When Jacob Markstrom fell to injury, Thatcher Demko was ready to backstop the Vancouver Canucks all the way to the playoffs. Too bad he never got the chance.
For a long time, the Vancouver Canucks have patiently waited to see what their rookie goaltender, Thatcher Demko can do during a healthy stretch of games where he’s faced to be the lone starter. It appeared they finally got the opportunity to put Demko to the test when Jacob Markstrom was sidelined with a torn meniscus.
On February 25th, Demko took over the starting position knowing he was going to be leaned on heavily down the stretch if Vancouver wanted to make the playoffs. He found a way to keep his team alive and defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime. It was a good effort by the young goalie, and he did everything you can ask of a rookie goaltender. For the moment, the playoffs looked maintainable.
In the next two games, Demko was rocked with a chain of seriously bad luck. Bad rebounds, fluttering pucks, and straight-up head-scratchers got the best of the 23-year-old, he managed to calm himself and rebound in both games, but the damage was already done at that point. The postseason began to slip.
You can’t really blame Demko, but the Canucks did not look the same without Markstrom. Demko bounced back with a tremendous performance against the Colorado Avalanche, followed up a few days later by another win versus the New York Islanders – which happened to be the final game before the COVID-19 pause. It was also a record-setting night for the American. He made 45 saves! A career-best, a statement.
Demko was doing his part and he was keeping the playoff picture intact. He would have seen at least another 5-8 more games before Markstrom would have returned, which would have been a crystal ball chance for management to see their goaltending future. But it’s a shame nonetheless that the season was postponed, Demko’s golden opportunity was utterly squashed because of it.
However, looking at the kid’s rookie year altogether, and it’s clear he had an exceptional campaign. Coming off 10 games of NHL experience at the tail end of 2018-19, Demko got handed a longer leash for 2020. He played in 27 games, sporting a record of 13-10-2 with a save percentage of 0.905%. Some fairly good numbers backing up one of the league’s best.
For the amount the Canucks leaned on Markstrom this season, they also needed wins from their back up to survive the year. Demko put together a classy first full year as the backup. He has what it takes to be a starter now, but one more year in his current role wouldn’t hurt. Just give him a handful more chances and see if he can win the position fair and square.
As for if Demko would have gotten the Canucks into the dance? It’s too bad we will never know the true answer, but from what I saw, he did everything in his power to make that happen, and he would have gotten the job done given the full chance.