Martin Jones

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

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USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.

Sharks can’t keep giving shorthanded opponents scoring opportunities

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USATSI

Sharks can’t keep giving shorthanded opponents scoring opportunities

Danton Heinen’s first goal against the Sharks on Thursday was a formality, and an anomaly.

It was a formality, in that Heinen became the 95th player in NHL history to score their first career goal against the Sharks, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was an anomaly, in that it was the first shorthanded goal the Sharks gave up all season.

Heinen’s tally was the first, but it was probably overdue. Why?

Because San Jose is among the league’s worst teams in allowing shorthanded opportunities.

Only three teams (Colorado, New York Islanders, and Columbus) allow shorthanded scoring chances at a higher rate than San Jose, and only one (Colorado) allows shorthanded opponents to generate more high danger scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.

The second unit was the culprit on Heinen’s shorthanded goal on Thursday, but the top unit has been the bigger problem all season. San Jose’s “leaders” in the rate of shorthanded scoring chances are all members of the first power play unit.

Goaltender Martin Jones has masked the power play’s defensive liabilities. He stopped the first ten shorthanded shots he faced, before allowing his first shorthanded goal on Thursday night. Jones has never given up more than three shorthanded goals in a season, and has only allowed six on the 123 shorthanded shots he’s faced in his five-year career.

The bad news, however, lies in Jones’ backup. Aaron Dell’s allowed three shorthanded goals on the 13 shorthanded shots he’s faced since debuting last season. Dell has not been worse necessarily when facing shorthanded shooters, but the fact he allowed more shorthanded goals than Jones in so many fewer starts last season shows how much variance is possible. These are extremely small sample sizes, after all.

If the Sharks continue to allow shorthanded chances, and Jones falters even slightly, they will allow more shorthanded goals. That would be costly for any team, let alone one that’s only managed to score 13 five-on-five goals in nine games this season.

As long as San Jose struggles at even strength, special teams become especially important. The power play has overperformed, the penalty kill has been among the league’s best, and the two units have helped keep the team hovering around .500 this season.

If allowing shorthanded goals becomes even remotely as normal as allowing a rookie’s first career goal, those groups simply won’t be enough to carry the Sharks.

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl.

The shots were 13 for each team in the evenly played period. The Devils came close on several occasions as former Shark Mirco Mueller and Blake Coleman both hit the crossbar and Jones robbed Drew Stafford on a dead-on drive from the slot.

Pavelski and Donskoi got second-period goals as the Sharks steadily tightened their grip on the game.

Pavelski tipped in Braun's point shot at 5:49. Joe Thornton got the second assist, his 1,395th point, to pass Luc Robitaille for 21st on the career list.

Donskoi backhanded a rebound shot with 1:10 left in the period in which the Sharks outshot the Devils 11-6.

The remaining drama centered on Jones' shutout bid.

NOTES: The Devils placed Schneider on injured reserve Friday with a lower-body injury and recalled Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as Kinkaid's backup. ... Mueller, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, returned for the Devils to face the Sharks, the team that drafted him in the first round, for the first time. He was dealt to New Jersey over the summer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Devils: Host Ottawa on Friday night.