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Demko’s Rapid Evolution From Back-Up to Clear-Cut Starter

Trent Leith / March 17, 2021  

On Monday night Thatcher Demko made 44 saves against the Ottawa Senators to allow his team to collect their sixth win in eight games. Demko has been absolutely unstoppable in the month of March and has slipped right into Jacob Markstrom’s old spot perfectly. Demko has been incredibly reliable, and that’s something the Vancouver Canucks need if they’re going to be successful. 

Bubble Bubly Demko’s Emergence 

It has been widely reported what Demko was capable of in relief of Markstrom in his four playoff games last post-season. Demko posed an absolutely jaw-dropping 0.985 sv% and a 0.64 GAA. During the playoffs though, many fans and media members alike were concerned about Demko’s ability to replicate such strong goaltending over the course of a full season. They were also skeptical about the Canucks putting all their eggs in his basket after such a small sample size of games as Markstrom was primed to leave in free agency. In the 2019/20 regular season, Demko put up a much more average 0.905 sv% and 3.05 GGA, so would four more games in the playoff really be enough to put faith in him as a starter? It would appear as so with hindsight.

The Canucks, and by extension Demko, had a rough January, a brutal February and are now finding their footing in March. From the start of the season to March 1st, Demko had put up an underwhelming 0.901 sv% and 3.28 GAA, Since March 1st, Demko has 0.953 sv% and 1.69 GAA in 7 games.

Demko seems to have taken the step from a good backup goaltender to a bonafide starter this season, as he’s helped his team to some otherwise undeserving wins. With that, it is now more clear than ever, that the Canucks need very strong goaltending to be competitive. 

A Well-Timed Breakout Year

Thatcher Demko could not have timed his own breakout any better, as he is about to be a pending RFA who is offer sheet eligible. While he does have to compete with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes for what little cap space may be available in the off-season, he is primed to get a healthy raise, since he is shaping up to be the team MVP.

With Demko being the true Starter for the Canucks, if his new contract comes in at less than Braden Holtby’s, that may be a problem optically. How do you sell a starting goaltender on the idea that the back-up is getting paid more for his services? I expect that hurdle to be a small one, however, the limited space in this flat cap era with two other superstar players needing a contract will prove to be a more difficult hurdle to clear. 

Moving Forward 

Looking ahead, the Canucks only have two sets of back-to-back games, and a week off at the end of the month of March. The Canucks are likely going to ride Demko until the wheels fall off, to try and stay in the playoff race, Demko could easily be leaned on to play at least 18 of the remaining 23 games if he stays healthy and sharp as he has, which will do him wonders for his contract negotiations. 

We are watching Bubble Demko, a young goalie trying to show he has what it takes, evolve into Bubly Demko, a superstar who has taken the reins and made the Canucks a better team than they should be this season, right before our very eyes.