Photo credit:© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: Corolla Garland leads Canucks to top of the NHL standings despite OT loss
2 months ago
Is it really a loss if you end the night first in the league in points?
That is the question demanded of you as you stare at the NHL standings and see the Canucks perched atop the point column, despite a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars.
Thomas Drance would demand you list teams by winning percentage, and sure, maybe mathematics is on his side. But you know what? You can’t buy a gallon of milk with percentages. You can’t just go up to the cashier and say “hey, take this 74% of a ten dollar bill, and could I get a couple of scratch and wins while you’re at it?”
No, of course not. You’d be laughed out of the store. They’d post a video of it online and you’d go viral right alongside some guy singing the lyrics to Smash Mouth’s All-Star wrong.
In the real world, you’d walk in and pay with your 47 points that you earned through hard work, dedication, and more hard work, before quietly mumbling that the 47 points are worth more based on having more total wins.
THE POINT IS, yes, the point is, the Canucks are number one in the league mere days away from Christmas. They can try and take away your jerseys and your Canucks themed slippers that Fanatics put the wrong logo on, but they can’t take away the fact that Santa Claus had to do a double take when checking his NHL standings list Thursday night.
And that, my friends, is what Huey Lewis and the News meant when they asked, “you must think that you’re a perfect lover.”
I rest my case.
Best of the Corolla Garland getting it started early
The Canucks’ third line continues to be the story of December for the team, as the Canucks’ powerplay woes have continued, putting even more reliance on Garland’s line to dominate their 5 on 5 matchups.
Defensively, they’ve been one of, if not the best third lines in the league. Now add in the fact they’re starting to get some goals? That kind of gives you Arvedson/Linden/Cooke vibes in your belly. A little bit of Malholtra in your shoes. Maybe a pinch of Courtnall/Craven/Lafayette minus the franchise-altering post in your pockets.
And they started the game off early, letting Dallas know that the Corolla Garland line was going to be a PROBLEM for the rest of the game.
Blueger drives hard to the net, as one does, and a Garland puck battle leads to another scoring chance from the man where suburbs were built out of wood so they could quickly be burnt down lest an attacking army try and take shelter in them (Full disclosure, Riga fun facts tend to be a bit somber).
Sure upon realizing the ill intentions of the Corolla Line, Dallas would find a way to step up and shut them down-
Best can’t stop, won’t stop
Before you could even sit down with two beers and a hotdog in your hand, Corolla Garland snuck in and collected a loose puck in front of his goalie and quickly turned it into a 2 on 1 rush that Dakota Joshua finished off:
People have been talking about how this line is scoring now, how they have turned into this absolute unit, and you know what? Garland has been setting his linemates up with grade-A chances all season. The difference is now his linemates are finally finishing them.
I also like how Corolla Garland has made his small stature an elite part of his game. He manages to sneak into spaces many players cannot, and has clearly looked up physics videos on YouTube, because he can leverage his body position better than the biggest of power forwards.
Even on this goal, he just snakes in there and grabs the puck, and it’s something he does constantly. Just sidestepping his way through a big jumble of man meat and quietly leaving with the puck on his stick.
And to top it off, after shoulder checking multiple times before the zone entry, he then completely no sells the pass by looking directly at Stars goalie Scott Wedgewood, before saucing the puck over to Joshua for the finish.
Now, should any team fall for a fake shot from Garland? Of course not. If anything, Dallas should have just backed off and said “have at it” and watched the attempted shot.
But Garland is provocative; he gets the crowd going, and Dallas ends up biting on the play.
End result is Dakota Joshua firing home a perfect shot, which in no way becomes an ironic moment later in overtime when he passes up a shot on a 2 on 0.
And to give some more love to Dakota, he is also one of the more physical Canucks on the year, so not only is he playing well defensively and scoring the odd goal here and there, but he’s also running fools over:
Just a tremendous December for one of the best bottom six lines in the entire league.
