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I Watched This Game: Dakota Joshua goes Duck hunting in Canucks win

Dakota Joshua scored two goals to lead the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
The Vancouver Canucks weren't happy with their performance against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, even though they came away with the win.

The Vancouver Canucks may have beaten the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 on Sunday afternoon but they were not thrilled with how they performed.

“It wasn’t a good game,” said J.T. Miller bluntly. “It’s nice to get two points, I guess.”

It wasn’t like the Canucks were horrible. They controlled puck possession against the Ducks and limited them to just 22 shots on goal, doing enough to get the win. At the same time, they were sloppy offensively, got into some scrambles defensively, and came far too close to letting a lesser opponent steal the game away.

“It wasn’t a great performance by our group,” said Dakota Joshua. “You can never — I guess you can be upset after a win and if there was a case, that was probably it.”

The Canucks clinched a playoff berth on Saturday thanks to the San Jose Sharks pulling off an upset over the St. Louis Blues, the only team that could have theoretically caught them in the standings. You have to wonder if knowing that they had officially accomplished one of their goals for the season caused them to lose sight of the day-by-day approach they’ve taken all year.

“It means something,” said Miller about clinching. “It’s part of the goal, but we’re not there yet. Our day-to-day mindset this entire year has been great, that certainly doesn’t change now…We need to focus on the next game more importantly right now and not look ahead. 

“If we play like we did tonight, we’re going to lose most games.”

Perhaps the Canucks didn’t take their opponent seriously enough. The Ducks came into Sunday in 30th place in the NHL after losing 11 of their last 12 games. It might be understandable if the Canucks relaxed a little, anticipating an easier game.

“A lot of turnovers,” said head coach Rick Tocchet. “You can’t turn pucks over, I don’t care who you are. I don’t know if it’s a respect factor. We warned them: [the Ducks] are going to work hard. When you throw a lot of turnovers, that means you don’t respect the opponent. You’ve got to be careful of that.”

Dakota Joshua, top-six forward

While the Canucks as a whole may have underwhelmed, one player certainly stepped up to be a difference-maker: Dakota Joshua, who scored two goals in just his second game back after missing six weeks with an injury, this time skating on a line with J.T. Miller and Conor Garland. 

“He's obviously made a big impact in the games,” said Miller. “We definitely missed him. He kind of does a little bit of everything for us. He's an easy guy to play with, it was fun playing with him today.”

Despite the long layoff, Joshua has stepped back into the Canucks lineup without missing a beat, continuing his excellent season.

“Yogi [Canucks skills coach Yogi Svejkovsky], he does a great job,” said Joshua. “It was definitely skating boot camp…No pucks for a long time, so the feet were moving.”

Beyond the goals, Joshua also led all Canucks forwards in ice time on the penalty kill, playing just shy of four minutes. 

“[Joshua] is a very, very important piece, not just with scoring,” said Garland. “I mean, he’s got 15 goals but it’s a physical presence, he’s a good PK guy, he’s a good wall guy. He makes timely plays…We have to play in crunch time a lot and he makes some big plays. He’s got that personality to make plays in those types of situations.”

What stands out about Joshua is how much he’s grown as a player, both from last season and throughout this season. Last season, he was voted the team’s unsung hero by the fans after doing yeoman’s work in the bottom-six but Tocchet challenged him to take the next step, believing that he could play in a top-six role

“I texted him a few days ago: you’re a top-six player,” said Garland. “After Dallas, you could see it, he’s a top-six forward and he plays like it. There’s not many guys that have his hands and his poise at his size. He’s a great player and he’s going to keep getting better too.”

Joshua definitely played like a top-six forward when I watched this game.

  • Arturs “Arty Party” Silovs got the start against the Ducks and was good enough to earn a second star nod. He didn’t have to make a ton of saves but he came up with some heroics, particularly in the second period when he stopped all 12 shots he faced. With Thatcher Demko expected to be out a little while longer, it seems likely we’re get another Arty Party Starty in the near future.
  • For Easter Sunday, the Canucks resurrected the power play. Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser rolled the stone from the tomb by doing exactly what Rick Tocchet wanted them to do: they got pucks and bodies to the net. Hughes took the initial shot and Boeser tipped it just enough to force Lukas Dostal to kick out a rebound that Boeser backhanded in for the opening goal.
  • “Honestly, it was nice to score, but we were okay,” said Miller about the power play. “The one rep, we couldn’t even get set up. We just need more urgency. I thought we had a couple good looks but we just need more than what we did.”
  • “You’ve got to get those broken plays but we haven’t had many of those,” said Tocchet of Boeser’s goal. “Maybe that ignites us and gets guys excited. You know, I want guys to get excited out there when they have the puck. I don't want them to just hold the puck and just pass it around the perimeter. When you get it and you have an advantage — if, you know, a PK guy runs out of position — that's the exciting time. 

