logo

The Stanchies: Canucks’ best line and a rising Noah Juulsen lead the way in 4-2 win vs. Chicago

alt
Photo credit:© Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
4 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks beating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 to sweep the season series 3-0 should be something to celebrate. Or at least it used to be. I mean, you’re probably still happy the Canucks picked up two points, but the rivalry that fueled some of the best moments between these two teams is long gone.
With the Canucks setting their sights on a deep playoff run, and with Chicago trying to land Macklin Celebrini so they can get another commercial about a family member being oddly confused about where his job is located, it felt more like two ships passing in the night on Tuesday night.
And if we’re being honest with each other, a concept Love Island teaches me is a vital part of every single conversation you have, both teams got what they wanted out of this one.
Vancouver got their two points, and nobody got hurt.
Chicago didn’t get any points, and Vince Vaughn wasn’t anywhere in sight.
And if we’re being honest with each other, there’s something beautiful in the simplicity of that approach. Add some Phil Kessel news pre-game, then toss in the Corolla Garland line going off on the night, and you’ve got a pretty solid game between two clubs both firmly in agreement that Chicago should lose the game. Heck, the game heavily featured Dakota Joshua’s Farewell Tour as he continues to price himself out of future Canucks plans, making it a more exciting game than I had anticipated.
All of which is to say, if we’re being honest with each other, we don’t need a long intro for this game.
Canucks wanted to win. They did.
Chicago wanted to lose. They did.
And if we’re being honest with each other, I just want to make some gif money.
Best anatomy of a signing
First up, we have to give credit to Cheaton for beating Rick to the scoop. Big dubs to Cheaton.
Secondly, the Kessel jokes/rumours have been lying dormant in the background, biding their time, patiently waiting until they could unleash themselves upon this market in full force all season long. Well, it’s officially Kessel Season in Vancouver, where it really felt more like a “when” not “if” he signed with the Canucks. His personal history with Rick Tocchet and Jim Rutherford is well documented, so it should be no surprise to hear the news today.
People will now debate if this is a useful signing or not, and you know what, if the Canucks sign anybody near league minimum for the rest of the year, it’s going to get a thumbs up from me.
Want to sign Kessel to give your second line a bit more pop? Sounds good.
Want to sign Timbr to help add some muscle to the fourth line? I’m here for it.
Want to give Kevin Woodley a contract so he can play a couple games down the stretch to let the goalies rest? Ok, that one might be too far.
But the point is, assuming Kessel does eventually sign with the Canucks, and that the contract is a “hey, come join us for a Cup run” kind of deal, it’s a perfectly cromulent signing. Even if Kessel has nothing left in the tank, and you only get a couple of good second-unit powerplay shifts out of him and maybe a solid meme or two, then no harm, no foul. Obviously, there is a limit of 50 contracts the Canucks can reach, but bumping up to 47 isn’t an end-of-the-world situation with a potential Phil signing.
Do I think he fits into this Canucks lineup? Not particularly. He can help the second unit power play out a bit, and maybe you can shelter him in the lineup to help juice your scoring a bit. It just feels like that takes away Tocchet’s ability to manage games the way he likes to.
But if he shows up and it bumps Mikheyev to the fourth line, and reliably gives another good shot for Elias Pettersson to play with? Hey, crazier things have happened.
Either way, having more tools at your disposal is the correct approach for a team with designs on the Stanley Cup.
You also get the feeling that Rutherford and Allvin are far from done before this trade deadline anyhow.
If we’re being honest with each other.
Best setting achievable goals
Chicago is deeply dedicated to losing all of the games all of the times so they can draft Macklin Celebrini, thus fulfilling the nightmare prophecy of two BC lads who grew up as Canucks fans joining the enemy and creating the next Blackhawks dynasty. There is a reason Dr. Chamberlain screamed at Evelyn that she mustn’t read from the book, but here we are.