Best OG power forward
Forgotten in the hoopla of Nils Höglander and Conor Garland constantly driving to the net with people hanging all over them like prime Todd Bertuzzi is the fact that JT Miller has been the effective power forward around these parts for several years now:
I wish I had more footage to show you of a rejuvenated JT Miller doing his thing, but aside from a nice pass to Boeser late in the game, it honestly felt like Miller continues to be slightly off. Not open the cottage cheese container and try not to dry heave off, but the expiry date was a few days ago and you don’t like the look of that top layer off.
Miller, of course, is one of those topics that causes the most fights in this market, because it seems like no matter how Miller plays, he puts up points. He plays out of his mind fantastic, creating offence and being solid in his own end? He gets three points. He plays like hot garbage and blows the zone early and sends lazy passes along the boards? He gets three points.
Obviously the miles will vary on just exactly how many points he does end up getting on any given night, but it’s clear the man knows how to land on the scoresheet. It makes talking about him an absolute nightmare because you constantly get both sides of the JT Miller debate screaming at you, demanding you show them your degree in hockey, with both sides claiming you’re on the other side.
Best you can do it put your back into it
Zadorov, move them hips, baby shake them cheeks:
He got puck for days, you got penalties for weeks.
Honestly, the puck is in Benn’s feet, and Zadorov literally just skates in a straight line, meaning Benn went into business for himself on this one. Drives his truck through the window of Burger King and starts demanding compensation. Not my favourite penalty to call, but it is what it is.
You know who saved the Canucks here, though? Dakota Joshua. He would draw a penalty mere moments later on Benn, thus negating the man advantage, and restoring karmic balance to the world.
Best rare L
The Dallas Stars fans, finally having recovered from screaming “STAAAAAAAARS” during the anthem, had just enough energy to cheer on the first goal of the game for the home team off of a rare Corolla Line blunder:
Sometimes I like to deep dive on goals for little to no reason, so let’s have some fun and do it here. Let’s go full Dexter style and break this one down into its body parts.
Why did Dallas score this goal? Well first off, we need to give them credit for executing some skilled plays in this clip. Too often you can get caught up in ascribing goals due to your team just absolutely shitting the bed defensively. It’s like the opposite of Warzone, in which you blame hackers and aim assist for every time you die; In sports, you tend to blame your team for making the mistakes instead of just applauding the other team for pulling off a nice
dolphin dive passing play.
That being said, I think this goal is a solid combination of Dallas executing well, the Canucks screwing up their defensive coverage, and maybe a little touch of too much hubris from the Corolla Line. We all know that car can get you anywhere you need to go, but maybe sometimes you think “hey maybe I CAN beat this Ferrari in a street race.” Don’t buy into your hype, stay within the parameters of the Corolla owner’s manual.
So what happened here?
First off, we have Mika Heiskanen shaking Garland off of him with a little shoulder fake. He makes it looks like he might ring the puck back into his zone, then cuts quickly back towards center ice. This effectively freezes Garland who was anticipating Heiskanen at the very worst, coming to a complete stop. Garland makes a valiant stick check attempt, but playing with a mini-stick limits your range on this.
Heiskanen then leads the zone entry, and feeds the puck over to Tyler Seguin, and at this point, Ian Cole and Tyler Myers are still in a good spot. They can see both men in front of them, they’ve filed their taxes on time, they haven’t made any bad jokes in group chat they have to worry will leak out, everything is good.
The problem comes when Matt Duchene skates hard into the play without adult supervision. Why you ask? Because Teddy Blueger was pushing into the offensive zone when he saw Garland skate over to engage Heiskanen, which is normally a situation Garland at the very least causes a 50/50 extended board battle. The fact Heiskanen shakes Corolla Garland so quickly catches everyone off guard, and as a result, Teddy Blue Shoes is stuck high in the offensive zone.
This then cascades down to Garland, who doesn’t see Duchene skating up all alone. Garland is kind of coasting back, thinking the 2 on 2 unfolding in front of him is all good, no need to panic. But alas, Duchene skates into the play, takes a pass, then feeds it back to Tyler Seguin, who easily beats Ian Cole in any kind of race for the puck you could think of. Three-legged, motorcycle, Mario Kart, you name it, Tyler Seguin wins that race against Ian Cole every day of the week.
