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IWTG: Off-ice rumours overshadow a 38-save performance for Thatcher Demko

Reports about the Sedins joining the Canucks and other potential front office changes — or lack thereof — took focus away from the Canucks afternoon game against the Flames.
The Vancouver Canucks held onto a 3-0 lead thanks to 20 saves in the third period by Thatcher Demko. graphic: Dan Toulgoet and Freepik

Getting people to pay attention to a meaningless 1:00 PM Vancouver Canucks game on a Tuesday was already going to be a tough sell. 

When rumours dropped before and during the game that the Canucks might be making changes behind the scenes, it seemed like far more eyes were glued to Twitter to monitor the rumours than watching the Canucks play the Calgary Flames. It’s a shame, as a lot of people missed a fantastic performance by goaltender Thatcher Demko in what is likely his final appearance of the season.

Just a half hour before puck drop, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks are in discussions with Daniel and Henrik Sedin about a role within the organization. Multiple other sources confirmed his report.

Combined with other reports over the past week that the Aquilini family are aware of fan dissatisfaction with the direction of the team, it seemed like this might be the start of a major overhaul for the Canucks’ front office. As more information came out, however, it’s more likely that there won’t be a significant renovation of the team’s management, but instead a bit of wallpaper and a splash of paint.

Multiple reports indicate that the Sedin twins, who have stayed in Vancouver since retiring from the NHL, are unlikely to take on a significant, decision-making role in the organization. 

To be honest, it makes sense that the Sedins, who have always been intelligent, thoughtful, and calculated in everything they do, would not want to rush into a hockey executive position. Instead, they’re more likely to follow in the footsteps of another thoughtful star-turned-executive Steve Yzerman, who apprenticed for four years under Ken Holland as the Vice President of Hockey Operations with the Detroit Red Wings before stepping out as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Who would the Sedins apprentice under in Vancouver? According to a report from The Athletic’s Rick Dhaliwal and Thomas Drance, it seems the Sedins could work under Jim Benning, who is expected to retain his position as GM of the Canucks.  

While seeing the Sedins back with the Canucks in some capacity would be a welcome sight, that’s not the type of change most Canucks fans are looking for after an immensely disappointing season. Not to mention that apprenticing under Benning is not quite the same as apprenticing under Holland.

Meanwhile, Demko was stopping scoring chances left, right, and centre in Rogers Arena. After the game, he was full of praise for Ian Clark, the Canucks’ goaltending coach whose contract expires at the end of the season and who, according to multiple reports, already has one foot out the door.

“Clarkie is unbelievable. I owe probably just about everything to him,” said Demko. “Obviously, I’m putting in the work, but the way he’s guided me and mentored me, it’s been amazing. I desperately hope that they can figure something out and have him return. 

“I think the momentum that he and I have right now is exciting and I think there’s still a ton of room for me to grow. The work that Ian and I have put in over the last two years — just the habits and routines and the way that we’re able to think the game and be on the same page — is something that I’d love to continue to do down the stretch here in the next few years. I really hope he gets back here.”

You’d think the team would want to bring back the coach that their young number one goaltender “desperately” wants them to re-sign. There is a distinct — and dismal — possibility that Benning returns but Clark walks. That was the thought that sat in my head after I watched this game.

  • With the win on Tuesday afternoon, the Canucks leapfrogged two more teams in the standings, the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings — The Californians — for 24th place in the NHL. That will give them the ninth-best odds in the draft lottery. If they win on Wednesday, they’ll pass the Ottawa Senators as well and have the tenth-best odds. 
  • Will Lockwood made his Canucks debut, having finally completed his quarantine after a call-up from the Utica Comets. He came as advertised: fleet of foot and willing to engage physically. He handled his first game well, getting in hard on the forecheck, finishing with a team-high three hits, as well as two shots on goal in just under 13 minutes of ice time. He can be forgiven for his one tripping penalty. 
  • “I thought I did everything I wanted to do in the game,” said Lockwood. “Kept it simple, played physical, used my speed, and just had a lot of fun. It was just awesome to be out there with the guys and soak it all in and really enjoy it.”
  • Quinn Hughes was feeling it early in the game. He did his dekes around Michael Stone with a lovely drag move that created a fantastic chance, but Louis Domingue, in his first start of the season, was equal to the task.
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  • Instead, his defence partner kicked off the scoring after Hughes gained the offensive zone and dropped the puck to Tyler Graovac. Hamonic jumped up the ice with Hughes, took Graovac’s bouncing pass, settled the puck, and fired a perfectly-placed shot off the far post and in. Hamonic was wide open, probably because the Flames assumed Hughes’ partner would be a safe, boring, stay-at-home guy. Can’t imagine where they got that idea.
  • Alex Edler is still sitting on 99 career goals despite the Canucks’ best efforts to put him in position to score his 100th goal over the past several games. Nate Schmidt gave him a great opportunity when he made a nifty move around his man at the point, then found Edler sneaking in with a lovely backhand pass, but Edler could only hit the side of the net. So close, yet so far.
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  • Nils Höglander has been one of the brightest silver linings on this grey cloud of a season. He picked up a Domingue rebound and showed great patience before flipping the puck between Domingue’s pad and glove for his 13th goal of the season.
  • Bo Horvat unexpectedly got into a fight in the second period, dropping the gloves with Connor Mackey after the Flames defenceman took a run at Tanner Pearson. The Canucks captain may not fight much — which is good, because fighting is largely dumb — but he was tough for Mackey to handle, landing a solid right on his chin that had Mackey going in for the clutch.
  • For a moment, it looked like Tyler Myers had made it 3-0 in the second period with a slap shot just after a power play expired, but a coach’s challenge and an overeager Myers on the zone entry 24 seconds earlier meant the goal was called back for being offside. Myers has no one to blame but himself — his legs are definitely long enough that he should’ve been able to keep one of them onside.
  • Myers made up for the gaffe in the third period with a fantastic goal to actually make it 3-0. He loped up the ice from behind his own net, looking like the most graceful giraffe you’ve ever seen, and hit Brock Boeser with a pass to gain the zone, then kept driving to the net. He took Boeser’s return pass, then swooped to the forehand and snapped the puck off the post and in.
  • There’s a saying in hockey: “forecheck, backcheck, paycheck.” Höglander has apparently heard the saying. As four of his power play linemates couldn’t get the puck away from Joakim Nordstrom, Höglander came back too and lifted Nordstrom’s stick just before he got a backhand chance away. Google Translate says that phrase in Swedish is “förcheck, backcheck, lönecheck” but I’m skeptical.
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  • The Flames pushed hard in the third period and the Canucks seemed to tire, which is understandable given their schedule. Demko, however, stayed strong. While the Flames got two goals late, they came on a whopping 22 shots. He made 20 saves in the third period alone, more than in the other two periods combined.
  • Brock Boeser sealed the game with an empty net goal, giving him 23 on the season. The trouble is, Edler was on the ice looking for 100 on the career. Boeser already tipped in an Edler shot last game, now he takes away an empty goal opportunity for Edler in this game? Why doesn’t Boeser want Edler to score 100 goals???
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