So while we wait patiently for the sun to explode and take all of us with it, thus saving us from having to watch that unfold before our very own eyes, here’s Seth Jones almost scoring to open the game, a trend that Vancouver has been coyly flirting with from across the bar during this road trip:
It has all the elements of an early goal against the Canucks, the bad defence ultimately leading to someone being shockingly open in front of their goalie, but Seth Jones can’t quite manage to get a shot off. You should keep note of this because, after this point, Chicago didn’t manage a single shot on the net until there were 30 seconds left in the first period.
Best she’s not wrong
The Canucks’ first unit powerplay can sometimes look like it carries the entitlement of someone who is raging because Starbucks got their order slightly wrong.
So while the first unit is screaming about how their drink was clearly missing half a pump of hazelnut syrup, they sometimes look lackadaisical on the ice. Which at worst, leads to horrible goals against (that Boston game!) or shots that get easily blocked (this game!), leading them to Charlie Brown it off the ice:
You can almost picture Elias Pettersson trying to kick the football and missing it yet again, leading him down a path of existential crisis mixed in with wondering what Spotify is going to recommend for him this week.
Best give me five reasons to stay here
Any time you have a team go off like the Canucks have this year, you can’t help but try and figure out what spurned it on. We know the PDO talk, so let’s just put that aside for now. Instead let’s focus on five of the major things I think have played the biggest role in the Canucks’ turnaround, in no particular order:
  1. Rick Tocchet and his coaching staff
  2. Quinn Hughes elevating his game to generation levels this season
  3. Thatcher Demko returning to form
  4. NHL ready d-men throughout the lineup
  5. Having an elite third line
And while all five of those affect the team to varying degrees, I do want to say that having an elite third line sure is a nice thing to have on hand when your top-paid players are struggling. I hope EP40, Boeser, and JT Miller are paying for all of the lunches of the Corolla Garland line because when they go invisible, that gets ignored when the Garland line does stuff like this:
There is usually a caveat of “but it’s Chicago,” but the caveat to that caveat is that this line has been doing this all year. I will checkmate your damn caveat all day long, and don’t you forget it.
Joshua, Blueger, and Garland have combined to form one of the best 3rd lines in the NHL, if not the best, and certainly one of the best Canucks lines in recent memory.
Earlier in the season, it felt like Garland was feeding passes and thinking the game may be a step or two too quickly for this line, but that is no longer the case. Now you have Joshua and Blueger matching Garland stride for stride and pass for pass. Start of the year I don’t think Joshua has the confidence to try and feather this pass back to Garland.
But now? He looks like an absolute stud, drawing in the Chicago players before sending a perfect pass right back to Corolla.
Tocchet uses them to close down games, and he uses them to give his team a spark offensively. They are that reliable friend that will help you move even if they’re busy, and doesn’t even get noticeably frustrated when they arrive and the boxes aren’t fully packed yet.
There is a reason you need to enjoy this line while you can, and it’s because they have gotten enough hype around the league that it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the Canucks are able to afford Blueger and Joshua when their contracts run out at the end of the season. They are very clearly in the “soon to be overpaid” mode of their career, and you know what, god bless them, secure that bag.
But for the Canucks, there is a reason they are leaning into this season so hard, and it’s because an awful lot of things have lined up pretty perfectly for this team to take a stab at gunning for that Stanley Cup.
And having an elite third line to go along with your Hart-candidate defenceman, your Vezina-candidate goalie, and an assortment of high-scoring forwards?
Baby, you got a stew going.
Best celly King
No goal celebration will beat Conor Garland sheathing his stick as he pledged his allegiance to Frodo earlier in the season, but he still has a couple of tricks in his bag he pulls out from time to time.
It’s no massive clapper into an empty net, but the large scoop where he holds his hand in the air after said scoop for an extended period of time? That’s good celebrating. It just is.
Best actions have consequences
I try not to talk about penalties too much because it quickly becomes a weird slippery slope of “whataboutism” ending with someone screaming at you about a penalty your team got away with in 1956, so how dare you, of all people, bring up a bad call, but sometimes we have to do it.