To Garland’s credit, he jumps up to try and cut off Heiskanen from getting involved in the play, but by then the defense has already fallen apart, and as they’re scrambling to put their gear back on, Dallas has already seen everything. You know, they’ve seen it all.
And again, even after all of this, it still takes a fantastic tip from Seguin to get that puck up and past Thatcher Demko, who has been playing out of his mind this season.
As Travis Green taught us, this is a hard league to score in, after all.
Too long, did not read version: Dallas made a nice couple of plays to score a goal.
Perhaps trying to make up for this blunder, Garland fed Ian Cole for a shot that fluttered in and hit the post, almost giving the lead back to the Canucks:
And thus ended the last good clip I have of Ian Cole from this game.
Best boring Demko
I try to find fun gifs of Demko, but aside from him getting absolutely jacked on smelling salts before a game, the guy is just so calm, efficient, and boring in net:
I can’t raise a family selling Demko gifs. Not a single glove flair all season long. Not once has he ever put a little English on it as he snags a puck.
Best preaching to the choir
Hey remember that deadly looking Canucks power play they showcased in the first half of the season?
The Canucks powerplay wasn’t dreadful in that it didn’t fail on a ton of powerplays, but that was because they only got three attempts with the man advantage.
And hey, sometimes they don’t score goals on the powerplay! I get it, that’s the nature of the beast!
But in past games they’ve at least managed to look downright scary at times with the extra man, compared to Thursday night where it felt like they could barely manage to gain the zone with puck control.
Would Kuzmenko help with that? Clearly his skill set is missed on the first unit.
But we’re also in a league in which having two defenseman on the first unit powerplay is feeling more and more dated as each year passes. Fil Hronek has a very good offensive skill set, but it feels like he cannot create that puck flow we’ve seen with Kuzmenko on the ice.
And hey, it doesn’t even have to be Kuzmenko. Maybe Höglander finds a role on the first unit.
But just the idea of this static d-man who can shoot the puck pretty hard from the point? It feels like the Alex Edler approach is evolving out of the game.
Best road to hell is filled with bad clearing attempts
If the Canucks third line is that New Years Eve party where everyone dresses up like it’s the Great Gatsby and has fancy cocktails named after streets in Vancouver, then the Canucks fourth line is that kegger at your old high school friends house that you sadly accepted because at least it got you out of the house:
This goal starts when Tyler Myers loses the handle on the puck along the boards, causing Nils Aman to move in and send a clearing attempt that was weaker than that time you hooked up with your ex.
A shot from the point bounces behind the net, and Myers lays off Hintz and takes the long route to go behind the net to battle Jason Robertson, during which Zadorov hesitates and also decides that he, too, must follow the chaos behind the net.
This tiny hesitation from the large Russian leaves Hintz an open lane to go to the net, and he adds insult to injury by going full Superman while scoring the goal.
A couple of mistakes on this goal, but man alive, nothing is more frustrating than seeing a weak play along the boards when someone is trying to get it out. Go full Sami Salo on that bad boy, damn it.
Best of the Brushin’ Brocket
Despite not having a stellar game, JT Miller’s line managed to get on the score sheet on an absolutely filthy snipe of a shot from Brock Boeser:
Give JT Miller credit. He drives hard to the net and gets the attention of most of the Dallas Stars on the ice, allowing him to give Brock Boeser a hint of enough open ice to do his thing.
How good is Brock Boeser? He had a solid window of net over the glove hand of Wedgewood, but nope, he shakes that off and goes far side, top Hodgson instead.
I know we’ve talked about 30 goals as being the goal for Brock this season, but it really feels like 50 might have to be put on the board soon.
Best establishing dominance
Both teams then took turns peeing on the fire hydrant in an attempt to prove who the alpha dog was.
