The Vancouver Canucks rallied around another lights-out (no sleeping pun intended) performance from goaltender Thatcher Demko to force a game seven against the Vegas Golden Knights. The final score was 4-0. Let’s get into this one.
The Canucks went with the same 18 skaters and the same starting goaltender that they used in game five. The Lotto Line was back together and that resulted in Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson welcoming Tyler Toffoli to the second line.
The Knights went with Robin Lehner in net. There were some rumblings around the potential to see Marc-Andre Fleury in net again but Pete DeBoer put a sword through that idea.
One of the worst parts of the Canucks’ series had been their bottom six scoring and that group needed to step up and contribute a goal in game six for the Canucks to have a chance at victory.
Lines
The defence corps remained the same in game six but Travis Green did mix things up as the game went on.
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It was finally time for puck drop after what felt like the longest Thursday of the year.
And that’s saying something given how 2020 has gone.
It’s time for Canucks playoff hockey.
Let’s go!
First Period
The Canucks were quick out of the gate as they fired shots on net with ease in the first 5:32 of ice time. They were able to get eight shots in that timespan and that included a goal from Jake Virtanen to make it 1-0 Canucks.
This bottom six scoring was exactly what the Canucks needed. The hustle from Tyler Motte created the scoring chance and Virtanen made no mistake in burying it.
This was Virtanen’s 20th goal of the year as he finally hit 20 goals in a season. Sort of.
It didn’t hold back some generational shotgunners coming together with the co-creators of the #ShotgunJake movement.
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The Canucks looked good in the early part of the period but they were unable to register a shot on goal in the final 14:28 of the period.
They got the start that they wanted but did not follow it up with any kind of momentum. It’s not like they were stuck in their own zone but they just couldn’t get a shot on goal late in the period. They had possession in the offensive zone and even with them not getting a shot on goal in the final fourteen minutes, I thought they played a pretty good period.
Motte had a stellar kick save shot block on a penalty kill that was deserving of being a game highlight.
Brock Boeser saw some time double shifting as he skated alongside Adam Gaudette and Antoine Roussel at times in the first period to go with his time on The Lotto Line.
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The Canucks were outshot 10-8 in the period and Thatcher Demko looks fluid in the crease once again. His calm feet in the net is a sight for sore eyes as he just looks relaxed as ever in such a crucial game for this franchise. It must be from the high amount of sleep that he gets.
The Canucks’ defence was pinching often to assist the forwards at keeping the puck in the Golden Knights’ zone. This aided the possession numbers as the Knights weren’t able to dominate zone possession as per usual. The scariest part about the Knights’ possession is when their opposition is on a long change in the second period. Let’s see how the Canucks faired in the second 20 minutes of play.
Second Period
The middle frame did not feature many highlights. The Canucks were penalized three times as the usual suspects Tyler Myers and Alex Edler led the way on the penalty box parade.
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The story of the period had to be Thatcher Demko once again. He looks so calm in the crease even when the puck is being battled for around the crease.
Demko faced 17 shots in the second period to bring his two period total to 26 saves on 26 shots. He was dialled in and the Canucks were just trying to keep Vegas from getting the best chances possible. They were doing a good job on getting a stick on shot attempts and players like Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Oscar Fantenberg and Quinn Hughes each had multiple shot blocks in the first 40 minutes.
It sure has been a nice start for Demko in these playoffs. With a 0.986% save percentage through five periods, it seems like the young goaltender was singlehandedly saving the Canucks playoff lives in the past 100 minutes of hockey.
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It didn’t end there, Demko had to be sharp in the third period. The Knights were going to bring all their horses in the final frame and the Canucks needed to scratch and claw for a few scoring chances in the final 20 minutes.
Third Period
It only took a quick scratch from the Canucks to get another goal past Lehner. Just over a minute into the period, Hughes gained the zone on his own, circled around the net and then found Miller who ripped it into the wide side of the net. 2-0 Canucks.
Pettersson and Hughes forced the turnover and Pettersson was screening the Miller shot as it went past Lehner. It was exactly what the Canucks needed in the third period and with the insurance goal, it took a lot of pressure off of Demko.
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Motte sent Virtanen in on a breakaway about seven minutes into the period. He went with the wrist shot but Lehner was up to the challenge.
Just when the Canucks were looking like they were going to put it into cruise control, the Canucks added to their lead. It may have been the nicest Quinn Hughes goal we have ever seen. He absolutely ripped a slap shot directly into the top corner and with it the Canucks were up 3-0.
Bo Horvat scored his league-leading 10th goal of the playoffs when he iced the game with an empty-net goal.
The night once again belonged to Demko, we will get more into him in the top performers.
The Fancies
Top Performers
For the second night in three days, the top performer is Thatcher Demko. Tonight, he saved all 48 of the shots that were fired at him. The Knights attempted 90 shots and Demko looked like he was getting a bit worn out late in the game.
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He will have to do everything in his power to get back to full health for Friday night as the Canucks will take to the ice just 21 hours after the final buzzer sounded on Thursday night. This series could be the biggest coming-out party for a young goalie we have ever seen. That type of run by a goaltender is something that even trumps Jordan Binnington’s 2018-19 playoff run.
Wrap-Up
The Canucks got their bottom sic scoring when Virtanen broke the tie early on in the game. Their big guns came to play late in the game when they needed some clutch scoring. The most impressive thing was once again the goaltending, Demko was outstanding in what was likely the best game of his career for the second time this week.
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The Canucks defence core played pretty well if you look at the shot attempts that Vegas actually had. The defence did a great job of limiting high danger chances by keeping the Knights to the outside for a majority of the game.
Hughes played a heck of game on both sides of the ice. He was excellent defensively with his stick and then exploded in the offensive zone when his team needed a boost. Elias Pettersson was kept off the scoresheet on Thursday night but played a great defensive game, his hustle and defensive stick work halted a few high danger scoring chances in the game.
The Canucks now move onto game seven. It’s been an amazing ride so far and if they can clinch this series and move on to the Western Conference Finals — this young team will be one of the biggest stories of the 2019-20 NHL season.
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