The Vancouver Canucks are first in the NHL at the end of December, just like how we all drew it up, right?
Even though the Canucks lost to the Dallas Stars in overtime on Thursday night, picking up the single point was enough to vault them to the top of the league. By doing so, they leapfrogged the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, who were also at the top of the Western Conference by extension. Per NHL PR, this is the latest into a season that the Canucks have been in first place since they won the Presidents' Trophy back in the 2011-12 season.
Although the Canucks are technically third in the league on points percentage because of other teams' games in hand, there's still plenty more to talk about.
Noah Juulsen had a plus-1 rating against the Stars on Thursday, which means that the Canucks now do not have even a single player with a negative rating. Even Andrei Kuzmenko, for all his defensive struggles and whatnot, is a plus-2. On the other hand, he can't be on the ice for goals against when he's watching from the press box. That is neither here nor there.
The Vancouver Canucks will face the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, which wraps up a stretch of 23 games in 45 days. After the upcoming break, they'll have 23 games in 59 nights, which effectively sprinkles in an extra two weeks of rest across the early portion of the season's second half.
This will be particularly important down the stretch, as the Canucks continue to balance the workload in goal between Thatcher Demko and Casey DeSmith. Evolving Hockey had them as the top goaltending tandem in the league as of Thursday, with a goals saved above expected of 26.1. If the Canucks want to carry this magical run into the postseason, it starts with those two guys.