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Vancouver Canucks 3 stars of the week: Finally, Nils Höglander jumps up the lineup and fits right in

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Hall
6 months ago
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster over the last few weeks.
At times, gauging the true potential of this group has been challenging, and we were handed a firsthand glimpse of how bad things can truly be in the opening frame against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Canucks have shown a knack for piling up the goals and playing like a team poised to make a deep playoff push, leading the league in goals (107).
The challenge lies in predicting which version of the team will show up on any given night.
However, with two out of three wins over the week, the Vancouver Canucks find themselves nine games above .500.
More importantly, their 18-9-1 record keeps them sitting second in the Pacific Division, gaining valuable cushion points over lower-tiered divisional rivals.
The Calgary Flames have dropped three of four, while the Seattle Kraken find themselves on a dreaded six-game losing streak.
The Edmonton Oilers are red hot, catapulting their way up the standings, but this is why strong starts are so imperative — the Canucks now have wiggle room.
This past week brought forth some interesting storylines.
The Hughes(s) bowl saw all three brothers on an NHL surface in one game, with each, of course, recording points — six combined.
We also witnessed major line combination shake-ups within the forward group.
Andrei Kuzmenko, struggling to fit into Rick Tocchet’s system, was dropped to the fourth line.
Meanwhile, Nils Höglander received a well-deserved promotion to the team’s second line, and Sam Lafferty continued his strong performance, sliding alongside Elias Pettersson and Ilya Mikheyev.
With that, let’s dive into this week’s three stars.

Third Star: Sam Lafferty

Jake Guentzel & Sidney Crosby.
Leon Draisaitl & Connor McDavid.
Nikita Kucherov & Brayden Point.
Sam Lafferty & Elias Pettersson?
It’s not your prototypical first-line pairing that you’d imagine, and honestly, it may not even be a sustainable option.
However, for now, Sam Lafferty on the top line with Pettersson and Ilya Mikheyev has worked.
He brings a nice mix of speed and grit to the trio, which enables a skilled player such as Pettersson to work his magic, as we saw on Saturday evening.
“He’s really helped Petey,” said head xoach Rick Tocchet.”Being that fast forechecker, he’s relishing that role right now, and hopefully he can stay there.”
He brought two goals and three points to the table this week and his usual truculence, finishing second on the team with 12 hits.
“That’s a power forward type of goal. You have to have those types of goals to win”.
With 15 points on the year, he’s now just 12 shy of his career-high of 27, which he set in 70 games last season. He sits seventh team-wide, and his plus-15 leads the entire forward group.
Does anyone miss that fifth-round pick?

Second Star: Elias Pettersson

Over the last few weeks, Elias Pettersson has faced challenges in putting together notable performances, despite continuing to collect points sporadically along the way.
However, this week, and more specifically, on Saturday night, he broke out and played a significant role in the Canucks’ 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Not only did he score the eventual game-winning goal, but he also delivered two primary assists and finished with a plus-3 rating in just under 20 minutes of ice time.
Throughout the week, he led the charge with five points, fired nine shots on goal, and ranked second on the team with six blocked shots.
Despite sitting fourth in overall points (37), this week felt like the first time in a while that we truly got to see him shine on the ice.

First star: Nils Höglander

For weeks, it felt as if Höglander was the ultimate unsung hero of the NHL. Playing minimal — and I mean minimal — ice time, but contributing better than most while working his tail off to get the credit he deserves.
This week, he finally got that chance.
Playing on the second line, he hit 15-plus minutes of ice time for the first time this year and continued to play his brand of hockey, winning over the hearts of Canuck faithful along the way.
He contributed two goals, including the eventual game-winner against Minnesota, and added an assist over the week.
Additionally, he scored the late game-tying goal, although they would eventually concede an even later goal, resulting in a 6-5 loss.
Under the hood, he led the entire group at 5v5 Corsi (46.38%), which isn’t saying much in the grand scheme of things, but he led the team, nonetheless.
He even managed to pick up some much-deserved time on the power play, which felt like a long time coming.
All in all, he has drunk the Tocchet Kool-Aid and has worked his way up the hard way — or, shall we say, the Hög way.
He grinds, he flashes, and he’s been a beaming member of this Canucks forward group, incognito at times, all season long.
This upcoming week will feature four games for the Canucks, including a back-to-back over the weekend and a pit stop in Chicago to face off against Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time this season.
See you next week!
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