Demers scored on a first-period power play on Sunday, making him the lone Shark to put the puck in the net. He's a fourth-line type, a player who spent the season on San Jose's infamous Worcester shuttle, but the team always recognized Demers' ability to score -- before the playoffs began, McLellan was even using Demers as a forward on brief occasions.
That's fitting. Demers, 21, would very much like to pattern his game on teammate Dan Boyle, who was the other defenseman on the ice when Demers scored his goal Sunday. Boyle, an All-Star and a gold-medal Olympian, is an offensive-minded blue-liner who, like Demers, isn't a behemoth.
"The type of player I want to be as my career goes would be a Dan Boyle, for sure," Demers said Monday after the Sharks' noon practice.
And Demers is watching everything Boyle does, and trying to put it into practice.
"I try to copy a few of his moves here and there, see what he does in certain situations," Demers said with a smile. "And it's helped me, a few things, a few little movements this way instead of that has made a difference."
Agreed, said team captain Rob Blake, himself a highly decorated defenseman. "Demers really thrives on the offensive aspect of the game when he's given the opportunity on the second power play," Blake said. "He made some great plays [Sunday], scored a nice goal, had another good shot. These guys -- Jamie McGinn, Logan Couture, Demers -- they're young but they've played a lot of big minutes for us."
The primary reason a relatively inexperienced youth is getting some minutes in key situations is that the Sharks have been impressed with Demers' air of calm. He doesn't get rattled, he's playing as if the postseason is a November game in the AHL.
"He's played well since he got here," Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray said. "He's very poised with the puck for his experience level, he makes creative plays, he'll forecheck, too."
"He's one of those guys nobody expected to be up, but he's a great kid," said mentor Boyle, who himself was overlooked a bit as a young player. "I like his attitude around the room. He's in a weird situation, with seven defensemen; he's not getting a lot of minutes. I've been there, it isn't easy. But he's only going to get better. Jason's a smart player, and he has a lot of poise for a guy with very little experience."
Utilizing seven defensemen is a little unusual, but McLellan said Monday, "It varies on how you're looking at it. One, you have to look at the lineup that you're playing against. Do we prefer to play a set of forwards, left winger, center, and right winger on that fourth line? Or would we like to move one of our people in and out of there? You have to look at how much matching is going on in the series. You have to look at the ability of your defensemen to play against certain players on their team, their lineup."
One primary reason the Sharks used seven defensemen in Game 1 was that Niclas Wallin is close to full strength again after missing most of the first two rounds with an undisclosed injury. Wallin played Sunday, and McLellan hinted Monday that he might be ready for regular minutes. He played just over 10 minutes in Game 1; if he can double that mark on Tuesday night, that means that San Jose won't need Demers. So the Game 1 goal-scorer might not be on the ice at HP Pavilion.
That's OK. Demers is just soaking up what he can, while he can.
"It's a bit of a learning curve," he said. "It's a big difference in the playoffs, but it's going well and I'm getting a lot of confidence. It's all coming along nicely."
"It's fun to watch him. I'm not even close to having hands like that. I'm trying to learn a few things from the young kid."