Especially when it’s as egregiously bad as this “goaltender interference” call on Sam Lafferty:
Look, I get it. I listen to Ron MacLean as much as the next guy. Referees are the closest thing to whatever God of your choice is on this earth as we get. They never sin, they’re always perfect Ron Ron, they can do no wrong, etc.
But, it kind of feels like they did a whole lot of wrong here?
Like an incredible amount of wrong?
I know the usual caveat (there you go again with caveats) is that it’s a fast game, and that mistakes happen.
Which you know what, I fully agree with that. Mistakes DO happen, especially when you’re casually saying “there” and you stumble into a “they’re” situation. I get it.
But the NHL never admits when the officials do something wrong, which makes calls like this so frustrating. Because you know nothing will be done about it. There will be not a single person admitting it was a terrible call. It will just be swept under the carpet, right beside the Colin Campbell e-mails and the Cooperalls. At the very most, you’ll get Gary Bettman with that little glint in his eye and a smirk on his lips as he condescendingly explains to you that the NHL has the best officials in the world despite Tim Peel being a former employee.
In a perfect world, they could release a quick “mea culpa” statement, taking ownership of a bad call, but that is not the world we live in.
Instead, we get to watch Sam Lafferty get kind of shoved towards a goaltender’s pads and have to sit in the box for two minutes as a result of it.
Best first period dominance
Much like any menstrual cycle, this game had its ebbs and flows, but it was particularly strong at the start of the period:
Chicago looks a lot like Vancouver did during the bad years, where one person would kind of skate to the puck, look around and realize they have no support, so they would audibly sigh and then chuck the puck at the glass and pray it left the zone.
The Canucks feasted on this against Chicago, as Rick Tocchet’s system is at its heart, really about dominating your opponent and breaking them mentally.
Want to make a pass with no purpose? Eat forecheck, you son of a bitch.
The Professor of Pressure, Phil De Giuseppe, almost converted one extended shift in the offensive zone with a shot that hit the post:
We have a lot more to get to, so I won’t bore you with endless clips of the Canucks skating circles in the Chicago zone, but needless to say, that’s how you end a period up 12-2 in shots.
Best at least you tried
How did Chicago finally get their first shot on net? On the powerplay with around 30 seconds left on the clock:
That shot did indeed get a bit of a sarcastic standing ovation from the home crowd, in case you were curious and/or cursing the silent nature of gifs.
There’s one guy in the crowd who stands up after the shot with one arm, then turns it into a two armed fist pump, and I have to say, I respect it. Sarcastically enjoying moments in terrible games is something we here in Vancouver have perfected, so game recognizes game.
Best power outage
The Canucks’ powerplay continues to sputter along, this time going 0/4 on the night.
The first unit is more likely to give up a scoring chance than get a shot on the net at this point, leading to the second unit seeing a bit more time than usual. And to their credit, they almost made it 2-0 by simply shoving the puck on the net:
Garland does his best “surely this will hit a body at some point and deflect into the empty net,” but alas, he is thwarted.
Can we talk about how Ilya Mikheyev shouldn’t be getting powerplay time?
Even if the Canucks had the Ilya Mikheyev that could beat Connor McDavid in a race for the puck, his skill set doesn’t really translate to the man advantage.
Penalty kill? I get it. Fast on the puck. Can gently shoot the puck out of the zone. Makes sense.
On the powerplay? Where his speed isn’t that useful and his muffin of a shot is more likely to give a goalie diabetes rather then beating him?
When does Höglander get his chance? That’s all I’m asking.
I have seen people talking about the carrot and the stick approach with Nils, and how Tocchet might be leading a horse to water and all that.
But at what point do you give the guy who has 17 even strength goals a chance over someone who hasn’t even registered a power play point on the season yet, despite being given ample time?
I don’t get it, if we’re being honest with each other.
