With the NHL playoffs now in the rear-view mirror, it can be easy to forget that Thatcher Demko nearly carried this flawed hockey club to the Conference Finals — by himself.
Or, maybe it’s not easy to forget. Jim Benning and the rest of Canucks management certainly has to be thinking long and hard about Demko’s role with the organization going forward. After a regular season that saw him progress and play well despite a middling save percentage, Demko turned in a performance in the ages for the Canucks in the playoffs.
In fact, Benning already made it crystal clear that he believes in Demko.
Benning on Demko: “He’s capable of being a number one goalie.”— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) September 10, 2020
Benning also refers to him as “our goalie of the future.” #TSN1040
The real question is, how far into the future does Benning see Demko as a number one? Could that potentially be in 2020-21?
That’s something we’ll know more about in the coming weeks. For now, let’s focus on Demko’s historic playoff performance for the Canucks in 2020.
Stylistically, one of the reasons why Demko is so successful is because he plays a modified butterfly style — one which sees him play deep in his net without falling to his knees too often.
Because of that, you don’t often see Demko making the humongous, highlight reel saves. Nonetheless, he faced his fair share of rubber in those three games against Vegas.
Thatcher Demko versus the Golden Knights offense pic.twitter.com/BTzzKNGvkE— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) September 4, 2020
I think one of Demko’s biggest strengths is that he remains calm and composed, no matter what’s going on around him. Whether that’s due to him being a psychology major, or the fact that he has ice in his veins like teammate Quinn Hughes, it’s a huge bonus to him in these high pressure situations.
Remember when angry Jacob Markstrom was in net for the Canucks? How much better has he looked over the past few years when he taught himself not to get so rattled when things goes astray in games?
In terms of the stats, Demko is at the top of the league in a number of categories.
He, of course, led all netminders the playoffs with a ridiculous 0.64 GAA and a .989 save percentage. At even-strength, Demko led the league with 40.8 saves-per-60. His high-danger save percentage of .960 was also tops in the league among goalies who started more than one game.
Demko let in a goal in Game 5, and another in Game 7. How dare he.
Aside from Shea Theodore being Demko’s kryptonite, there were no weaknesses from Demko in the playoffs.
These playoff heroics from the San Diego native were surprising to some extent, but Demko was better in the regular season than most think. Those average goals against and save percentage totals were skewed by a few bad performances (7 goals against Pittsburgh, 5 goals against Buffalo & Colorado). Overall, Demko’s 60% quality start percentage shows that he delivered strong performances at a similar rate to Markstrom, who had a 58.1% quality start percentage this season.
For goalie fanatics, Demko was a human highlight reel after stopping an incredible 128 of 130 shots from Vegas.
I say that he was a human highlight reel for goalie fanatics, because Demko’s saves often aren’t of the highlight reel variety. He was calm, cool, and composed in his net as Vegas peppered him for three straight games.
His best moment though had to be his 48-save shutout to force Game 7.
Overall Grade: A+ with a dash of shaking my head in disbelief at what he did in the playoffs.