With Dakota Joshua’s return looming, how will he fit alongside Miller and Boeser on Canucks’ top line?

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
3 months ago
Who would have thought that a fight in mid-February in Chicago would cause the league’s number-one team to spiral downward?
Well, that’s exactly what happened to the Vancouver Canucks when Dakota Joshua completed his Gordie Howe hat-trick when he fought Mackenzie Entwistle. 
Since the injury on February 13th, the Canucks have played .500 hockey with a 9-7-2 record. 
But fear no further Canucks fans, as it looks that a Joshua return is on the horizon. 
CanucksArmy’s own Jeff Paterson was at Canucks practice yesterday and reported that Joshua was a full participant for the first time in six weeks. But what’s more intriguing is seeing who he took line rushes with during said practice.
Joshua was slotted next to the Canucks’ deadliest offensive duo, J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser. This trio has seen just 2:58 minutes of 5-on-5 time together this season.
Once the injury occurred, if you had told me that when Joshua returned, he wouldn’t immediately get reunited with Teddy Blueger and Conor Garland, I wouldn’t have believed you. But now, it makes perfect sense and is something fans can get excited about. 
The addition of Elias Lindholm for Elias Pettersson’s wing hasn’t worked out for that specific role. But Garland has come to the rescue by showing early chemistry with Pettersson and Nils Höglander. Splitting that up would seem more harmful than beneficial, especially now.
So why not try Joshua with Miller and Boeser?

Revolving Door Of Wingers

J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser have been the most steadfast duo for the Canucks this season, playing just shy of 900 minutes of time on ice (TOI) together at 5-on-5 this season. But they’ve yet to find consistency on the left side this season. 
Here is a list of all the players that have started on their line.
It must be tough to truly build chemistry when it’s been a revolving door on the left side of your line. Miller and Boeser have had to struggle through eight different forwards this season.
Phil Di Guiseppe has been the most consistent forward on that line, although he wouldn’t typically be considered a top-six calibre player. This trio has been on the ice for 11 goals for and eight goals against. When independent from these two, Di Guiseppe has been on the ice for just four goals for and 11 goals against. He has five goals and 10 points in 49 games this season.
It’s safe to say offence isn’t Di Guiseppe’s strong suit. It’s his puck retrieval, heavy forechecking, and successful board battles that help Miller and Boeser the most.
Following Di Guiseppe is Pius Suter, who has been one of the team’s most versatile assets with stints on all four lines this season. This trio has been on the ice for 13 goals for and just three goals against at 5-on-5, despite the sub-200 minutes played together. 
As a line, they have the highest analytics of all forward lines to play at least 100 minutes together, with 67.74% expected goals for percentage (xGF%), 67.44% scoring chances for percentage (SCF%) and 70.27% high-danger scoring chances for percentage (HDCF%).
Now, don’t get me wrong. Suter has fit in seamlessly with Miller and Boeser and doesn’t look out of place when promoted. He’s been a quality defensive piece on this line, allowing Miller to pinch up and chase offence, knowing that Suter will cover the F3 (centre defensive role). But does he really propel them offensively? 
When watching games, Suter blends into the play and often goes unnoticed. He’ll let Miller and Boeser play their cycle game down low, using their defencemen as passing options while Suter floats around either in the slot or away from the puck. 
He does exactly that in this clip.
Now if only there were a player on the Canucks who could retrieve pucks on the forecheck like Di Guiseppe and also cover defensively in a pinch like Suter…
*Dakota Joshua has entered the chat*

Is Dakota Joshua A Fit On The Miller & Boeser Line?

Considering we just highlighted how the two players who have spent the most time with Miller & Boeser enhance their skills, let’s first look at whether Joshua can provide the same qualities.
This clip from the team’s X-page layout has everything we’re looking for.
While there are a few clips of Joshua’s intensity on the forecheck, the most influential is at the 1:01 mark. 
Joshua is deep in the New York Islander zone, shortening the distance and intimidating the defender. Now the opposition has no choice but to force a poor pass across the middle of the ice and take the big hit from Joshua, leading to a turnover and a Canucks scoring chance. 
Now, Joshua doesn’t have the same centre awareness that Suter brings as security for the F3. However, his defensive play is focused on throughout the entire clip, dubbed over with quotes from Tocchet on Joshua’s physicality and defensive play. 
Not to be forgotten that before his injury, Joshua was first over the boards when the team was shorthanded. He ranks third among Canucks forwards in average penalty kill TOI per game – second before the Elias Lindholm acquisition.
Something that the infamous Joshua-Blueger-Garland line did so well was cycle the puck. Most of the cycling came from Joshua and Garland, which resulted in finding a driving Blueger in the slot area for a high-danger scoring chance. 
Well, well, well, what do we have here? Boeser and Höglander cycling the puck until they found a trailing Miller driving the net for a high-danger scoring chance that found the back of the net. 
While Canucks fans would love to have the luxury of putting the Joshua-Blueger-Garland line back together, that’s not the reality of today’s situation.
Lindholm is out for an undisclosed amount of time, and the Canucks coaching staff doesn’t believe he can play the wing. Ilya Mikheyev hasn’t played up to snuff to fit into the top six anymore. The last game against the Los Angeles Kings proved that Di Guiseppe should stay in the bottom six. The success of Höglander-Pettersson-Garland is something not to mess with at this point. 
So why not give Dakota Joshua some run alongside J.T. Miller, who’s chasing 100 points, and Brock Boeser, who’s chasing 40 goals? He’s undoubtedly proven to be a fierce forechecker who can cycle the puck while being defensively sound, which has worked admirably on this line.
What do you think Canucks fans? Will Joshua be a fit with Miller and Boeser in the top six?

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