Best posterity
Sometimes I just include Quinn Hughes highlights even when he doesn’t score, just in case there is a nuclear event down the road. This way, if there is only one hard drive makes it out intact, it contains a record of just how incredible of a defenceman he was:
I don’t want to say anyone takes him for granted in Vancouver, because I don’t think they do. It’s just, it’s very easy to become comfortable watching a player make plays on the puck like this, out of nowhere, multiple times a game.
“Oh, your team doesn’t have an elite offensive defenceman that creates scoring chances at will? Crazy.”
It’s easy to forget a little bit about what life was like before Hughes entered our world. We have to make sure we keep rizzing him up so he can always be the drip king.
That’s all I’m saying, if I’m being honest.
Can I pull you for a chat?
Best earning a nickname
Corolla Garland continues to be the reliable engine that makes this line go, but as stated earlier, this entire trio is seemingly clicking stronger and stronger as the season wears on:
It’s not just the goal that should be noticed on this clip. It’s how it came together.
Corolla chases down a puck along the boards, as he does.
Blueger comes flying in to throw a hit, as he does.
Garland then sneaks into the pile of bodies and escapes with said puck.
Upon losing the puck, Blueger makes a deft poke check, giving the puck back to Garland.
Corolla, even with a check engine light on, then circles the zone and finds Dakota in the slot.
Dakota, smelling that $4 million contract waiting for him next season, dishes to Hronek at the point.
Garland completes his circuit, and ends up deflecting the Hronek shot in for the goal.
Was there luck involved on the goal? Sure. But this line also creates that luck by constantly creating scoring chances. Whether in their own end or the opponents, this line is just constantly finding ways to take control of the puck.
Best celly round two
Those stats are worth a fist bump:
Imagine tweeting out earlier in the season that Garland wasn’t worth his contract and saying he wasn’t keeping pace with his usual career numbers.
Also can we also admit that the neck guard adds an extra level of swag to Garland? When he scores it’s like a Bond Villain just pulled off a diabolical scheme.
Best pushing the pace
The Canucks then continued to pressure the Blackhawks, first with a nice shot off the rush by Blueger:
Then mere seconds later off of a rush by Lafferty:
All of which is to point out that the Canucks were in charge of this game.
Which, yeah, Chicago, I get it.
But the Canucks haven’t been that team that’s supposed to win in so many years that we’re still getting used to it.
Even last year, the games against the Coyotes felt like a potential situation where Eddie Lack was going to have the last laugh, and there is no lower point in your life than knowing Eddie Lack has the upper hand on you.
Best small cracks
Tyler Myers appeared to have seen a ghost on this play, as that’s the only way I can explain his lack of movement:
That being said, it’s a powerplay, so these things can happen. The Canucks fail to clear the puck, Teddy Blueger bites on a deke incredibly hard to the point he just yeets himself off camera like Judy Winslow, and then Chaos Giraffe just sort of tries to evade a T-Rex by not moving? I don’t know.
The end result was Chicago scored, but nobody was too concerned? I understand, winning habits and all that, but hey, it was Chicago. The end result of this game felt inevitable.
Best forcing their hand
First up, we have Colin Blackwell trying to will a goal into existence by pointing at the net as if the puck didn’t clearly hit the cross bar and go out:
This led to Höglander getting another nice goal in close, showing off the kind of magic mittens not seen since Kyle Wellwood:
Elias Lindholm does a big chunk of work on this goal, as his forecheck leads to the turnover that Hoglander converts into the goal. Without Lindholm, there would be no goal on this play, and it all results from his hustle.
I also in my head kind of assume Höglander and Lindholm are Junkrat and RoadHog, sizes be damned. I’m not sure where Elias Pettersson as Junker Queen fits into all of this, but it’s centred around the other two stealing his goals.
I’ll make it work.
Best Quads was right
Look, when Quadrelli claimed Noah Juulsen was the third-best defenceman on this team, many of us scoffed. Some guffawed. A few chortled. One snorted.
