The Tape: A shift by shift analysis of Dakota Joshua’s return to the Canucks’ lineup

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
19 days ago
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Dakota Joshua returned to the Vancouver Canucks lineup on Thursday night against the Dallas Stars. His last game on February 13th, when he participated in a fight with Chicago’s MacKenzie Entwistle that resulted in his broken hand. But hey, at least he got his Gordie-Howe Hat trick, right?
The Canucks were close to a .500 team with Joshua out of the lineup, with a 9-8-2 record over that stretch. They’ve dropped from the league’s first overall seed, with a four-point cushion, to now fifth in the league’s standings, four points behind the New York Rangers. 
Nobody fully understood the impact Joshua’s absence would have on this Canucks lineup until it happened. 
It looked like the incredible third line would get broken up, as Joshua’s first practice was on a line with Miller and Boeser. But when it came to game time, Rick Tocchet put Dakota Joshua-Teddy Blueger-Conor Garland back together to start the game.
Let’s dive into how Joshua looked in his return.

First Period

It took no time for this Joshua line to return to their regular ways. Their first shift was in the offensive zone, filled with an excellent puck retrieval and zone entry from Joshua, finishing it off with physical board play with Chris Tanev. 
Jamie Benn goes behind the net to help his teammate in a board battle. Joshua flies in and makes his presence felt by landing a big hit on Benn. Not giving up on the play, Joshua continues to dig in the scrum and gets rewarded with the loose puck. He would then find the open point man, who took a floater that Blueger deflected wide of the net. 
After Vasily Podkolzin got a stint with Blueger and Garland, Joshua had new faces. He took this shift with Pius Suter and Ilya Mikheyev as his linemates. 
With Suter stepping up to pressure the puck, Joshua does the smart defensive play and covers the F3 position. Being in the position allows him to hold the zone, jump over the defender and get a quality shot off Jake Oettinger’s mask. 
Here are two clips of Joshua showing his defensive instincts to clear the zone in the first clip and using his stick length to his advantage as he disrupts Tanev’s zone entry. 
Now this is less of a solo Joshua clip, but this sequence by the third line is everything that the Canucks have missed over this last six weeks.
Watch Garland’s tenacity as he pressures the puck carrier throughout the neutral zone, resulting in a turnover. All three line members would possess the puck as they effortlessly enter the zone. Garland makes a great play by throwing the puck into the open ice for the trailing Blueger to pick it up. He makes a nice move around the pinching defender and gets a dangerous scoring chance on Oettinger. 
On a delayed penalty, Joshua assumes the F3 (defensive centre) role. He tracks the slot area and notices Wyatt Johnston make a push to the front of the net. Joshua then picks up his man and ties up Johnston’s stick, saving a potential goal. 
Joshua would be out there to kill the first 46 seconds of the delay-of-game penalty after the coach’s challenge and get one clearing attempt for his final shift of the first period. He would finish the period with one shot on goal and four hits. 

Second Period

Joshua started the second period to finish what he had started and killed the remaining 58 seconds of the penalty. 
It would be over six minutes before Joshua saw his next shift – maybe for rest? Nonetheless, it was a lengthy sit for the returning forward.
Joshua wasn’t involved in this play, but he did earn himself a plus-1 rating when he came off the bench alongside J.T. Miller. I mainly included this so Canucks fans can give Garland his flowers and watch the beautiful spin-o-rama assist.
Here is an excellent example of Joshua’s physicality and backchecking to create a scoring chance. Joshua lays a hit on Thomas Harley and continues to roll on to the now puck carrier, Miro Heiskanen. Joshua then picks his pocket and uses his body to prevent Heiskanen from stepping back towards the puck. This allows Ilya Mikheyev to pick up the loose puck with speed and get an uncontested shot off in the faceoff circle. 
This Canucks team has missed the aggressiveness on the penalty kill that Joshua provides. He kept constant pressure on the puck carrier through the neutral zone, giving him no space to maneuver around. Joshua eventually got his stick on the puck to prevent the zone entry. 
Killing yet another penalty, Joshua sticks with his man while keeping his eyes on the puck carrier. That elite vision allows him to intercept the pass right on his tape for an effortless clear of the zone. 
This would be Joshua’s final shift of the second period. Joshua would add a plus rating, one hit, and two faceoff wins to his stat line this period.

Third Period

Joshua started the third period very much like the second period, finishing off killing the remaining seconds of the late penalty. 
The Garland line spent their first shift hemmed in their zone against the lethal line of Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski. Thankfully, no damage was done. 
Nearly halfway through the third period, Heiskanen interferes with Joshua, tripping him and causing him to go head-first into the boards. Luckily, Joshua is able to get up and continue the play. 
Joshua isn’t the type of player to let a dirty play like that slide. After the play was over, he made sure to go over to Heiskanen, throwing a couple of jabs. And give him some nice words of advice to give afterward, I’m sure.
After the Blueger high-sticking penalty with 3:28 to go in the final frame, Joshua and Miller were the two to kill the penalty. Despite good pressure from Joshua up top, the play would transition down low, and Benn would score the eventual game-winning goal from the high slot. 
It was a nice bode of confidence from Tocchet to throw Joshua out as the extra forward down one with 2:44 remaining. Unfortunately, it was all for not, as the Stars would score an empty-net goal and seal the game’s fate.
Tocchet again pulled Casy DeSmith and sent out the same unit. This time, they were able to set up in the offensive zone, and Joshua assumed the net-front role. 
This is something I’d like the Canucks to go to more often. Joshua’s 6’3 frame and hands around the net seem like the best option for that position, which the Canucks have seemingly refused to try so far this season.
Joshua would go on to play 2:52 of the remaining 3:28 of the game, primarily in that role. 
Dakota Joshua’s return was strong. In 15:47 of ice time, he finished with zero points, a zero plus/minus rating, one shot on goal, and eight hits. He made his physical presence felt and made impactful plays defensively, especially on the penalty kill.
I don’t know about you, but watching the Joshua-Blueger-Garland line again was so entertaining. The chemistry they have is truly unmatched and such an asset for this Canucks team. 
What did you think of Joshua’s return, Canucks fans?

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