After the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 win over Montreal, one fact became clear. Thatcher Demko is the clear first choice in net. His eight straight starts are an indicator that his form is paying off. Particularly as he has won seven of those starts. While Vancouver is in the process of patching this season together, Demko has been a ray of light. This franchise has never handled goalie situations well. Remember the horrific ending of the Cory Schneider/Roberto Luongo fiasco? Then its terrible sequel: Luongo/Eddie Lack! Well, it appears we have another contender in our midst.
Canucks fans howled when Jacob Markstrom was signed by rivals Calgary. An All-Star stopper had departed and in came Braden Holtby. Yes, about that one…this was supposed to be a bounce-back year for an elite goalie. Holtby began life as the assumed number one, but due to his questionable form, he’s never made more than two consecutive starts. Demko has played himself into contention and the results are showing for themselves. Now once again, an established stopper is warming the bench.
The 2020 Playoffs
Demko caught our attention with his show-stopping form in the 2020 playoffs. Despite making only 4 appearances he was elite against a red-hot Vegas team. His microscopic 0.64 GAA and 123 saves from a possible 125 were mindblowing. It quickly became apparent that their backup was something else entirely. On Friday night, he was in stonewalling form and a clear message has been sent to his subordinate. “You wanna be number one? Come and get it!”
However, Holtby’s glory days are long gone. The undisputed number 1 for eight seasons in D.C, things are very different in Vancouver. Warning signs appeared during his substandard 2019-20 season. His 4-6-1 record isn’t the rebound year he was looking for. A career-low 3.56 GAA suggests another Vezina is unlikely. Intended as the cornerstone signing, this kind of form refutes the Capitals concerns about re-signing him,
While one formerly elite talent is struggling, his counterpart is making the crease his own. Demko has an outstanding 11-10-1 record with a 2.56 GAA and .920 save percentage. He is a hungry, young goalie who is willing to fight to remain a starter. Ever since being drafted 36th overall in 2016, Demko was always a hot prospect. However, despite a good amount of appearances last season, Markstrom was still king of the crease.
Losing a fan favourite hurt immensely and there was a decidedly mixed reaction to Holtby’s signing. At first, the Canucks rotated the older and younger duo in net. The results were spotty at best and hope was about to be abandoned. Since catching fire in March, the obvious choice has been made clear. I previously said it would take a ‘Mount Vesuvius style hot streak’ to save this season. Well, let the mountain erupt because the Canucks have a hot goalie.
It doesn’t hurt having a former cup winner on the bench. Nevertheless, we must contend that Vancouver has yet again goalie drama. Holtby was brought in to make a statement, now there is a line through his name rather than under it. Do Green and Benning really believe he will happily become their designated in-game tweeter? While his contract might be a megabucks one, his pride will be damaged. Demko is going to be hard to dislodge on this form, Holtby better start impressing quickly. The question is how many starts will he get to do it?