They’ve had a plan all summer. They’ve been counting the days. The feisty Canucks line of Bo Horvat centering Conor Garland and Vasily Podkolzin, regardless of which wing the latter two play on, is likely to start the season as the Canucks most effective. And that’s irregardless of the hand injury to Brock Boeser that will keep that likely top-line winger out of the line-up for a month.
Not a bad problem to have, the supposed ‘third-line’ creating fits for the opposition while the other two present problems of their own.
“Me and Bo talked in the summer, if we got a chance to play together, what we’d do,” Garland said postgame Sunday. “That’s something I talked about last season, having a full summer to talk to guys like that and that’s been awesome, so now ‘Pods’ as well. Just talking about angles and plays, where soft spots are and stuff, and when you have chemistry with guys, and I feel I do with Bo right now, sometimes you don’t have to look, it’s an easy game. His strength, he’s such a powerful player, he’s two-way, wins a lot of offensive zone draws, and as wingers you love playing with centres that win a lot of draws.”
Garland, a right shot, spent most of training camp on the left side. Podkolzin, a lefty, just the opposite. On Sunday night in the 3-2 OT loss against the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena, they mostly played their natural sides.
“The game moves so fast, you come back to the D-zone, whatever side you’re on you just go to, so if you’re comfortable on both walls then it’s easy, it make you a more versatile player,” Garland said up in Whistler on Saturday. “Then in the O-zone you’re really moving around quite a bit, me and Bo have spots we like to be in, same for ‘Pods’, we like to be down low too, so it’s not really a concern, whatever side we start off on for the face-off is the side we’re on.”
Garland assisted on Podkolzin’s third period goal that put the Canucks on the board and then scored the goal that tied the game with 91-seconds remaining to force overtime. The line accounted for ten shots on goal and Horvat won half of his 34 face-offs. They all played north of 20-minutes with Horvat topping out at 24:20.
“I love it, yeah, I love it,” Horvat said Saturday referring to the line. “Obviously Garlie’s a great playmaker and he plays with a chip on his shoulder, I’m sure you saw that in the scrimmages, and obviously Pods, I can’t say enough good things about Pods, he plays with strength for such a young kid, really likes to get on the forecheck and strip pucks, and those are two great players to play with and I’m excited about it.”
The 21-year-old Russian Podkolzin brings some jam to his game to go with his offensive skill. The veterans have spoken of his upside repeatedly. His goal Sunday involved juking a defender and going strong to the net.
The undersized Garland – Horvat mentioned his chip – plays with the same singular focus and competitive intensity that we see from J.T. Miller. That, combined with his and the line’s communication skills, and Canucks fans are likely looking at the most cohesive unit.
“Just a lot of dialogue, Bo and I are two guys that like to talk on the bench, ‘Pods’, the language barrier is not as bad, this year he’s really done a great job with English, it’s awesome to see and he’s easy to talk to this year,” Garland said Saturday after a scrimmage in Whistler. “It’ll be nice to play with those guys again for preseason and see where it takes us.”