The run that Thatcher Demko has been on in the month of March has been nothing short of incredible, but you didn’t just need me to tell you that to know that it’s true.
Demko sports an 8-3 record and a .937 save percentage so far this month — .949 if you just include 5v5 play. His 9.67 goals saved above average (GSAA) at even strength is far and away the best in the NHL during that period. In fact, his even-strength GSAA in March is two goals better than Vezina front-runner Andrei Vasilevsky.
It’s been so good that he’s (in my opinion) in the conversation for player of the month in the NHL. They don’t win too many of those games if Demko isn’t between the pipes.
But what about a nomination for the Vezina trophy at the end of the season? Is that possible for the American netminder?
To determine this, I looked at the goalies nominated for the award over the past four seasons. The finalists are below courtesy of Hockey Reference.
There are a few things we can glean from this:
- Wins matter. A lot. A 40 win season pretty much guarantees you a Vezina nomination in a full 82 game season, the lone exception being Carey Price back in 2017. In terms of the 2019 season, there were no 40 game-winners so players such as Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner got nominated. Bishop’s ridiculous .934 save percentage didn’t seem to matter to voters and Vasilevsky’s 39 wins and just 10 losses got him the nod.
- In last year’s shortened season, Connor Hellebuyck finished with a 52% win percentage, Rask with a 63%, and Vasilevsky with a 67% win percentage. Hellebuyck played in 81% of his team’s games that season, a sign that perhaps workload could become a factor in a shortened season.
- All the nominated goalies made the playoffs. All except Vasilevsky last year had a save percentage above .920.
Demko starts this week’s long break with a 12-12-1 record, a 2.77 GAA and a .917 save percentage on the season as a whole. Knowing what we know about recent Vezina voting, what will Demko have to do to finish in the top three of voting?
First, he is going to have to rack up a few more wins. A .500 record is likely not going to cut it, but finish with a win percentage somewhere in the 57-58% area and perhaps you have a shot. No goalie is obviously going to get to 40 wins, so the win percentage becomes huge.
Secondly, he’s going to have to start the vast majority of the Canucks games. For Demko, this shouldn’t be a problem considering he has already cemented himself as the defacto starter of this team. There are only two sets of back-to-backs the rest of the season barring a schedule change, so there will be plenty of opportunities to get starts.
Finally — and this is probably what puts the final nail in the coffin — the Canucks are going to have to find a way to make the playoffs. Considering The Athletic has them currently with a 7% chance to do that I find that highly unlikely. But there is a chance he can finish with a save percentage above .920, a remarkable achievement considering the defensive structure in front of him at times.
Demko is a great goalie, one that fans can expect to be a legit starter for this team for years to come. But just like this team’s playoff chances, I’m afraid the push for Demko to get a Vezina nomination is too little, too late.