Vancouver Canucks’ 3 stars of the week: Thatcher Demko shines despite back-to-back losses
Photo credit:© Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
By Dave Hall1 month ago
What a difference a week can make.
In our last installment, Vancouver Canucks fans were basking in a two-game winning streak to start the year, while getting prepped for an unbeaten Stanley Cup run.
This week, the conversation offers a bit of a different tune after the club dropped two of three games on their current road trip — bringing everything back down to earth.
Ah yes, the roller coaster of emotions that is Canucks hockey.
Honestly, though, are we really all that shocked?
In game two of last week, although a victory in Edmonton, we began to see some recurring habits surface.
These habits not only spilled into, but were exploited, in games against the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning — dropping both matches to start the week. It was a complete 180-degree shift from what we saw in game one of the season, and it felt scarcely similar to what we witnessed on a nightly basis last year. You know, defensive breakdowns, unnecessary turnovers, stretches of little-to-no offense, and of course, Tyler Myers mishaps – the usual stuff.
It’s clear that the Canucks have improved in various aspects such as goaltending, penalty killing, and even their power play, which seems to offer a fresh sign of movement.
However, there is still a significant blaring issue that needs to be addressed, should they want to achieve success this season, and that is the right side of their defence.
By now, you have seen the clips, you have heard the arguments, and you have read the articles — both Tyler Myers and Noah Juulsen have not cut it.
The Canucks recently acquired Mark Friedman to provide depth, which is a promising step in the right direction.
However, he cannot be considered a long-term solution, or even one that offers legitimate top-four upside.
So, if the Canucks are serious about contending this season, they will need to address this significant gap sooner, rather than later.
Saturday night brought a much more positive vibe. Despite what looked to be a vintage third-period breakdown, the Canucks pulled through and mustered up a 5-3 win over the Florida Panthers. It was not a perfect game, by any means, but it was a much-needed win to get them back on track before one final game on the road.
They finish week two sporting a 3-2-0 record and sit second in the Pacific Division.
Let’s check in on our three stars.
Third star: Elias Pettersson
Elias Pettersson continues to lead the charge for the Canucks this season, contributing another four points over the week to the tune of one goal and three assists.
It’s been one heck of a start for the 24-year-old, who, as of Sunday morning, shares the lead in NHL scoring with 10 points (2G + 8A).
He also finds himself in some pretty elite company within the organization.
What contract distractions?
Now, to be clear, EP40 actually had his worst game of the season to start the week (Tuesday) and was statically one of the worst Canucks on the ice that night.
In Philadelphia, he sported one of the team’s lowest CF% and xGF%, with only 39.29% and 18.48%, respectively. This is extremely uncharacteristic for him.
In the past, even when the team has played poorly around him, Pettersson often finishes as a bright spot on the roster – at least, analytically.
We knew something was up…
With rumblings of him ailing from an injury, he suffered blocking a Tyler Myers shot on Tuesday — perhaps there was some reasoning behind the poor performance.
Regardless of the slip-up, Pettersson cleaned it up with back-to-back two-point performances to close out the week.
It just goes to show, that even with him playing his B-game, he’s still going to find ways to produce.
As a result of one very poor performance, his “under the hood” numbers may not have been indicative of a strong weak worthy of a nomination.
But, to be fair, not many players were.
His ability to carry this team in both zones continues to be a staple of his game and one that should keep in “three-star” talks for much of the season.
Second star: JT Miller
JT Miller was an honorable mention last week, and honestly, was just a few underlying stats shy from squeaking in.
It was paper-thin margins.
With that said, he has been, without question, the Canucks most consistent player throughout the early season.
Sure, Elias Pettersson is leading the charge in points, but Miller has been noticeably effective and is probably the only forward who has yet to take a night off this season.
He’s also got eight points himself.
This week was no different, as he led the way in most categories, both statically and analytically.
He not only matched Pettersson’s four points, with a goal and three assists of his own, but his strong performance extended to his CF% (62.41%) and xGF% (57.21%), leading the forward group in both categories.
Furthermore, he led the team with seven hits and boasted a face-off win percentage of 56.16%. He also logged the most minutes among any forward and led the (forward) group with 10 shots.
Miller is certainly leading by example and doing his part to contribute to the success of this team.
If it were not for a spectacular week by their goaltender, he would have grabbed the number one spot this week with ease.
First start: Thatcher Demko
Thatcher Demko posted a 0-2-0 record over his two starts this week, so, if you failed to catch either game, you are probably wondering how he could be named a star this week, let alone the first.
Well, to put it bluntly, it’s because he was incredible.
Realistically, we could probably just insert a handful of clips to show you why, but, we’ll add some context.
Despite allowing six goals, Demko was a human highlight reel over his two-game stretch, making several big league stops to leave Canucks fans’ jaws dropped.
Without his top-notch efforts, the results this week could have been much uglier.
The 27-year-old saw 78 shots over the two games, stopping 72, both of which led all netminders during that five-day stretch (Monday-Friday).
In addition, he saw a league-high 8.62 xG against, while also seeing a league-high 15.1% HDS/60.
While those numbers clearly speak volumes about their defensive warts, his six goals against sure look good now.
If you add in his first start of the season, where he picked up an 8-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers, Demko’a game looks resurrected, after missing most of the 2022-23 season due to injury.
Heck, he’s even shown that he can perform while simultaneously getting sick in his own mask – a metric not yet used in the hockey world.
All-in-all, much of the Canucks season will depend on the play of their goaltending, and so far, things are looking strong early on.
The Canucks find themselves in Nashville on Tuesday, where they will look to close out their five-game road swing with a victory over the Predators.
After which, they will head back home for a three-game home stint.
See you next Sunday for our next crop of weekly stars.
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