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Demko Hit Often – Are Vancouver Canucks Protecting Goalies?

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Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko loses his mask as he's run over by Dallas Stars forward Alex Radulov in the 1st period on Saturday night.

Did the Vancouver Canucks do enough to protect goaltender Thatcher Demko in Dallas against Alexander Radulov and the rest of the Stars? He was run early and often, sometimes obviously, other times the contact being a bit more subtle. An elbow here, getting backed into or bumped there.

It’s a fine line.

“We’re not gonna sit and fight every time somebody hits somebody, but if it were something where he went down and was hurt, I’m sure there would be a reaction to it,” Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said Monday morning. “Right now we’re focused on winning, if it’s too bad we’ll react, but if it’s not we’ll suck it up and not take the penalty.”

“He’s our most valuable player, we want to protect both our goalies,” Canucks defenceman Luke Schenn said, “coming to the front of the net shouldn’t be an easy place to get to, it should be a tough place to be and uncomfortable for guys in front of there.”

Schenn referred to it more from a proactive angle, protecting the ‘house’ in general, not so much in reference to the glove-in-the-face reaction if you hit his goalie.

“That’s what wins too,” Schenn added, “strong in the corners and strong in front of the goalie. This time of year and the playoffs you’re not trying to outscore teams, you’re trying to out-defend teams and those are the hard areas. It’s not all about just what you do with the puck, it’s what you do without the puck on defence too.”

So where does a team draw the line when an opponent, like a Radulov, appears to be taking liberties in the crease? At some point one expects the officials to have a say.

“All you can do is mention it to the referees and these days if you talk too much to them or if you yell or scream at them it goes the other way,” Boudreau said. “We bring it to light, but it’s a badge, a sign that ‘Demmer’s’ that good that you have to rattle him by going after him, and you just hope the referees do their job and their due diligence and if they see that, that they call it. Sometimes they don’t, and it’s frustrating.

“I know a couple times for sure they (Dallas) should have had penalties for goalie interference but they didn’t call it, and what are you gonna do.”

Ironically, it was Schenn who picked up a minor late in the 2nd period for ‘interfering’ with Joe Pavelski. While battling for position in front of the net Pavelski fell and the referee’s arm came up. It appeared to be effort to ‘even-things up’ minutes after the Vancouver Canucks had earned their first power play of the game. Either way, Schenn noticed.

“It’s a man’s game out there,” he said, “especially this time of year with physical battles. If a guy goes over, to me that’s part of the game. I think we want to protect Demmer as good as we can and sometimes if you box a guy out or put him on his butt, those are penalties we have to kill.”

Again. A fine line, that sometimes depends on the referee pairing.

Something to watch as the stakes get higher and the season churns through the stretch drive.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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