Jim Rutherford, who played the position, called Demko ‘a franchise goalie’ upon his arrival as president of hockey operations He was right.
Dallas Stars (36-17-13, 1st in Central) at Vancouver Canucks (28-32-5, 6th in Pacific)
7 p.m., Rogers Arena
TV: Sportsnet. Radio: AM650
There’s a 90-minute rule that applies to most National Hockey League locker rooms.
Whether in victory or defeat, you have that amount of time to savour success or get over a setback and move on to the next game.
That rule was amended Feb. 27 in Dallas.
It wasn’t applicable to the player, it was the coach who learned in a 5-4 overtime victory over the Central Division leading Stars what the Vancouver Canucks have in stellar stopper Thatcher Demko. And Rick Tocchet can’t stop talking about what that performance dynamic means for his club.
“He has been terrific and just quiets the net,” he said. “We’re trying to get better with our systems and we’re letting Thatcher see the puck. He’s not getting those backdoor goals and he’s actually making backdoor saves.
“He’s that elite. And I like the way he handles the puck and it really helps on the breakouts.”
After missing 35 games with a Dec. 1 groin injury, Demko turned aside 34 shots that February night in Big D — including 18 in the second period that included difficult post-to-post saves — to signal that mind and body were in total sync.
“Pretty crazy day leading up to it,” Demko had said post game. “A little bit of nerves and anxiety and you just want to make sure you’re ready to go. It took everything I’ve learned over my entire career to kind of get ready for this one.
“Hopefully, I can keep building my game. There’s going to be some rust.”
Fast forward and that rust is hard to find as the Canucks look to build on their four-game win streak Tuesday.
Demko has won of four of five starts since returning and has turned aside 142 of 153 shots. On Saturday, he was within 6:21 of posting the club’s first shutout since Bruce Boudreau’s coaching debut Dec. 6, 2021 in a 4-0 blanking of the Los Angeles Kings. Demko made 31 saves that night.
President of hockey operations Jim Rutherford, who played the position, called Demko “a franchise goalie” upon his arrival to steer the club in a new direction. He was right.
As for Tocchet, he doesn’t want to give Demko the cage night after night to guard against injury, but it’s hard not to defer to the state of his game. Collin Delia could play Thursday in Arizona and get another start in back-to-back tests Saturday in Los Angeles and Sunday in Anaheim.
You play like you practise
Tocchet has repeatedly stated this long slog to play out the season won’t be slow.
It’s like training camp and that was evident Thursday. He put his club through the teaching grind that lasted 82 minutes and message was obvious. The Canucks had won three straight, so why not remind them that sitting on some laurels with a quick practice, wasn’t going to cut it?
“I like the team to be even-keeled, but obviously when you win three in row, you want guys to feel good about themselves,” said Tocchet. “But there is a lot of work to be done. I felt we needed a teaching and a grind day. What I like to give them is what we’re going to do the next three, four or five days.
“If we have a really good session, which we did Thursday, you get the day off. That builds morale. You let them decide. And sometimes, I do that throughout the year.
“Mike Sullivan (Pittsburgh coach) always told me: ‘You can be tired, but you can’t be tired.’ We have to get the through to some guys. I know they’re tired, but you have to grid through. We accomplished that Thursday.”
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(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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