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Vancouver Canucks’ 3 stars of the week: Nils Höglander scores in back-to-back games

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Hall
3 months ago
Before this week, it had been nearly one month since the Vancouver Canucks last suffered back-to-back losses.
Maybe they finally experienced a crash following all the recent highs the club has seen over the past few weeks, or perhaps they were simply worn down from the back-to-back game schedule.
Whatever it was, the Canucks appeared tired and somewhat sluggish all week.
The good news is that their 12-5-1 record continues to hold for a share of second place league-wide. Yet, it is still humbling to see defeats against two teams currently sitting on the wrong side of .500 hockey.
But hey, it’s an 82-game season, and there are bound to be hiccups along the way.
Reflecting on the week, we were blessed with a few great storylines.
We saw Bo Horvat return to Rogers Arena, a youngster getting his first taste of NHL hockey on his birthday, and finally, one of the league’s strongest chins.
Tuesday saw the Canucks host the New York Islanders, which, of course, meant the return of former captain, Bo Horvat.
His return saw a little bit of everything. He heard boos, he heard cheers, he scored a goal, and he also left Quinn Hughes all alone to secure the overtime victory. 
From a Canucks perspective, it was the perfect way to welcome him back.
In that same game, Andrei Kuzmenko fell victim to an errant J.T. Miller shot, which caught him up high, striking him directly in the jaw.
While the initial optics looked grim, the always-smiling Russian bounced right back, missing just one game before reverting to his usual self for the next match.
How can you not enjoy this guy?
 
For the simple fact that he returned to the lineup in the same week, he, and his rock-hard chin, are getting this week’s honourable mention.
Next, the Canucks would head to Calgary for the back half of their doubleheader.
With Kuzmenko unavailable, Linus Karlsson was brought up from the Abbotsford Canucks for his first taste of NHL action.
On his 24th birthday, nonetheless. 
He skated just 11:54 in the game, but did not look out of place, and even grabbed three shots and a plus-one rating. 
It’s always promising to see new faces hop in and fit in seamlessly at the NHL level. As a reminder for those who forgot, that’s what depth looks like, folks.
Looking toward our 3-star selections, this is the first week of the year that we were able to look a little deeper. For weeks, the club’s stars have been producing at insane rates, and essentially forcing our hands in selecting them for a nomination. 
What else are you supposed to do when Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson drop seven points apiece over three games?
But this week, we direct a little more attention to the little things. You know, the other stats that contribute to team success. Whether it’s gutsy efforts, blocked shots, hits, or any of those peripherals — we finally have some wiggle room.
Let’s take a look.

Third star: Dakota Joshua

This week, Dakota Joshua did not contribute anything on the scoresheet in terms of points. However, despite the losses, Joshua stayed true to the game that he was brought here to play.
He was using his body effectively and doing his part to instill some life into a sleepy squad.
Heck, he was even getting Raffi Torres praise from fans throughout the week, thanks to his physical presence — in this case, it was a term of endearment.
 
Let’s take a look at his ledger and see how he stacked up among the rest of his team in a few areas:
This week, he drew two penalties (tied-first), had three takeaways (third), and 11 hits (first), while also carrying a 55.56 CF% (fifth), and a 62.75 xGF%, all while skating just 37:40 over the week.
For weeks, the Canucks’ bottom-six has been knocking on the door of the three-star selection, and here it is.

Second star:  J.T. Miller

Even on weeks when we wanted to give the bottom half its props, it’s hard to deviate from J.T. Miller these days.
As we have highlighted for a few installments now, he continues to bring consistency to this lineup and has yet to pull any stunts that would take away from the team’s outcome – which hasn’t always been the case in previous seasons.
He’s contributing, but also leading by example both on and off the ice right now. It’s refreshing to see.
He led the charge again this week – alongside Quinn Hughes – contributing five points. This included two goals and three primary assists.
He now has points in seven consecutive games and continues to share the lead in scoring alongside Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes with 28 points.

First star: Nils Höglander

Nils Höglander is finally receiving the credit he deserves, not only within this column but also from the entire fan base and even the head coach.
Early in the season, we heard Rick Tocchet say, “I’ve heard he’s a buzz saw.” Well, his game hasn’t been perfect, but so far, he’s been just that this season.
Despite limited ice time, he has been making his presence felt on the ice and consistently stands out in nearly every shift he’s involved in.
He’s winning board battles, hounding pucks and building up his team with copious amounts of energy whenever he hits the ice.
This week, he scored in back-to-back games, and in both instances, he earned late third-period ice time.
On Saturday, following his late goal, he was even left on the ice to skate alongside the team’s superstars in search of a late-period hero.
It’s a subtle reward for playing the way he has as of late.
Höglander embodies a story that truly resonates with fans — the tale of a player who faced adversity, but persisted with hard work, and gradually earned the trust of his coach. 
With the team in need of a quick turnaround, perhaps a promotion to the top six is in order.
I suppose we will see on Monday when the Canucks host the San Jose Sharks for the perfect opportunity to rebound from their recent slump.
With four games on the slate next week, the three-star selection will have tons to work with come next Sunday.
See you next week!
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