Canucks’ Martin Deserves More Starts in Net Than Demko

Since Spencer Martin joined the Vancouver Canucks, all he has done is pick up points. In 10 career starts, he has a 6-0-4 record and has set a franchise record for the longest point streak by a goalie to begin their tenure with the organization. With Thatcher Demko struggling early in the season, now would be a good time for the Canucks to give the former 2013 third-rounder more starts in net.

Spencer Martin’s Sudden Emergence

Before diving into what is happening this season, it is important to look back at Martin’s career up until this point. The fact he is playing so well, and there is a discussion on whether or not he should get more games, is pretty remarkable, considering he was playing in the ECHL as recently as the 2019-20 season. He never gave up and took full advantage of the opportunity that came to him last season.

Spencer Martin Vancouver Canucks
Spencer Martin, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Taking a chance on Martin as an NHL backup was definitely a risk for the Canucks, but he showed potential during his six-game run last season. From his 47-save overtime loss against the Edmonton Oilers to his first career win against the Winnipeg Jets, he did enough that Vancouver felt comfortable enough to extend him and make him the backup for the 2022-23 season. Based on his first four starts this season, it is already looking like this was the right move.

Martin’s Statistics This Season

While his sample size is small, having only played four games, it is clear that Martin is keeping the Canucks in games. He has a .923 save percentage (SV%) at even strength and has only given up nine even-strength goals against. The most impressive statistic, however, might be his 25 even-strength high-danger chance saves and his .862 high-danger save percentage (HDSV%). In short, he is bailing Vancouver out time and time again at even strength which is why he has three of the team’s four wins so far this season.

Related: Canucks Need To Reward Martin for His Strong 2021-22 Season

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If there is one flaw in Martin’s game so far, it’s the penalty kill. To his credit, though, he has stopped four of the six high-danger shots he has faced, but his .722 SV% is problematic. While the Canucks have a terrible penalty kill in general, he does need to find a way to shut the door more often when his team is shorthanded.

Despite the poor penalty kill numbers and an overall save percentage of just .900%, Martin is making a difference and, as mentioned, keeping Vancouver in games. He has a goals saved above expected (GSAA) of 2.51 overall and a .67 GSAA on the penalty kill. In short, he has been one of the Canucks’ best players this season but has fallen victim to a poorly constructed defence which is why his SV% and goals against average (3.45) are not good indicators of his play this season.

Canucks Offence Comes Alive with Martin in Net

One reason Martin has a strong record is that the team’s offence seems to wake up whenever he is in the net. Through the four games this season, the Canucks have scored 22 goals or 5.42 per game. When Demko is in the net, they have only scored 24 or 2.61 per game.

Related: 5 Observations From Canucks’ First 10 Games

While the Canucks seem to kick their offence into another gear when he is in the net, it is important to note that they also give up more shots. Demko has faced an average of 31.9 shots per game, while Martin faces an average of 34.5. While the quality of Demko’s shots is a little higher (9.4 high-danger shots per game to 9), Vancouver is doing a better job protecting their starter from facing too many pucks on a regular basis.

Martin Deserves More Starts

The reason NHL teams have backups is to give their starters breaks and jump in when necessary. Based on the play of their two goalies, it is time for the Canucks to use their backup more by giving him more starts. Despite the fact that Demko is the team’s starter and has the potential to be a Vezina-type goaltender, the data suggests that they have a better chance of winning when Martin is in the net. If they are serious about making a run at the playoffs, he should get at least four of the remaining nine games in November.

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