Canucks’ fatal flaw that will doom them in 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

It’s now up to Casey DeSmith to help the Vancouver Canucks advance deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko with red medical bags next to him

The Vancouver Canucks find themselves in a challenging position despite splitting the first two games of their Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Nashville Predators. They’ve encountered significant setbacks, with workhorse goaltender Thatcher Demko ruled out for the remainder of the series and having to call on backup Casey DeSmith. Additionally, there was cause for concern early Thursday when goal-scoring forward Brock Boeser had to leave practice after accidentally blocking a shot from a teammate.

Thankfully, there’s positive news regarding Boeser’s status. But the same can’t be said for Demko, who has established himself as one of the NHL’s top goaltenders and played a pivotal role in the Canucks’ success in 2023-24.

The regular season marked a notable milestone for Demko, as he delivered career-best statistics. He boasted an impressive record of 35-14-2 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .918 save percentage while achieving five shutouts. He was also in the conversation to be nominated for the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s top goaltender, before being felled by an injury in March. Demko was able to return to the lineup in April.

Canucks have been without Thatcher Demko since Game 1 

Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) watches the Canucks celebrate a goal score by forward Elias Lindholm (23) against the Nashville Predators in the second period in game one of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena.Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Just about the worst thing that could happen to a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations at the beginning of the postseason is to lose their starting goaltender. Unfortunately, that fear was turned into reality with the Canucks and Demko.

Demko picked up right where he left off in the regular season by stopping 22 of the 24 shots from the Predators in Sunday’s Game 1, to the delight of a roaring sellout crowd at Rogers Arena. It marked the venue’s first postseason action since 2015; Vancouver’s most recent playoff games occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic in the “bubble” at Edmonton’s Rogers Place.

However, a setback occurred near the end of Game 1 when Demko suffered an undisclosed injury. This injury was significant enough to sideline him for Game 2, and it’s severe enough for some to be projecting his absence until the potential Western Conference Final.

Canucks coach Rick Tocchet didn’t go that far, instead choosing to classify Demko’s absence as “day to day”, per The Associated Press.

“He skated yesterday. He’s not going to play tonight,” Tocchet said. “It wasn’t the old injury and that’s all I really got for you guys.”

“It might have been in the game, but I’m not quite sure because he skated yesterday,” he continued. “I don’t know the exact timeline. That’s why I don’t want to speculate whether it’s this time or whatever.”

Vancouver forced to roll with Casey DeSmith

Vancouver Canucks goalie Casey DeSmith (29) skates while the fans celebrate a goal scored by defenseman Nikita Zadorov (not pictured) against the Nashville Predators during the second period in game two of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers ArenaBob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
After opting not to retain Spencer Martin and Collin Delia during the offseason, the Canucks made a significant move by acquiring Casey DeSmith in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens. DeSmith, who had recently been traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to Montreal before joining Vancouver, often served as the “1B” option to Tristan Jarry in Pittsburgh. His addition provided valuable depth to the goaltending position and established a clear backup option to support Demko.

DeSmith racked up a record of 12-9-6 with a 2.86 goals against average, .896 save percentage and a single shutout during his debut campaign in Vancouver. But he was thrust into action for Game 2 of their series against the Predators when it became clear that Demko would not be able to suit up.

Despite allowing an early goal en route to what would be three goals on just 15 shots, the sellout crowd was fully supportive of the 32-year-old, chanting his name and roaring in approval with every save. DeSmith was sure to note how much he appreciated that warm reception in his postgame remarks. And it’s something that DeSmith was sure to note how appreciative he was in his postgame remarks.

“The playoffs, it’s a different animal, and it’s fun to be out there,” he said, per Rob Williams of Daily Hive. “The crowd obviously is incredible. It’s an incredible atmosphere, and the city’s behind us. I, for one, appreciate it, and I know everybody in this locker room does too.”

As the series moves to Music City, a raucous sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena eagerly awaits the Predators, hoping to propel them to a 2-1 lead over the Canucks.

DeSmith will be tasked with helping his teammates weather the storm in Demko’s absence, a responsibility they’ve already expressed full confidence he can handle. Game 3 will begin Friday night starting at 7:30 PM EST.

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