First up was Quinn Hughes dangling around the ice and generally making everyone else feel bad for thinking they were good at hockey:
And then it was Dallas grinding it out along the boards and generating a shot from the slot that Brock Boeser would have gone bar down with, but the Stars can only manage a shot to the chest of Thatcher:
Honestly, it wasn’t the most exciting game you’ve ever seen in the world, but if slow, methodical, grinding hockey is your kink, then this game would have had you hot and bothered.
Best gaming the PDO
The Canucks were at least generating shot attempts, if not shots, but that vaunted power play continued to, well, do this:
JT Miller can’t handle the puck, he falls down, makes a good(?) play to hold up the puck enough so it doesn’t turn into a breakaway, but the end result is another inefficient power play.
Did JT Miller break his stick after this play you ask?
Yes, yes he did.
Best making it count
There were just large stretches of hockey in which both teams grinded on the boards while looking coquettishly at the clock, and then random sequences where a team would generate a potentially lethal looking scoring chance:
Elias Pettersson ends up with no shot on net, but hey, when you live the PDO lifestyle, second place is the first loser. Why bother hitting the net if you aren’t lighting the lamp.
Best third period update
My favourite part of this play is the absolute look of betrayal from Hronek at Ilya Mikheyev, as if Ilya had been plotting this for years, befriending his family and working his way into Filip’s inner circle, and was just now finally executing his diabolical plan mere days before Christmas.
This has so much “bicyclist runs a stop sign and hits a car on Burrard, then proceeds to scream and bang on the hood of said vehicle” energy to it.
Best dingle dangle let’s go mingle mangle
Quinn Hughes will have his number retired by the Canucks when all is said and done. Book it now:
Quinn Hughes straight up generated two quality scoring chances off of evading tackles and finding a lane to get the puck on net in the span of 15 seconds.
No offence to Drake Berehowsky or Ian Kidd, but Quinn Hughes is the best Canucks defenceman of all time.
Best almost Hollywood ending
With just five minutes left in the game, one line stepped up to try and secure two points for the Vancouver Canucks:
All three members of the Corolla line combine for one of the prettiest goals of the month, punctuated by Garland dropping to a knee and proposing marriage to his third goal of the year.
Three things about this goal:
1 – That’s a fantastic cross ice pass from Teddy Blueger, a man who hails from the city in which it is hard to travel to the other Baltic states by train due to the fact Soviet Russia only funded transportation to the motherland (this was listed as a fun fact for Riga, I don’t know what to tell you).
2 – That pass from Dakota Joshua? That’s incredible. That’s the kind of pass Garland usually makes to his linemates, so full credit to Dakota for sending one back his way. Joshua’s game has continued to evolve in the few years he’s been in Vancouver to the point you hope he can manage to make a Justin McElroy top 10 list one day, or at the very least, be quoted in an article talking about the greasy side of Parks Board politics.
3 – That finish from Corolla Garland is a chef’s kiss moment. It’s just another example of him making his size a strength, as he drops to the ice on one knee to ensure that puck either goes in off his stick or off his leg into that net. If that’s Tyler Myers, it would have taken at least a full minute for him to lower his leg to the ice like that.
Even better was the goal celebration, where it’s clear his linemates knew how badly Garland wanted to get that goal drought off his shoulders:
In a perfect world, the game would have ended 3-2, and I could have spent a thousand words extolling the virtues of Conor Garland and then openly opined that perhaps the Canucks are in fact underpaying Mr. Garland for his hockey services.
Alas, the world is rarely ready to hand over the reins like that.
Best that can’t be good
Oh boy, let’s watch this goal first, then break it down:
Things to note on this goal:
1 – Dakota Joshua was on the Boeser/Miller line, seemingly to add a defensive presence that maybe Höglander couldn’t provide. Also maybe there’s a bit of riding a hot hand there as well, but he doesn’t manage to win two puck battles before the goal, because Corolla Garland is the life blood of that line and to separate them is to spit in the face of the hockey gods themselves. One does not simply walk into Mordor.
