When Sharks goaltender Martin Jones takes the net against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, he’ll face a team with a strength that runs counter to one of his own.
Jones, who’s posted a .934 five-on-five save percentage since the All-Star break according to Natural Stat Trick, has been one of the league’s better goaltenders in the face of high-danger shots and chances at even strength, which the Sharks allow at the league’s seventh-highest rate (11.75 per 60 five-on-five minutes).
Minnesota, on the other hand, makes opponents pay on the most dangerous opportunities. The Wild have scored goals on five-on-five high-danger chances at the ninth-highest rate in the league (1.45 goals per 60 minutes), with the 11th-highest high-danger shooting percentage (13.02 percent).
That’s not good for San Jose, as it’s coming off a loss in which it allowed a lot of those kinds of chances. The Sharks actually allowed more five-on-five high-danger chances in Friday night’s narrow defeat to the Blackhawks (14) than in Thursday’s lopsided loss against the Predators (11).
The difference, as it has since the break, came down to who was in net.
On Friday, a now-healthy Jones allowed one five-on-five goal off of a high-danger chance. On Thursday, Aaron Dell allowed five.
Their respective performances in net were indicative of a trend that’s become especially prevalent since the All-Star break, as the netminders’ individual form has flipped: Jones is standing tall in the face of dangerous chances, while Dell is not.
On a per-60 minute basis, Dell’s only seen 0.04 more high-danger chances in five-on-five situations than Jones. Yet, despite making eight fewer starts, Dell’s only allowed four fewer goals on said chances chances (nine) than Jones (13).
Three starts is a small sample size, but when taking each goaltender’s full season into account, the difference against high-danger opportunities is still stark: Jones has an .822 five-on-five save percentage against high-danger shots, while Dell is at 0.746, according to Corsica Hockey. They ranked 13th and 57th, respectively, out of 62 goalies that have played at least 500 five-on-five minutes as of Saturday.
With Jones in net, that difference will be especially important on Sunday, since Minnesota’s so good at converting on dangerous opportunities, especially lately. The Wild have scored eight goals off of high-danger opportunities during their three-game winning streak, which is their longest in over two months.
The Sharks are on a streak of their own, having lost two in a row. Whether it extends to three, or Minnesota’s to four, will depend on which strength proves stronger: Jones’, or the Wild’s.