In case you were wondering: yes, Thatcher Demko was amazing once again for the Canucks in Game 7, tormenting the Golden Knights almost all night long. Even so, the Canucks relied so much on Demko that they were playing with fire, and the Golden Knights burned them just enough in Game 7 to win 3-0.
It certainly wasn’t easy, but the Golden Knights advanced to the 2020 Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars, who won their own Game 7 vs. the Avalanche on Friday.
When, how to watch Game 1 of Dallas Stars vs. Golden Knights
2020 Western Conference Final Game 1: Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights – Sunday, Sept. 6, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Demko almost steals Game 7 for Canucks, but Golden Knights win
Demko authored one of the greatest runs we’ve seen from a playoff goalie. The 24-year-old goalie managed a shutout streak of 138:40, stopping 98 consecutive shots. Fittingly for playoff hockey, the Golden Knights broke through on an ugly bounce while on the power play.
(No, the floodgates didn’t open after that 1-0 goal. Instead, the Golden Knights inflated their lead with two empty-net goals.)
Speaking of power plays, the Canucks have to kick themselves for squandering some golden opportunities vs. the Golden Knights in Game 7.
Most obviously, the Canucks received a five-minute major power play after Ryan Reaves was ejected for an ugly hit on Tyler Motte.
It seemed like such an opportunity simply couldn’t wake the Canucks up from their passive style. Vancouver only managed one shot on goal despite receiving that lengthy major opportunity, putting together basically the opposite effort of the Sharks storming back after a major in Game 7 of that 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs series vs. the Golden Knights.
Once the Golden Knights finally beat Demko, the Canucks actually aggressively pursued offense (instead of counter-punching, at best). It was too little, too late, though.
Simply put, Robin Lehner didn’t need to make saves like these very often to pitch a shutout in a must-win game:
On one hand, the scrappy Canucks narrowed a 3-1 margin to a 3-3 tie. On the other, they squandered a nigh-legendary run from Demko, and that incredible (and rare) five-minute major opportunity. Maybe they had “nothing to lose,” but that had to hurt.
Going forward, it will be fascinating to see if the Stars go into a similar shell vs. the Golden Knights, or if they try to trade blows with Vegas much like Dallas managed to do against the Avalanche.
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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.