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Why Casey DeSmith’s likability plays a role as Rick Tocchet and the Canucks adjust to life without Thatcher Demko

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
27 days ago
Casey DeSmith has big shoes to fill in the Canucks’ net for the next few weeks, thanks to a knee injury putting Thatcher Demko on the shelf. And even though he ended up on the losing end of a 4-3 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, there’s no panic from anybody.
Rick Tocchet certainly believes DeSmith can get the job done. But perhaps more importantly, he feels the team in front of him will battle on their goalie’s behalf with a tried and true formula; shot blocks, shot blocks, shot blocks — and liking your goaltender.
“I’ve been in the league somehow 40 years. When you like the goalies, you tend to block more shots for a guy,” Tocchet said.
“When you really like a goalie, you’ll really dive, and those guys really love Casey. So yes, I think you’ll see a lot of guys willing to block shots, like they do for Demmer.”
In DeSmith’s first game as the number one guy, the Canucks blocked 22 shot attempts, clogging up shooting lanes for the Avs’ top snipers and forcing Colorado to adjust by forcing rebound chances in close. By comparison, the Avalanche only blocked two in front of Alexander Georgiev.
Of the four goals the Avalanche ended up with, two were off netfront scrambles, and two took major bounces en route to the net. And compared to the last few times a Canucks backup had to handle an increased workload, that already feels like an improvement.
In recent seasons, being the backup to Thatcher Demko came with the caveat of an inhospitable work environment. The Canucks’ overreliance on Demko to steal games made it near impossible for the Spencer Martins, Collin Delias and Jaroslav Halaks of the world to settle in when Demko was out of commission. Now, with a more established blue line and vastly improved defensive structure, DeSmith’s teammates seem far more capable of weathering the storm and giving him the netfront protection required.
They also have a coach in Tocchet who’s brought the most out of his lineup in their own end, which is why most onlookers won’t notice a major difference between the way the team played in front of Demko as opposed to DeSmith.
“I don’t think it changes strategy at all. It’s not all of a sudden you play better defence, or we’re gonna go to a one-four,” Tocchet said about the game plan in front of DeSmith. “We want to protect. You play the same way; we still have the same philosophies.”
DeSmith is also no stranger to this situation. As a member of the Penguins, DeSmith had extended periods of starting minutes when injuries took Tristan Jarry out of commission across the past two seasons. Tocchet feels that experience will go a long way.
“He’s ran with the ball, and he’s done it very well,” Tocchet said. “It’s hard for him because he hasn’t played a lot of consecutive games. It’s one game, next week he plays, whatever. So this week for him, getting some games in is great.”
“We have a lot of confidence in him.”

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