All these wins in March for the Canucks can be tied to the play of one goalie.

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“I knew I had some good games in me and I knew that we didn’t have a great start, so we had to start getting wins and getting them quick. I’m just trying to help.”

The Vancouver Canucks keep winning, and it’s almost entirely because of the man speaking above. That’s goaltender Thatcher Demko.

The third-year Canuck is in, without a doubt, the best stretch of his career. Since the start of March, the Canucks have played nine games. Demko’s started eight of those games, winning seven times, and in this stretch he’s seized the starter’s job away from veteran Braden Holtby.

“You could almost just repeat anything we said about Jacob Markstrom (last year). He’s locked in on Ian Clark’s system of movement and doing so with a pace that means he’s almost never behind even difficult plays,” In Goal Magazine’s Kevin Woodley said Thursday, referencing the Canucks’ goalie coach as well.

Woodley has access to Clear Sight Analytics’ data and says they reveal a goalie who’s making the toughest of stops, against one-timers and shots that come after cross-slot passes. One of the biggest factors in Demko’s current success, Woodley said, is how he’s playing off his goalposts.

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“(This) shows up in very positive numbers on behind-net pass-outs and low slot-line plays,” he explained. Making these saves is about good positioning ahead of the shot attempts, since the shooter is usually out of the goalie’s line of sight before the pass is made from behind the net or from across the crease.

“Breakaways are a rare net-negative area,” he noted, and suggested that Demko still needs to improve how he manages himself when there’s traffic between himself and the shooter. “But the rest is just really good, both to the eye test and stats, and it all starts with his movements and his beating plays through positioning.”

Here are a few numbers to consider about Demko’s remarkable run, one that has kept the Canucks’ slim playoff hopes alive:

One of the few areas where Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko could improve is on breakaways, though he was 4-for-4 against Ottawa in the shootout Wednesday night.
One of the few areas where Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko could improve is on breakaways, though he was 4-for-4 against Ottawa in the shootout Wednesday night. Photo by Marc DesRosiers /USA TODAY Sports

0.951

Demko’s overall save percentage since March 1 is 0.951. He’s stopping almost every shot that’s coming his way, no matter the circumstance.

The next-best performer over that stretch is Carey Price, at 0.938. Demko’s career number is 0.912.

The league’s average save percentage is just 0.902 this season, the lowest that it’s been in a decade.

Now, you know that stratospheric overall save percentage isn’t going to last.

0.927

Demko’s play at even strength overall has been solid: his 0.927 even-strength save percentage is 13th-best in the NHL.

His even-strength save percentage since the beginning of March is a league-best 0.956, one point higher than Price’s.

17.21

According to Clear Sight Analytics, the data company run by former NHL goalie Steve Valiquette, Demko has the second-best goals saved above expected in March.

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On his Twitter account, Woodley reported that Demko had saved 17.21 more goals than what you would expect a league-average goalie to stop. Only Vegas’s Marc-Andre Fleury (22.31) has been more out of this world.

This metric is calculated by measuring the difficulty presented by every shot a goalie faces and the probability it will end up as a goal, based on similar shots taken in the past.

741

No goalie in the NHL has faced more shots than Demko this season: 741.

He’s also made the most saves: 682, 30 more than Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck.

0.888

If you ever want to understand how tied the Canucks are to their goaltending, just contrast March with February.

Demko won just once in eight starts in February and posted a mediocre 0.888 save percentage in the process.

The Canucks weren’t winning then and it was because neither Demko nor Holtby was playing well.

Now, Demko is on fire and the Canucks have stolen some wins.

490

Demko has played 490 minutes so far this month, second-most in the league. He’s now started seven games in a row, tying his career-high streak, set last season after Markstrom suffered a knee injury.

That streak would have been longer, of course, had COVID-19 not happened and the season been put on pause as a result.

With back-to-back games Friday and Saturday in Montreal, could Holtby finally start again? Or will coach Travis Green lean heavily on his hot goalie, knowing that the team is off for a week beginning next Wednesday?

0.903

Does Markstrom miss Canucks goalie coach Clark? He’s struggling of late in Calgary and currently has a very league-average 0.903 save percentage.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

twitter.com/risingaction

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