But now? People are nervously laughing about that take:
We obviously need a bigger sample size for Juulsen, but he has been a revelation since his early season struggles.
Again, he is not being relied upon to do too much. But we’re at the point where the Canucks used him for 15 minutes of ice time on the night, and he did not look out of place.
You’re not pencilling him into your top four anytime soon, but you’re also not worried if he has to eat more minutes in a game, either.
It’s been an incredible turnaround for a player that looked like he didn’t even belong in the NHL to start the year.
Best getting in the reps
The good news is the game was against Chicago so the Canucks did get a lot of practice at creating scoring chances.
First up, you had Tyler Myers setting up Quinn Hughes on an odd-man rush, as you all expected:
Should Myers have toe-dragged the puck there and gone bar down? Quite simply, yes.
JT Miller then got a decent shot down low on the powerplay on a bang-bang play:
Then Nils almost moonwalked in a goal, because if anyone is feeling their swagger, it’s the Roadhög:
The Canucks look like a good, fun team. This is a real thing we are still saying in the middle of February.
You can actually get your partner Canucks tickets this year as a gift and it won’t be viewed as a slap in the face or a sure sign you want to break up with them.
Best exclamation point
Look, we’re at the point where the Canucks are pulling off goals that the West Coast Express used to, and it’s Dakota Joshua finishing them off:
And to his credit, we have seen his underrated hands in action before. This kid has some serious dangles in them dingles. He has an entire season’s worth of highlights to demand millions of dollars next year.
And never forget, the Leafs drafted him.
Best tale of two worlds
Ok so the Canucks kind of got complacent, which yes, winning habits, we talked about that. So getting burned for a second goal isn’t a great look for the team.
But it’s a perfect example of showcasing the defensive posture of Noah Juulsen vs Filip Hronek.
Up first we have Noah Juulsen defending a rush and cutting off a potential pass for a tap in:
Notice how he drops to one knee like a chivalrous knight putting his cloak down so nobody gets mud splattered on them? But he’s also ready to jump back up and run back into the fight in case a dragon appears?
That’s a good defence. He stays with his man the entire time, cuts off the pass, and forces a bad-angle shot. He shuts that shit down.
Then we have Filip Hronek.
And to be fair, nobody has ever accused Hronek of being the best defensive d-man. Quinn Hughes can hide an awful lot of warts, and losing puck battles and making questionable decisions are just a few of the things Quinn hides about his partner.
And one such decision is Hronek’s choice to rock the Tyler Myers slip-and-slide defence on an odd man rush that happened mere moments later:
Like, I get it. It probably feels bad ass to lay out like Superman, sliding across the ice, and blocking a pass. You stand up, wiping ice off of your body as you glare defiantly at anyone in the crowd who dared doubt that you had everything under control.
But when the slip and slide fails, it fails hard. It looks good when it works, but man, it is fraught with risk. It takes control away from yourself and puts it completely in the opponents’ hands.
As a result, Chicago taps in a goal to make it a two-goal deficit once more.
Yes, you just read a section in which I extolled the virtues of Noah Juulsen playing smart, efficient defence. I find myself excited to see his shifts, wondering what other improvements we might see next.
Best finish off strong
You know how to rile a Canadian market up? Aside from shooting a puck too hard into an empty net?
Get a Gordie Howe hat trick:
Hey, someone runs into your Corolla and tries to get away with it, you have to take matters into your own hand.
I jokingly said Dakota shouldn’t be fighting because he’s a star player, but in hindsight, that’s not a joke. The Canucks have magic in this third line so we’re at the point where nobody on that line should be fighting, if we’re being honest.
Unless they hit your Corolla.
Then of course you have to drop your gloves and show them your insurance.
Up next? Revenge against the guy who did the griddy! Detroit is in Vancouver on Thursday.
Will a Canuck player bust out a revenge dance? That is pretty much the main reason to watch that game.
Yes, we are officially in the “is it time for the playoffs yet?” mode in Vancouver.
Best beaten by his own logic

Check out these posts...