The Vancouver Canucks have a quality backup in Thatcher Demko. They should use him more while cutting back on Jacob Markstrom’s workload.
You can easily argue that goalie Jacob Markstrom has been the Vancouver Canucks’ most valuable player thus far in 2019-20, but his giant workload is starting to become a concern.
Markstrom made his 33rd start of the season in Vancouver’s 4-0 road loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Backup Thatcher Demko — who was widely expected to challenge for the starting reigns — has only appeared in 15.
Demko suffered a concussion last month, but he was only sidelined for a short period before returning for the Dec. 29 game against the Calgary Flames. Demko has only played twice in the new year — though both performances left a lot to be desired.
The 24-year-old allowed three goals on 16 shots in the humiliating 9-2 blowout against the Tampa Bay Lightning last week. Two days later, Demko was hung out to dry by his teammates, and he allowed five goals on 49 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.
But just because he had two frustrating outings, it doesn’t mean that Demko should be on the bench this frequently. Just take a look at Markstrom’s recent numbers, and you’ll see why Demko is worthy of more starts — and why the former should see less.
Markstrom carries a .914 save percentage and a 2.77 save percentage for the season. Well, he’s posted a save percentage below .900 in three of his last six games. Of course, Markstrom doesn’t deserve all the blame, because the blue line has committed way too many mistakes and meltdowns in their own end.
But if Green doesn’t use Demko more, he risks wearing Markstrom out in the second half. Don’t forget that the veteran goaltender has only made 60 starts in a season twice — in 2017-18 and in 2018-19. He’s not a veteran workhorse like Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price or Pekka Rinne — goalies who’ve been undisputed starters for more than a decade now.
The Canucks desperately need Markstrom at his best down the stretch, especially if they squeak into the postseason. Demko is one of the best backup goalies in the league, and Green needs to take advantage of the situation.
Unless Demko’s play regresses big-time — and I highly doubt it will — the Canucks should be letting him start every third or fourth game for the remainder of the regular season. The last thing this team needs is for its MVP goalie to wear down as the season progresses.