Winning Play: Nyquist makes his Sharks debut

Some thoughts about the San Jose Sharks’ 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins:

Race for First Place

The Pacific hasn’t been lost yet.

Another Calgary Flames victory, another Sharks loss, and San Jose is now five points back in the division.

According to Hockey Reference’s Playoff Probabilities, Calgary currently has an 89.4 percent of taking the Pacific title. This is especially relevant because the divisional runner-up will almost certainly have to take on the dangerous Vegas Golden Knights in the first round.

But a five-point divisional deficit on Feb. 26 isn’t insurmountable, as the Sharks themselves proved two years ago. That was the last time a five-point deficit on Feb. 26 was overcome, when Anaheim overtook San Jose.

Hope for Martin Jones

After four goals on 32 shots against the Bruins, Martin Jones’s save percentage actually rose.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves, but if Jones keeps his current .896 save percentage, he would be the first regular season sub-.900 save percentage Stanley Cup-winning starting goaltender since Cam Ward’s .882 in 2005-06.

Nyquist’s Debut

Gustav Nyquist made his Sharks debut in Boston.

Despite his team’s one-sided loss, The Point Hockey was bullish about his individual play: “Nyquist fit in nicely last night in his first game with the Sharks. Playing alongside Joe Thornton and Kevin Labanc, he was tied for the game-high in offensive zone puck possession and put himself in position for high-quality scoring chances, the most on his team.”

It was interesting to see Peter DeBoer deploy Gustav Nyqvist on the left wing. Nyqvist is versatile, but as a left-handed shot, he’s been most used on his off, or right wing, in his career. A typical Nyquist chance will see him getting open on his forehand and cutting toward the middle:

This Thornton-Nyquist connection, Thornton (19) drawing defenders in, Nyquist (14) getting open, is exactly what San Jose hopes to see a lot more of into June.

“[If Nyquist] keeps his stick on the ice there’s a pretty good chance Thornton will be finding it,” noted The Point Hockey.

The advantage of playing your off-wing is naturally having your blade toward the middle of the ice. That’s conducive for getting dangerous shots off more quickly, including one-timers.

The off-wing is also, as predicted after the Trade Deadline, where Nyquist was used on the power play.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Nyquist is eventually placed back on his off-wing at 5-on-5.

All in all, it was a mixed-bag debut for Nyquist.

This was the kind of dangerous pass up the middle that might get his linemate Labanc stapled to the bench:

They do things differently in San Jose — or at least, they’re supposed to.