2 – I thought the clearing attempt by Aman earlier in the game was weak, well, that was nothing compared to the sad effort we witnessed by Ian Cole. I know it’s a small thing, but nothing tilts me in hockey more than some dude putting his head down and just kind of half heartedly putting the puck along the boards. Either hit that shit hard, or softly feather it to a spot where you know a teammate will be. Instead Cole throws the puck away in a very “this ain’t my problem” kind of way, leading to Joshua having to race for the puck.
3 – Despite seeing all of this play out in real time, JT Miller sees this and seemingly thinks to himself “yeah, 3-2 lead, it’s time to blow the zone, baby” and heads to the Hastings Racecourse on what appears to be a 50/50 battle for the puck at his own point, AT BEST. The odds of Dakota winning that puck and immediately twirling and finding an open JT Miller is right up there with your hope of owning a house in Vancouver one day. I know it’s a tired comparison, and leeway is given to your top players, but if that had been Kuzmenko who made that play I fear he’d have to enter witness protection to avoid the wrath of Rick Tocchet.
Which goes back to my earlier point in that it’s impossible to discuss JT Miller. On one hand he’s driving hard to the net and making a great pass to Brock Boeser for a goal. On the other hand he’s making lazy plays and looking disconnected from the defensive end. I know it’s not some unique scenario, there are plenty of offence first, defence a distant second players, but with JT, there’s this weird situation where if you don’t think he’s some top end shut down center, people yell at you.
4 – Thatcher Demko gives the immediate reaction of a goalie who is very angry at himself for letting in a goal and wishes he could have it back. The only difference between me and Demko on a goal like this (aside from skill, talent, money, and did I mention skill) is that I would have gone absolutely ape shit on that cross bar and broken my stick in several pieces, before storming off the ice and leaving the broadcast to wonder if I had retired mid-game.
The end result, the Dallas Stars tied the game up.
And hey, if you’re feeling bad about the overtime loss, don’t worry, the Canucks almost didn’t even get there:
Tyler Myers has this thing where he Tokyo Drifts on the ice, and it’s just not good hockey at its finest. He waves his stick in the general direction of the puck and then drifts in a large “s” pattern, and it drives me absolutely bonkers. Watch the clip again and look at Myers doing his slippery snake pattern while vaguely gesturing in the direction of the puck, not moving his legs, and just vibing out to his Spotify Wrapped list. The Canucks dodged a bullet on this play.
Best just the way they planned it
Despite not touching the puck for a full three minutes at the start of overtime, the Canucks finally managed to get a 2 on 0 out of it:
Yes, Dakota Joshua once again made Rick Tocchet’s Nice list, as he found himself getting a shift in overtime as well.
And while I enjoy Joshua, and he has been playing well, that’s tremendously poor way to try and execute on a 2 on 0. He straight up turns sideways to receive the pass, ending any threat of him skating the puck hard to the net. He then telegraphs the pass back to Elias Pettersson as if it was sent during the Carrington event.
Watch Wedgewood. Watch how little he has to move and adjust on the give and go on the duo breakaway. At no point does he feel like he’s in any sort of trouble. Elias makes a shot of it at the end, but he’s in pretty tight to the net so he just sends in a shot on a goalie who is already fully set and in position for the attempt.
Kuzmenko would have scored there is all I am saying, you can read between the lines.
He gets back into the lineup against the Sharks, right?
Just put him back with Pettersson though. Dropping him on the black pit of a fourth line would just be a self-fulfilling prophecy moment.
Best silver lining
Leave it to the eternal optimist Thomas Drance to rouse me out of my cynical glowering, as despite this goal, the Canucks did end the road trip with six of eight points:
How mad is Thatcher Demko that he let in another five hole goal? He almost freezes on the spot as he tries to come to terms with what just happened, clutching a phantom puck in his pads, refusing to acknowledge the reality surrounding him.
As Drance points out, however, the Canucks did end up gutting out six points. It was by all measures, a very successful road trip. And if ever there was a sign that a team is playing well it’s when you find yourself breaking down the rare loss and demanding answers.
That being said, how does Ian Cole not get that puck out on the third goal, I demand answers.
Best play of the game
The Stars may have won the game, but Mikheyev will always have that time he ran over Jamie Benn on a line change:
Best final question
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