What to expect from DeSmith as Demko recovers from injury

The Canucks Talk crew discuss the injury news surrounding Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko, and why they believe the team should be able to stay afloat in his absence.

The Vancouver Canucks have avoided catastrophe injury-wise this season — specifically when it comes to their core players. They got their first taste of adversity Saturday when Thatcher Demko suffered an undisclosed injury that is expected to sideline him for at least a few games. 

“I think he’s going to miss a little bit of time,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said on the Monday episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but I don’t think it’s his groin. … From what I understand, it’s not disastrous.”

An official update on Demko’s status is expected to be provided Tuesday. If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that the Canucks will be forced to sit Demko, who has started 49 of the team’s 66 games this season — 26 of which have come on one day’s rest. 

Demko, who missed three months last season after injuring his groin, has been outstanding in 2023-24, saving 22 goals above expected. That ranks third in the NHL behind Ilya Sorokin (25.1) and Connor Hellebuyck (23.5). 

On Monday, the league named Demko its Third Star of the week after he stopped 62 of 64 shots across three games. 

In the meantime, Casey DeSmith will act as the Canucks’ starter. DeSmith has been a capable backup in his first season in Vancouver, recording nine quality starts out of 17 total. (A goaltender is credited with a quality start when he saves more goals than expected.) 

When Demko was out last season, the Canucks rotated through three goaltenders — Spencer Martin, Collin Delia and Arturs Silovs, none of whom impressed when pressed into duty. 

DeSmith, who started a career-high 33 games last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, has stabilized the backup spot. If necessary, DeSmith can handle a prolonged stretch of playing time. Last year, he made eight consecutive starts for the Penguins around the all-star break in place of the injured Tristan Jarry — three of which were quality starts.

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Vancouver has done its part to protect DeSmith. He has faced 12.4 slot shots per 60 minutes — 11th fewest among 64 qualified goaltenders. 

Fortunately for the Canucks, there are only two games on their schedule this week. They host the high-powered Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, albeit with the Avalanche on the second half of a back-to-back. The Washington Capitals, who have won seven of their past 11 games, visit Vancouver on Saturday. 

“I have no idea what’s going on (with Demko),” DeSmith told reporters Saturday after he stopped all 10 shots he faced in relief against the Winnipeg Jets. “Obviously I hope for the best, and hopefully it’s just like a couple-day thing and he moves forward with no complications or anything.”

All stats via Sportlogiq

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