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Casey DeSmith’s win over the Oilers has Canucks fans hopeful he can stabilize the backup role

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
6 months ago
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Casey DeSmith got a trial by fire in his Vancouver Canucks debut, and he came out unscathed.
DeSmith put on a show in Edmonton against the Oilers, stopping 37 of 40 shots in the Canucks’ 4-3 win on Saturday night.
Prior to puck drop, a lot of people expressed concern about starting DeSmith in such a crucial game. Even with Thatcher Demko feeling under the weather, starting the backup against a team hungry to avenge an embarrassing 8-1 loss, featuring two of the best hockey players on Earth, seemed like a potential recipe for disaster.
Early on, it sure looked like that might prove true. The Oilers swarmed DeSmith’s crease in the first few minutes, and Leon Draisaitl was the recipient of an Ian Cole mistake that poked the puck under DeSmith’s foot and pushed it into the net.
There were certainly a bit of jitters to work through as the game went on. DeSmith wound up in some vulnerable positions at points as the Oilers buzzed on power play opportunities and created net mouth scrambles, but the Canucks’ netminder kept battling through it.
But as the game went on, DeSmith settled into a rhythm. Even as the Oilers threw 32 shots in the final 40 minutes to the Canucks’ nine, DeSmith held his ground and hung on to give the Canucks a rare back-to-back sweep of a Stanley Cup contender.
“It’s a great way to start,” DeSmith said after.
“Obviously, [Edmonton’s] a really challenging place to play, a really good, skilled team. A really gritty win I thought for the guys, and good teams find a way.”
In years past, the Canucks have been forced to rely on Demko to win games against the majority of their opponents, leaving their number one goalie to take on a monstrous workload that leaves him more susceptible to fatigue and injuries. And because of the lack of ice time, backups like Jaroslav Halak and Spencer Martin just weren’t prepared to hold down the fort on Demko’s nights off, let alone any time on the IR.
But Rick Tocchet elected to give his backup a vote of confidence, starting DeSmith in a high-pressure early game even with Demko ready to play if called upon.
For the latecomer to the Canucks’ locker room, the victory was a crucial boost.
“Obviously coming to any team it feels so good to contribute early, get two points and be a big part of the win, and just kind of come together as a team early and I think we’re doing that,” DeSmith said.
If the Canucks can trust DeSmith to walk into the lion’s den of Rogers Place and leave with two points and nary a scratch, it sets the team up to eliminate both “scheduled losses” from their vocabulary and the need to hold their breath when the backup takes his turn. Wins like Saturday’s will hold even more importance if Vancouver finds themselves in the thick of the postseason hunt down the stretch, and they seem to believe Casey DeSmith will continue to provide them.

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