    “The twins were talking to the group the other day, that's when they were most excited: on broken plays. Set plays are good, but they're one-offs. The broken plays are the best because it's a shot, it's a pickup, it's right back, a shot. That's the fun part, I think. We've got to have that mindset. That goal, maybe it will ignite some guys.”
  • Joshua made it 2-0 in the second period with his first power play goal of the season and it was a doozie. Pius Suter moved the puck down low to Joshua and he didn’t hesitate, tucking the puck back between his own legs and going postal on Dostal, firing the puck into the top shelf. It was a gorgeous piece of skill but also practical, as his left leg blocked all attempts to poke the puck off his stick.
  • “You see a lot of people try it,” said Garland of Joshua’s goal. “You don’t see people execute it.”
  • “That was awesome,” said Miller. “I told [Joshua], I've never tried that. it was a heck of a play, big-time play for us.”
  • “That goal was pretty special,” said Tocchet. “It was beautiful.”
  • Garland nearly made it 3-0 not long after on what would have been a much less beautiful goal. He crashed the net on a Noah Juulsen shot and it looked like the puck would surely bounce off his leg and go into the net as his stick was thoroughly tied up. As he crashed into the post in bewilderment that he hadn’t scored, the puck fell out of his pant leg and he could only facepalm like Patrick Stewart.  
  • “It went in my pants,” said Garland, shaking his head. “I didn’t know where it went. I thought it was going to hit my pants and it just kind of snuck up my leg. Some years, those go in, some years they don’t. This is one of those years.”
  • There were some just plain awful penalty calls in this game, which has become de rigueur for the Canucks. A late tripping penalty on Noah Juulsen drew the most ire from Canucks fans in Rogers Arena but the one that really boiled my buttons was this hooking penalty on Carson Soucy, where he got two minutes for tying up Jakob Silfverberg’s stick in front of the net — in other words, playing defence.
  • The Ducks finally solved Silovs in the third period, as Olen Zellweger scored his first career goal with an unexpected — and perfectly-placed — shot from a bad angle. The Ducks rookie defenceman jumped up the left wing and ripped the puck into the top corner on the short side just as Filip Hronek cut in front of Silovs.
  • “​​I was sort of screened and then the shot came in and I didn't manage to put my head in that short side corner,” said Silovs.
  • Just over a minute later, the Ducks tied the game. Miller was on Mason McTavish as Gustav Lindstrom cut around the net, but Miller got caught puck-watching, leaving McTavish open at the backdoor. Perhaps Miller thought he was switching checks with Garland, but Garland didn’t get the memo and failed to tied up McTavish’s stick, giving the Ducks centre an open net finish after Lindstrom’s wraparound came to him. 
  • The Canucks risked letting this game get away from them, but Garland, Miller, and Joshua wouldn’t let that happen. Miller won a race to the puck on the boards and threw it down low to Garland. With both Cam Fowler and Zellweger chasing him below the goal line, Garland knew he had a man open in front and sent a slick spinning backhand pass to Joshua, who bulged the net like Jesus had asked him to throw it on the other side of the boat.  
  • “That’s how you get the majority of assists: you beat one guy with your feet, the other guy with the pass,” said Garland. “That’s as easy a play as there is.”

    “I had a lot of chances today, so thank god Dak buried for me,” added Garland. “I missed a breakaway, I missed my backhander by about six inches, I thought it was going to go in. But they’ll go in eventually.”
  • This was pointed out by a Bulie on Twitter: Garland and Joshua were the Good Job Boys when they were with Teddy Blueger, taking an initial from each of their last names; now that they’re with Miller, they’ve become the Good Job Men.  
  • As the final horn sounded, Mason McTavish added to his penalty minutes, earning a slashing penalty for jabbing at Silovs’ glove after he covered the puck, then a roughing penalty for punching Hronek. He’s lucky not to get more: if the officials had instead called it a fighting major — after all, he dropped his gloves to punch Hronek — and added a well-deserved instigator penalty, McTavish would be looking at an automatic one-game suspension for instigating in the final five minutes of a game.
  • It’s notable that all three Canucks goals were scored right on top of the crease. Tocchet has emphasized the need to get both pucks and bodies to the net, particularly on the power play, so it was nice to see the Canucks getting goals from the so-called dirty areas of the ice.
  • “You’re gonna have ice bags after a game,” said Tocchet. “If you want to score a goal, you’ve got to have ice bags. If you don’t have ice bags — I’m not saying you have to have ice bags every game — but it’s hard to play that style, but you’re going to get rewarded. Especially in April: that’s when you get rewarded.”