With Spencer Martin very likely getting the start for the Vancouver Canucks against the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night, we’ve officially seen a ‘changing of the guard’. Thatcher Demko has gone from being praised last season as one of the ‘top five goalies in the NHL’, to being a back-up.
It’s not necessarily permanent. To suggest such would be to fly in the face of the completely unpredictable nature of NHL netminding.
For now however, Martin is the go-to-guy.
Even though Martin’s numbers aren’t exactly world beating, a 3.42 goals against average and a .901 save percentage, the record of 5-1-and-1 and the confidence his team shows in front of him, make all the difference.
Demko faced 38 shots in recent consecutive games, a 4-1 win at home against the LA Kings on November 18th, and then a 5-4 come-from-ahead loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at Rogers Arena three nights later. In other words, he’s been given every chance to re-emerge; to find his game.
At some point, with playoff hopes slipping away and the season approaching December, head coach Bruce Boudreau, who’s known to use the occasional football analogy, needed to cement a decision. Give Martin the football and let him try and run with it.
Step one was successful, a benchmark 4-3 victory in Colorado on Wednesday night against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Avalanche. Instead of blowing a lead, the Canucks actually came from behind in the third period to win it.
Martin made 33 saves and Vancouver won despite giving up two power play goals. They won the more important half of the all important “it’s all about special teams and goaltending”.
Saturday night they’ll try it again in a difficult environment against an ornery Golden Knights team that lost at home the night before.