Thatcher Demko and Dan Vladar will start in net on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday in the match between the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. No surprise given the fact that Calgary’s number-one, former Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom, took the 1-0 overtime loss at home to the Buffalo Sabres Friday night. The Pacific Division leading Flames have no reason to start Markstrom back-to-back in this scenario.
The same can’t be said for the Vancouver Canucks as head coach Bruce Boudreau weighs the idea of starting Demko again Sunday at Rogers Arena against the Sabres. Part of the decision will be made by the intensity and nature of his performance against the Flames.
It’s unfortunate that Jaroslav Halak’s season has deteriorated to the point where he’s not an automatic plug-in for the tail end of a back-to-back, even at the most crucial time of the season. Obviously that’s the ideal situation for any NHL club with its two goalies, but given Demko’s dominant nature and Halak’s recent travails, it’s not at all a clear-cut concept here.
“We’re pretty sure Demko’s the number-one guy, he’s the guy that every team has, somebody that might be a little bit better or a little younger than somebody else, and I think that’s the question,” Boudreau said. “‘Demmer’s’ our guy and Halak is our back-up, and we’re not in a position right now where we can give up any points, so we’ve gotta play the best we can play.”
The Canucks will be confronted with another back-to-back set on Wednesday and Thursday when they start their four-game road trip against the Colorado Avalanche and then the Minnesota Wild the next night. The season might look completely different at that point depending on how things go this weekend.
“We’re right there in the mix and every game is more important than the next,” Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers said Saturday morning. “We’ve got a good team coming in tonight, we know they played last night, we want to have a good start, and you take a look at the last game against these guys and how it ended up, it was a lot closer than the score showed.”
The Canucks beat the Flames at Rogers Arena on February 24th by a score of 7-1, but Demko made a number of sterling saves early to keep it scoreless and Vancouver piled up some power play breaks later on. Regardless, based on the appearance of the lopsided final number, the Flames will likely come in ornery wanting a bit of payback.
“We’re expecting a big challenge,” Canucks forward Matthew Highmore said bluntly.
“I anticipate them being an awfully lot different team tonight,” Boudreau said. “A team that has gotten stronger since we last played them. They have the pedigree, they have 18 guys that they’re building on that they think can win the Stanley Cup and they’ll come out after losing to Buffalo last night, come out really, really hard, we’ve got to withstand their pressure and then hopefully be a better team than we were last game.”
— The Canucks are 1-0-1 vs. the Flames this season with a 1-0 overtime loss in Calgary on January 29th. The teams play one last time this regular season in Alberta on April 23rd.