Demko ruled out for Game 1, Silovs staying ready, Vancouver head coach says

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Canucks fans celebrate as team eliminates Nashville Predators from playoffs'
Vancouver Canucks fans celebrate as team eliminates Nashville Predators from playoffs
RELATED VIDEO: Fans celebrated in the streets as the Vancouver Canucks advanced to the next round of the NHL playoffs following a Game 6 victory over the Nashville Predators Friday night. Troy Charles reports. – May 4, 2024

Arturs Silovs has rocketed up the Vancouver Canucks’ depth chart this post-season, going from third-string goalie to starter in pivotal elimination games. However, the rookie remains unfazed.

“You just have to be always ready,” Silovs said Sunday. “A lot of things happen in life like accidents. Someone gets hurt, right? And you just have to be ready to embrace your moment.”

The 23-year-old Latvian netminder has made the most of his opportunities in recent weeks, backstopping the Canucks to two wins in his first three NHL playoff games.

On Friday, he made a series of crucial saves late as Vancouver blanked the Nashville Predators 1-0 and earned their way through to the second round where they’ll face the Edmonton Oilers. The victory marked Silovs’ first-ever NHL shutout.

“I think that he just did a great job,” said Canucks captain Quinn Hughes. “He’s a young guy, but obviously very competitive. And the moment wasn’t too big for him. I’m really happy for him and really happy for our team that we have another guy like that in the locker room.”

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Playing Silovs wasn’t the plan when Vancouver started its playoff run.

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All-star goalie Thatcher Demko was in net for Vancouver in Game 1 of the first-round series. But he sustained a lower-body injury.

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet ruled Demko out for Game 1 of Vancouver’s second-round series on Sunday but said the star goalie is improving.

He was replaced by Casey DeSmith, who went 1-1-0 with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage in Games 2 and 3 before going down with a lower-body injury himself.

Enter Silovs.

The six-foot-four, 203-pound netminder spent much of the season with Vancouver’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Abbotsford Canucks, making just four regular-season appearances for the NHL club.

Getting called into action in the playoffs hasn’t rattled him, though, said Tocchet.

“Usually you tell a guy he’s playing, he gets a little bit more — even as a forward or defenceman — guys get a little bit more intense,” he said. “(Silovs) is the same guy, whether he’s a backup or a starter. I like that, guys that don’t change just because they’re playing or not.”

One of the rookie goalie’s mid-game rituals embodies his calm demeanour: between periods, Silovs sits in his stall with an ice bag on his head to cool down.

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Whatever he’s doing seems to be working. Across Games 4, 5 and 6, Silovs went 2-1-0 with a 1.70 GAA, a .938 save percentage and a shutout.

The goalie credited experience on another big stage for preparing him for playoffs.

Last May, Silovs played in the world championships on home soil in Riga, Latvia. He helped his country to bronze — its first medal — and was named MVP of the tournament.

“I feel like especially playing at home, it was more like a pressure to (win) because like people are hungry for hockey there,” he said. “We don’t have like any major team who’s playing a full season. So I felt like this was the chance to show the people, to give something back. And I’m glad we managed to do it.”

What role Silovs will play for the Canucks as the post-season continues remains to be seen.

The coach said he and Canucks director of goaltending Ian Clark will look at a number of factors when they decided whether Silovs or DeSmith will start against the Oilers.

“You go through the whole list,” he said. “You’re playing this team, the play of the goalie, how many practices he’s had, the health. It’s the same thing (as always.)”

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