Vancouver Canucks’ 3 stars of the week: Conor Garland stays hot, Nils Höglander jumps up, and Noah Juulsen remains steady

Photo credit:© Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Hall
1 month ago
We are in mid-February, and already, the Vancouver Canucks have officially hit the 80-point plateau in their season.
This achievement places them just three points shy of their entire 2022-23 total, but 26 games ahead of schedule.
Their performance this season has been nothing short of exceptional, as they are on track to achieve their first 100-point season since the 2014-15 campaign.
Incredibly, the Canucks have only suffered three regulation losses in the calendar year.
In addition to leading the entire league, they have carved out a very healthy lead within their division, leading the Pacific with a commanding 12-point gap over the second-place Vegas Golden Knights.
As we review our three stars of the week, it’s clear that while goals may have been scarce, we saw several players who put forward some strong performances, especially once we look under the hood.
Although he didn’t secure a spot among the stars, we want to recognize Elias Lindholm, who collected two goals in his Rogers Arena debut, with an honourable mention.

Third star: Noah Juulsen

Maybe David Quadrelli threatened my position here at CanucksArmy if I didn’t mention this player, or maybe he didn’t.
Regardless, it’s time to put some respect on Noah Juulsen’s name.
The 26-year-old has emerged as one of the Canucks’ most effective defenders over the last stretch of games, and despite a couple of tough shifts on Saturday, that trend continued throughout this week.
Particularly against Detroit, his advanced statistics were quite impressive, ranking second in expected goals for xGF (0.77), third in CF% (70.83), and fourth in xGF% (66.13). Those numbers are team-wide, by the way.
Before Saturday, he hadn’t been on the ice for a goal against over their first two games of the week and held a 17-9 scoring chance advantage.
Beyond the advanced statistics, Juulsen showcased some strong defensive acumen with effective stick work, blocked shots, strong positioning, and simple and effective plays to put an end to offensive pressure. Heck, he even showed off some fancy offence with a nifty slap pass.
Okay, so his game took a bit of a dive on Saturday.
If we’re being honest, though, he wasn’t the only one and even with his worst defensive effort of the week, he still managed to stick out by scoring his first goal since November 5th, 2018.
Juulsen was quick to throw himself under the bus in the 4-2 loss to the Jets on Saturday.
“The third one I went for the hit, and it ended up in the back of our net, and the fourth one was on me as well. That game’s a loss because of me.”
While the self-reflection is admirable, that’s probably being a little too critical.
Look, should he have committed to the big hit to take himself out of the play? Maybe not.
Did he look a little weak and get walked at his own blueline to give up the insurance goal? He sure did.
But it’s hockey and things happen quickly.
First, it’s hard to punch down on his decision to take the body, when in reality, he probably should have received some support from his teammates. Second, many have failed to acknowledge the collision between Elias-squared at centre ice, directly leading to a lack of coverage to pick up the trailing forward and eventual goalscorer.
It’s easy to point fingers toward a single player, but in reality, he was far from the only issue in this match.
With the exception of these two plays, Juulsen continues to be quite the comeback story.
He finished the week leading the team in blocked shots (6) and finished second in hits (9).

Second star: Nils Höglander

The Nils Höglander revenge tour continues to captivate the city, earning the hearts of most within the Canuck community.
Even head coach Rick Tocchet has jumped on board and, after months of grinding down on the team’s bottom-six, provided the Swedish waterbug with an elevated role filling in a line alongside Elias Lindholm and Elias Pettersson.
Garland was also rewarded with a much-deserved spot on the team’s secondary power play unit — a move fans had been clamouring for for weeks.
He did not disappoint.
When all was said and done, he finished second on the team in CF% (66.67%) with a weekly high of 75% against the Blackhawks, and had a high-danger scoring differential of 11-6. He registered eight shots on goal (third highest) and drew two penalties, to go along with a goal and an assist.
With 24 points on the season, he’s now just three points shy of his memorable rookie campaign and is already well above his previous career-high in goals, with 17 this year.
Keep in mind, he’s doing all of this averaging three fewer minutes per game compared to his rookie year (11:12 compared to 15:27).
He’s like a dog on a bone, and his ability to win battles, agitate opponents and grind for pucks is simply unmatched.
“He fits that bill of being nasty, he’s in the corners, and he’s taking the puck to the net,” Rick Tocchet said after a strong game against Detroit. “If he can stay with that and not get too fancy, he can really climb the ladder.”
Despite a less-than-stellar game on Saturday, the newly formed Swedish trio (Lindholm, Pettersson, and Höglander) showcased a couple of strong performances in their initial two games as a trio.
Their performance against the Red Wings was particularly noteworthy. They led all forward lines in CF% (71.43), SF% (72.73), and SCF% (70.00). While their line did finish third in xGF% (62.10) on the team, they were the team’s top contributing line with an 8-3 scoring chance differential, scoring three goals without conceding any.
His wallet may have finished the week $2,864.58 lighter due to a high-sticking call that earned him a small fine. However, overall, it was a strong week for the Swede.

First star: Conor Garland

Conor Garland continues to shine on the Canucks’ third line, consistently driving play, winning battles, and contributing offensively.
This week, he wasted no time making an impact, scoring the team’s first two goals in Chicago.
This match was particularly dominant for Garland, leading the team in both xGF% (88.40) and CF% (75.00). Additionally, he contributed to a 13-5 scoring chance differential and a 7-2 high-danger chance differential.
He continues to anchor one of the league’s best third lines—assuming we’re still calling it that—alongside linemates Dakota Joshua and Teddy Blueger. And in Chicago, they showed no signs of slowing down, contributing three of the team’s four goals en route to a 4-2 victory.
This trio has now accumulated 60 points over their last 30 games and continues to be one of the team’s many incredible storylines of the season.
Admittedly, Dakota Joshua was well on his way to a star nomination, however, his week was cut short after dropping the gloves in defence of his teammates.
Garland expressed his appreciation for Joshua’s sacrifice.
“I owe Dak [Dakota Joshua] a dinner tonight. That’s unbelievable right there. That shows how tight this team is, the character we have in our room to do that.”
As expected, with Joshua sidelined, the chemistry of the third line suffered. With his absence, the line was given Ilya Mikheyev, who didn’t quite match the same synergy. Nonetheless, Garland ended the week on a high note with an entry assist, setting up Noah Juulsen’s goal and continued to track positive scores in the Corsi department.
Garland finished fourth among Canucks skaters in xGF% (74.19) and sixth among forward in CF% (62.20) and had a 28-16 scoring chance differential. Additionally, he led the team in shots with 10 and tied for the lead in points with two goals and an assist over the week.
The Canucks will head to Minnesota to take on the Wild in a Family Day matinée (11:00 am, pacific time), kicking off a four-game stretch over six nights.
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