While the future stars of the NHL steal the show, the Western Conference playoffs are now in the hands of backup goaltenders or, in some cases, third-string goaltender. Michael Hutchinson led the Colorado Avalanche to victories in games five and six to force a game seven on Friday. Despite all that, the story of the second round has been Thatcher Demko.
The Vancouver Canucks backup goaltender faced 91 shots over two games and conceded only one goal. His performances helped the Vancouver Canucks come from 3-1 down against the Vegas Golden Knights to force a game seven on Friday.
Hailing from San Diego, California, Demko is a feel-good story for the west coast state that is not known for Ice Hockey ideal weather. Drafted in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Vancouver Canucks, Thatcher Demko has bided his time playing first for Boston College before signing his Entry-Level Contract (ELC) in 2016. From there, he was assigned to the AHL affiliate Utica Comets, where he put up decent numbers in his first season.
It was during his second season (2017-18) that the notice came, putting up a .922 save percentage over 46 games. He played a single NHL game in a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets before going back down to the AHL.
During the 2019-20 regular season, Demko put up good numbers as the backup to Jacob Markstrom, posting a .905 save percentage over 27 games. Still, his playoff performances, albeit only two starts, have been phenomenal. After relieving Markstrom in game one’s 5-0 loss Thatcher then returned to the bench for games two, three, and four. With Markstrom deemed unfit to play, he got the nod for game five and allowed one goal on 43 shots to help the Canucks squeak out a 2-1 win.
There was no way Demko could repeat his previous performance. Then he did. Recording his first-ever NHL playoff shutout, the San Diego native stopped 48 shots as the Canucks forced a game seven with a 4-0 victory over the Golden Knights last night. Demko won’t get much time to recover, though, as that game seven will be tonight.
Usually, a goaltender wouldn’t play the second night of back to back after facing that many shots. However, unless Demko is deemed unfit to play (he seemed to be uncomfortable nearing the end on his right foot), then there can be no way Vancouver Head Coach Travis Green doesn’t start him in the most crucial game of the season to this point.
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