Vancouver Canucks’ 3 stars of the week: J.T Miller continues to shine
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Dave Hall1 month ago
Welcome back to CanucksArmy’s 3 stars of the week brought to you by Finning!
What a difference a week can make…
Oh, no, this isn’t a repeat of last week’s article, but let’s be honest, the vibes surrounding this team are comparable to the weather here on the West Coast.
Don’t like it? Wait five minutes.
After a disappointing showing in Philadelphia and consecutive losses in our last installment, the Vancouver Canucks bounced back, earning five out of a possible six points this week.
They now boast a 5-2-1 record, placing them second in the Pacific Division after eight games.
And just like that, the vibes are good again.
There are many areas in the Canucks’ game that offer tons of promise, and feel night and day from last season.
Whether it’s goaltending, from both a health and consistency standpoint, special teams, or production from the blue line, the team has made substantial strides.
It just feels like a brand-new team right now. Am I wrong?
Choosing the stars for this week has been a challenging task.
Once again, both goaltenders performed admirably, the top-six forward group continues to excel and pile on points, and the defensive pair of Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek are making a name as one of the premier duos in the league.
Thatcher Demko, who received last week’s first star, put up two wins and a shutout, to boot. It’s incredibly encouraging to have him back into form, and if this continues, the Canucks certainly have a strong chance to make something happen this season.
Ultimately, Demko would only face 40 shots between his two starts, so while his shutout is certainly worth an honorable mention, he falls just short of a star selection this week.
Elias Pettersson continues to rack ’em’ up, grabbing three assists over the week and sits tied for third league-wide with 13 in total. Even when he’s not performing great, he’s still managing to muster up points.
Finally, there is Nils Höglander.
I can’t lie, I struggled to fight the urge to have him as a star this week.
It felt like this week was his coming out party.
Over three games, he scored a game-winning goal, fired five shots on net, drew two penalties, had three takeaways, and was named the third star in Tuesday’s game against Nashville.
This, despite skating just 29:22 – a team low – over the entire week.
Furthermore, his Corsi For percentage (CF%) at 5v5 for two of his games looked as follows:
- Tuesday: 76.47% (second on the team)
- Friday: 82.35% (second among forwards)
Before the season started, head coach Rick Tocchet had mentioned hearing whispers of Höglander being a “buzzsaw”, which insinuated that he hadn’t seen it for himself.
Well, this week, perhaps he finally got to see what he was looking for this entire time.
Okay, I digress.
Let’s dive into these 3 stars.
Third star: Filip Hronek
Before the season began, most had pencilled Filip Hronek to be the go-to option for the club’s second defensive pairing in hopes of a more rounded defensive corps.
I was no exception, and I think nearly everyone shared this sentiment, except for our Editor-in-Chief, David Quadrelli — way to go, Quads.
Instead, Hronek has been paired with Quinn Hughes for most of the season, and boy, have they been effective.
As a unit, they are running a 58.94% (CF%), which ranks sixth among duos with 70-minutes (or more) together.
This week, Hronek grabbed a team-leading – shared with J.T Miller – four points, three of which were primary helpers.
Additionally, he registered at least one point in all three matches, which included a two-point night on Saturday.
He has inserted himself as a huge piece to this team’s success and is eating up minutes each game.
This week, he sat second in ice time with 71:12 minutes, trailing his d-partner (Hughes) by just 36 seconds.
In that time, he finished fifth on the team with a CF% of 69.05% and was a plus-four on the week.
After trading away a significant package for him last season, it’s nice to see the asset living up to his value, and becoming a workhorse and a key cog to this team’s blueline.
Second star: Quinn Hughes
How could Quinn Hughes not be a star at this point?
It’s not often you get to place both members of a defensive unit in your 3-star selection, and yet, here we are.
Although he didn’t register a point on Saturday, Hughes scored a pair of goals – including the GWG in a 5-0 win – on Friday night and accumulated three points over the week.
He was a workhorse, leading the team in ice time (71:48) and unleashed a team-high 10 shots on net.
At this point, his statistics are usually just half, if not less, of Quinn’s story.
His ability to throw the team on his shoulders and change the course of a game is nearly unmatched.
Every so often, he takes shifts where he circles the ice and refuses to quit moving, and you can almost sense an incredible moment taking place.
Despite being matched up against the league’s top opposition each night, Hughes leads the league in plus/minus with a plus-10 rating and sits fifth among defenders with 150 minutes (or more) of ice time with a CF% of 60.73%.
He may not get the credit that he deserves among the rest of the league, but that’s just fine.
We don’t mind a Quinn Hughes with a chip on his shoulder.
First star: J.T Miller
J.T. Miller has faced his fair share of criticism in this market, but when you take in his competitiveness and all-around contributions, it’s hard to deny that he has been this forward group’s backbone.
He has been one of the team’s most consistent players in every game so far, with a bullet.
Miller grabbed two goals and two assists over the week, which included both a shorthanded and power play tally.
With three points, he was a huge factor in a 5-0 dismantling over the St. Louis Blues and what’s interesting about Miller, is that it appears the bigger the game, the more he contributes.
Saturday night’s match against the New York Rangers was a thrilling back-and-fourth circus.
The Canucks had a difficult time finding a solution to Igor Shesterkin and were stymied for more than half of the game.
Cue the big-time J.T. Miller moment.
With just over four minutes remaining in the second period, the 30-year-old made a fantastic deflection to ignite his team and get them on the scoreboard to kick-start the madness that would ensue.
He not only finished the game with the highest CF% at 5v5 (shared with Phillip Di Giuseppe) on the Canucks, but finished tops among all skaters with an impressive 81.25%.
This season, Miller leads the team with 23 hits, ranks second in points (12), third with 18 shots, and leads the forward group in average ice time with 21:21.
He consistently collects points, carries heavy minutes in all situations, and wears his heart on his sleeve night in and night out.
Right now, J.T Miller is this team.
The Canucks play one more game on this home stand, where they host the Nashville Predators on Halloween (Tuesday) at 7PM.
See you next week, folks.
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