in just behind him anticipating that Nyquist is finally going to make this crossover pass. Turris is ready to jump on it and hopefully (for him) go the other way.
Instead, Nyquist makes the once again "selfish" read to use Smith's motion against Turris and get back to the top of the zone, this time with oodles of room in front of Jared Cowen trying to cover him. I'm going to .gif the rest to show how it ends.
You can see Cowen preparing himself for another loop wide just before Nyquist throws a dangle on him and reverses direction. This breaks Goose into the scoring box with a great look on net. Further, unlike the pass to Franzen that he turned down earlier, Nyquist has the ability to get in closer and has not only Helm in the perfect screening position, but also Brendan Smith coming across the ice just before he gets there to add a second layer of screen. Anderson is square to where he thinks Nyquist is, but he's deeper in his net than he was before and he can't see the exact release angle.
So, yeah, if you want to be an idiot simper-baby and say that Nyquist should have passed the puck during the 28 seconds of joy and wonder that ended Saturday's game because you think that passing wins hockey games, feel free. Saying that this was a selfish act that doesn't fit in with a team sport like hockey completely ignores the hard work that Nyquist and his three teammates did to make sure that the team goal of winning a damn hockey game was achieved.