The Vancouver Canucks continue to have a great month of March. After only winning two games in February, they have won five of the seven games this month. Most of their recent success can be attributed to Thatcher Demko and his dominance.
The Canucks took on the Montreal Canadiens twice to start the week. On Monday night, they picked up a shootout win in a close game. The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead thanks to a first-period power-play goal from Jeff Petry. The Canucks trailed until the final minute of the third period, as Adam Gaudette put the puck past Carey Price to send the game into overtime. Captain Bo Horvat was the lone scorer in the shootout, leading his team to a 2-1 win.
The two teams played once again on Wednesday, but the results were different. The Canadiens won 5-1, a result that has been familiar in matchups between the two teams this season. In five of the six games between the two teams this season, Montreal has scored five or more goals.
After the loss to the Canadiens, the Canucks got back on track with a win over the Edmonton Oilers. They ended the Oilers’ four-game win streak in another close game. Horvat and Leon Draisaitl scored in the second period, tying the game at 1-1. Tyler Myers netted his fourth of the season in the third period to give the Canucks the win.
Demko’s Next Contract
It is clear Demko is the Canucks’ number one goalie at this point in the season. Not only did he start all three games last week, but he has also started in 11 of the team’s last 14 games. He has been especially impressive in his past nine starts, posting a .942 save percentage (SV%), 1.89 goals-against average (GAA), and a 5-4-0 record.
Demko’s performance so far this season is similar to the dominance he showed in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs through three games against the Vegas Golden Knights. In three playoff games, he made 125 saves and posted .984 SV%. His performance was a reason the Canucks did not want to commit to signing Jacob Markstrom for a long term. Markstrom signed a six-year, $36 million contracts with the Calgary Flames this offseason, ending when he turns 36 years old. Allowing the Swedish goalie to leave and banking on the 25-year old looks to be the right decision in the long term for the Canucks so far.
Demko is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, along with other key players such as Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. The Canucks have a tight cap situation and will likely offer the 25-year old a short-term contract with a cap hit of around $3 to $4 million.
No Pettersson, No Problem
Pettersson missed all three games last week with an upper-body injury and has now missed the team’s past five games. He is now slated to miss the team’s four-game road trip.
The forward had been playing through the injury in the two games against the Winnipeg Jets to start the month. Without the Swedish superstar, the Canucks are 4-1 in those five games. Once he returns, he will provide an additional boost to the team’s performance, potentially helping extend their winning ways. He has 10 goals and 21 points through 26 games this season, including five goals and seven points in his last five games.
After winning five of their last seven games, the Canucks are playing a lot better than they have to start the season. The team is now three points out of the fourth playoffs spot, held by the Canadiens, who have still played four fewer games than the Canucks. The Habs have started to struggle as of late, posting a 3-3-4 record in their last 10 games.
If they continue to struggle, the Canucks have a better shot of making it to the playoffs. Still, the Canucks aren’t the only team in the hunt for the fourth seed in the North Division. The Flames have been playing better in their past 10 games, posting a 5-3-2 record. Also, they are two points out of the fourth seed, with one more game played than the Canadiens.
The team’s performance for the remainder of the month will be important in telling what the Canucks will do at the trade deadline. The 2020-21 trade deadline is on April 12th, and the team has a few players who are pending free agents and could trade them to acquire pieces for the future.
Canucks Hope to Continue Winning
The Canucks start next week with a two-game series against the Ottawa Senators. It will be the first time the two teams face off since the three-game series in January. The Canucks outscored the Senators 16-3, winning all three games.
After the series against the Senators, they take on the Canadiens in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. The series against Montreal is a crucial one since the two teams are in the hunt for the fourth playoff spot. The Canucks have only beaten them twice so far this season and have struggled to pick up two points against them.
Thatcher Demko – two wins .936 SV%, 2.28 GAA
Bo Horvat – one goal, one assist, shootout winner
- March 15th – at Ottawa Senators
- March 17th – at Ottawa Senators
- March 19th – at Montreal Canadiens
- March 20th – at Montreal Canadiens
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.