By: Brayden Fengler / November 6, 2021
Thatcher Demko has been near lights out for the Canucks so far this season. Up until the game against the New York Rangers where he had his amazing gloveless sequence, It may not have donned on this fan base, as to how good Demko really has been.
Demko is now in the first full year since signing his new five year $5M AAV deal last season, and so far he has shown that the Canucks are getting full value from him. Demko has played a total of 72 NHL games ahead of this season and since this year’s schedule is once again at a full 82 games, he’s bound to make his number of games played quite a bit bigger.
Demko has had a relatively small sample size of games across 4 seasons under this NHL club. So ahead of this season there were some concerns, even from us, about how sustainable he would be over the course of a full regular season. Although it’s too early to make a final call on that. So far the 25-year-old goalie has given onlookers no reason to think he won’t be anything less than reliable all year round. The question is, how much help will he get from his team.
Demko’s Numbers Back Him Up
The Canucks currently sit in the basement of the Pacific Division, sitting tied for deadlast with the shiny new Seattle Kraken. Make no mistake though, Vancouver’s current spot in the standings is in no way the fault of their 25-year-old goaltender.
Demko has a significantly better save percentage than his basement colleague, as Seattle’s Philipp Grubaier sits with a shocking .897% after nine games played. Demko however sits with a 937% save percentage. A score that puts him 3rd in the league in this category, among goaltenders who have played 9 games like himself.
Unlike another star player on the Canucks, Elias Pettersson, who we and many others have remarked as looking shaky, nervous, and unsure of his moves, Thatcher Demko looks nothing of the sort. He has been an absolute force in the net front. Demko has been tracking the puck well, controlling his rebounds and suffocating secondary chances for the opposing teams.
Demko has excelled not just in five-on-five play, but he has also been a wall on the penalty kill, and even the powerplay… bailing out his team on a regular basis. After last night’s game Demko has saved 13 out of 13 short handed shot attempts. Keeping his team in the games, while they’re on the man advantage and should be getting shots going in the other direction.
Demko sits at the top of the league in this category, no other team has let their goalie face as many shots while having a man advantage as the Canucks have. The Canucks need special teams that don’t require their goalie to bail them out quite as much, but at least when Demko is being asked to do just that, the definitive starter has been phenomenal.
How Strong is Demko’s Safety Net?
The Canucks have played 11 games so far this season and for nine of those starts, Thatcher Demko has been between the pipes. For the other two outings, it has been the new veteran backup Jaroslav Halak. Unfortunately for Halak, those two ice times have not gone his way, he’s 0-2 so far this season, allowing four goals on 48 shots against.
Goalies can have cold streaks that last half a dozen, or heck even a dozen games before they bounce back into form, but at 36 years old perhaps Halak doesn’t have a useful form to bounce back into.
Halak’s slow start has put even more pressure on Demko. Although Braden Holtby had his struggles last season, he was able to grind out seven wins for the Canucks through 18 ventures, and at least somewhat contribute to an otherwise troubled Canucks season.
Halak could be that for Demko, it’s too early to completely write him off, but if early signs are an indicator, then Demko better stay healthy if this team has any chance of going the distance. What was maybe thought to be a 70/30 split between the starting goaltender role, may turn into more of 80/20 split or higher, which will no doubt be asking a lot from Demko.
Having an unreliable backup is not a reliable strategy in today’s NHL. In the world of load management and the first full 82 game season in over two full years, it’s a ticking time bomb to let Demko carry too much of the workload. This is not to say that Travis Green and Ian Clark will ride Demko into the ground, but if Halak doesn’t show some improvement, there may be times when they don’t really have a choice.
A Foundation for the Future
It seems like only yesterday that the fate of this goaltender was hanging in the balance, as it looked as though his time with famed goaltending coach Ian Clark was nearing its end. However thankfully as doubtful as it seemed, Ian Clark did re-sign with the Canucks and has been able to continue to help shape Vancouver’s goaltending. Which of course includes Thatcher Demko at the forefront.
It’s essential that Ian Clark is around to maximize the potential of Thatcher Demko who was poised, even despite Halak’s slow start, to be the undeniable starter for the Vancouver Canucks this year. Excluding playoffs, Demko played just over 60 games in the last two seasons with the Canucks, so this year will undoubtedly be his highest deployed season yet.
It’s thankful that the Canucks didn’t force Ian Clark out of the picture, and leave Demko to learn a new coaches system on the eve of his biggest season. The pressure this team is under to be good this year is already high, and for Demko, that pressure is surely amplified. A dominant starting goalie, a mature backup goaltender and a supposedly revamped forward group should put this team on track for greater things. But for now, it seems as though Demko has been the only part of the equations that’s been pulling their weight.
Step It Up Canucks
It’s really now up to the rest of the team. The offence is not clicking, the defence has holes and the only thing keeping this team from losing all hope is the superstar that they’re able to ice between the pipes night after night.
4 out of the 6 losses that this team has been dealt have been essentially prescribed after the 1st period, meaning that 4 of the losses occurred after the team was trailing by the end of the 1st period. This team is struggling to change the tide of games, and a lot of the responsibility of holding the ship steady has to this point unfairly fallen on the shoulders of Thatcher Demko. That needs to change.
If you’re a Canucks fan that wants to feel good about something, The best thing that fits that bill right now, is Thatcher Demko.