In any other season, a Thatcher Demko masterpiece wouldn’t be the main story of a Canucks game.
It’d be an expectation.
But the way this season has gone, Demko’s terrific outing against the Kings yesterday was a real talking point, and a hopeful turning point.
Demko turned aside 37 of 38 Los Angeles shots, leading the Canucks to a 4-1 win, just his second of the season. Before last night, Demko sat last in victories and second last in save percentage among the 42 goalies with seven or more games played. Now, he’s passed Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins and sits firmly in 41st.
Baby steps.
“Honestly, it’s kind of just how it’s been going,” Demko said after the win. “Obviously doesn’t really matter how right now, I’ll just take what I can get.”
His stats only tell part of the story from Friday night’s game. In a season where Demko has been a regular victim of his own mistakes, bad defence, and even pure happenstance, he was finally the recipient of a few lucky bounces and early whistles from the refs.
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But a big element of luck involves putting yourself in a position to earn that luck. Through his last two games, Demko’s slowly begun rediscovering that balance.
“I thought I felt better in Boston. I knew that today it was an opportunity to build on that,” Demko said.
Demko’s night against the Bruins was a clear improvement over games of the past. Despite the lopsided 5-2 score, Demko looked a lot more confident in his own game and even made a few five-alarm saves at key points to keep the Canucks within striking distance.
Part of that confidence boost has come from the extra practice time with Ian Clark. As Spencer Martin has stepped in to play a bigger role, it’s given Demko valuable off-time to focus on improving the finer points of his game.
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“Coming home and having a practice day yesterday was a big opportunity for me,” Demko said about the extra practice day he was afforded on Thursday before starting last night.
He was then asked if the results against the Kings left him feeling better about his game than he has all season. “Emotionally, for sure. It’s always great to do it on home ice, so it’s definitely something I’ve missed this year.”
The saves Demko made against the Kings resembled the goaltender that was voted team MVP in each of the last two seasons. His cross-crease movement looked strong and deliberate, while his rebound control was calmer and more collected than in past starts.
There’s real progress being made by Demko that hopefully will result in him getting back to the Vezina-caliber netminding Canucks fans have gotten used to from him. But cold snaps for a goalie often take more than just one good game to break out of. While even one goal can make the difference for a skater going through a scoring funk, it’s going to take routinely high-quality starts for Demko to settle into playing like his normal self.
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After all, you can’t run at top speed without taking baby steps first.