Former Canucks star goalie heaps high praise on current Canucks goalie.

Article content

Roberto Luongo went to six NHL All-Star Games during his career, so he knows what it takes. In Thatcher Demko, Luongo sees a deserving all-star.

advertisement

Article content

“Totally deserved. He’s the MVP of the team and in my eyes a top five goalie in the NHL,” the ex-Canucks netminder, now Florida Panthers executive, told Postmedia News about the current keeper of the Canucks’ crease.

Demko is a first-time league all-star and will play for the Pacific Division in this weekend’s festivities in Las Vegas.

It’s no accident that he’s in Sin City as the Vancouver Canucks’ representative; he’s been the team’s best player this season, through thick-and-thin.

“He’s the type of guy who just does the work and he’s quiet about it. It’s good for him to get some recognition,” Demko’s teammate Quinn Hughes said in mid-January, after Demko was named as one of two goalies, alongside Anaheim’s John Gibson, to the Pacific team. “He’s one of the best goalies in the league and ask every guy in our room, they’ll feel that way.”

advertisement

Article content

And on top of his team MVP status, Demko’s case as one of the NHL’s leading goalies is a pretty easy one. The Canucks’ have struggled to score this season but their goalie has given them a chance every night, and the team still has a playoff dream because of him.

Thatcher Demko (35) looks on during the third period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Thatcher Demko (35) looks on during the third period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Photo by Sergei Belski /USA TODAY Sports

The eye tests say he’s been nothing but stellar, and the numbers, both superficial and more in-depth, all back that impression up. And it’s put him on the list of the best goalies this season, alongside the likes of Igor Shesterkin, Juuse Saros, ex-Canuck Jacob Markstrom, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Gibson.

Among the league’s No. 1 goalies at 5-on-5, Demko sports the NHL’s second-best save percentage (.937), just behind Shesterkin. According to Clear Sight Analytics, he’s posted the fourth-best goals against differential — comparing actual goals against versus expected goals against — in the league, behind Saros, Shesterkin and Vasilevskiy. (According to CSA numbers, he’s saved 16.5 more goals than expected, based on the quality of shots he’s faced.)

advertisement

Article content

InGoal Magazine’s Kevin Woodley rates Saros, Shesterkin and Vasilevskiy ahead of Demko on his Vezina Trophy ballot as the league’s best goalie, but said the Canucks’ No. 1 isn’t far off.

“He’s in the next tier just below those three in my opinion, but still within range that a strong second half (or another December in his case) could put him firmly in the mix,” he said.

A strong second half would keep the Canucks in the playoff chase too.

Thatcher Demko #35 of the Vancouver Canucks walks to the Canucks dressing room before their NHL game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Rogers Arena December 12, 2021 in Vancouver.
Thatcher Demko #35 of the Vancouver Canucks walks to the Canucks dressing room before their NHL game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Rogers Arena December 12, 2021 in Vancouver. Photo by Jeff Vinnick /PNG

John Garrett, a retired goalie in his own right and now the Canucks’ color commentator of Sportsnet telecasts, sees a goalie at the top of his game. And a playoff push would put him in even higher company than the Vezina, Garrett said. There’s a case for a Hart Trophy as league MVP.

“If they make the playoffs he’s definitely a Hart candidate,” he said.

advertisement

Article content

Demko is playing the most confident Garrett has ever seen him, he said.

Even as he seized the No. 1 role last season, there was a rival in the mix.

“There was always the threat that Braden Holtby, because of his contract and his reputation, might perform as No. 1,” Garrett said. “Now (Demko’s) the undisputed No. 1.”

The only pressure now is from the opposition and Demko has shown he can handle that with aplomb.

“When the team wasn’t playing well he was still playing well,” Garrett added. “When all the things were going on around the team… he didn’t let it affect him.”

Garrett played for the Canucks from 1983-85, the tail end of his playing career, and was briefly an assistant general manager afterwards. He was Richard Brodeur’s backup. In his prime, Brodeur was one of hockey’s best goalies.

advertisement

Article content

“Even Richard he would have moments where you could see he was doubting himself,” Garrett recalled. “When Thatcher has an ordinary game, it’s not a bad game.”

Thatcher Demko #35 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during the second period against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on January 01, 2022 in Seattle.
Thatcher Demko #35 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during the second period against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on January 01, 2022 in Seattle. Photo by Steph Chambers /Getty Images

Demko is the latest in a long line of standout Canucks goalies, following in the footsteps of Markstrom, who followed Ryan Miller, who followed Luongo.

“Even Roberto, there were times when he questioned himself,” Garrett noted.

Demko’s mental focus reminds Garrett of another great: Martin Brodeur: “Nothing fazes him.”

Demko’s success, of course, is also down to his ability to work with Canucks director of goaltending Ian Clark. Demko himself has talked about how working with Clark requires one to accept that you’re going to relearn much of how to play the position. It takes a little humility.

“He’s had Ian from the start of his pro career. His de el (playing) structure de el is much more sound now, ”Garrett noted. “Whereas the other guys, Braden, Jacob, even Roberto, had come from somewhere else. So they had their own mindset coming in.”

But to their credit, they all improved. Demko, still, stands apart.

And the Canucks definitely have him to thank.


More news, fewer ads, faster load time: Get unlimited, ad-lite access to the Vancouver Sun, the Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites for just $14/month or $140/year. Subscribe now through the vancouver sun or The Province.

    advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user follows comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your e-mail settings.

Reference-theprovince.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.