Ask the experts: Sharks' Jones an elite goalie?

Ask the experts: Sharks' Jones an elite goalie?

SAN JOSE – Martin Jones was the single biggest risk the Sharks took headed into last season. He was a goalie with some nice credentials, putting up impressive numbers in junior and the AHL, but he came to San Jose as the presumable number one with hardly any NHL experience.

It was a gamble that paid off. Jones was a rock for the Sharks, particularly in the second half, and he gave the club a goaltending performance that they simply had never had in the 25-year history of the franchise.

There is a natural inclination among the fan base now to believe that Jones is the next franchise goalie. And while that may prove to be the case, a few former longtime NHL goalies pumped the breaks a bit on the 26-year-old. 

Sure, he had a great 2015-16 campaign, but he hasn’t yet reached that level of some of the elites in his field.

“He’s a legitimate number one starter, but I don’t know if he’s elite just yet,” said NBC NHL analyst Brian Boucher. “I need a little bit more time to see. But, he’s a legitimate number one. We’ll see if he’s elite and can put together two or three seasons together like he did last year.”

Martin Biron played 17 seasons in net in the NHL, and is now an NHL analyst for TSN and RDS in Canada, and the NHL Network.

“Is he a top 10 goalie, for me? Yes. But, I need to see more out of him,” Biron said. “Maybe that’s not fair because when you’re not a flashy goalie, you tend to not have the big highlight reel saves and then it doesn’t look like you’re the same caliber as everybody else.”

Biron mentioned guys like Carey Price, Ben Bishop and Cory Schneider as being the goalies that are at the “top of my list,” and that “Martin Jones comes in right after him. It’s not a knock on him, it’s just the fact that I’m being cautious.”

NBC NHL analyst Keith Jones pointed out that the list of flash-in-the-pan goalies is a lengthy one, but he likes Martin Jones’ style.

“There’s been a lot of goaltenders that have come out and played well and earned a number one spot on the team, but that doesn’t necessarily hold strong if they don’t come back and repeat that type of performance the next year,” Jones said.

“I liked everything I saw about him and about his game last year. Now, it will just be a matter of him staying consistent. It looks like with his style that’s not going to be an issue. He’s not all over the place and looks like he’s pretty methodical about the way he approaches the position.”

Boucher doesn’t expect a drop off from Jones, suggesting it’s only a matter of time before he joins that list of elite, franchise NHL goalies.

“Judging by talks I’ve had with him and talking to teammates, this guy really is as cool as a cucumber and doesn’t seem to get phased by much of anything,” Boucher said. 

“I think he’s a legitimate number one, but we need more time to see if he’s truly elite. That would be two and three seasons of fantastic play. But, Sharks fans have to be encouraged by what they saw last year. I suspect that he’ll be just as good as he was last year.”

Why Sharks think they're turning things around after win over Oilers

Why Sharks think they're turning things around after win over Oilers

SAN JOSE -- Suffice to say, the Sharks don't look like the same team that started a six-game homestand on Nov. 1 with one of the worst records in the NHL.

With a 6-3 win over the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, the Sharks have won four in a row and appear to be climbing out of the hole they dug themselves in the first month of the season.

Not to jump the gun or anything, The Sharks aren't out of the woods yet. But after the past six games, it looks like they're finally turning the corner and playing the way they expect to.

"Every game, I feel like we're more comfortable," said Tomas Hertl, who scored a goal Tuesday. "Everybody plays better. So now we have to just keep going."

The Sharks spent a good chunk of the first month of the season looking out of sync -- offensively, defensively, you name it. The culprit? Focusing too much on individual play and not working together as a unit.

"We weren't playing our system," Marc-Edouard Vlasic summarized Tuesday. "We were freelancing. We were doing our own thing. And it's funny when you stick to it, to what you do best, the results follow."

Erik Karlsson, Vlasic's defensive partner, agreed.

"We lost ourselves a little bit," said Karlsson, who had three assists Tuesday. "But right now we're working hard for each other and getting ourselves in good spots out there."

Sticking to that system yielded positive production on Tuesday against the Oilers. The Sharks scored six goals, and largely contained Oilers superstars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. 

"We had a big task in stopping one of the best lines in hockey and I think we did a good job of that," Karlsson said. "I think everyone contributed offensively and defensively. I think we played the right way for 60 minutes even though they scored three goals. But I think we stuck with it."

"They're at the top of the division and I thought we did a good job of defending McDavid and Draisaitl as a group tonight," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer added. "I thought we had some individuals who did a really good job, but I thought everyone on the ice with those guys was aware."

Of course, getting the jump on the Oilers fewer than five minutes into the game didn't hurt, either. 

"We got the first goal, which took a little bit of the pressure off," DeBoer said. "We got to play out in front most of the night. Those kinds of things make a difference."

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

Now, as Hertl mentioned, the Sharks have to keep going. With an 8-10-1 record, San Jose is still under .500.

That's not good enough for a team accustomed to playing in the postseason. 

"If you're under (.500) you're not in the playoffs," Hertl said. "We're trying the best and over the last four games, we actually look like the Sharks."

If they keep looking like the Sharks that Hertl is talking about, the outlook on the season gets a little brighter.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers


SAN JOSE -- If there was a high note for the Sharks to end their six-game homestand on, they hit it against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

The Sharks offensively overpowered the Pacific Division-leading Oilers at SAP Center. Logan Couture and Erik Karlsson had multi-point nights and Barclay Goodrow registered a Gordie Howe hat trick as San Jose skated to a 6-3 victory. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' fourth-straight win.

Coming alive 5-on-5

As fans are probably all too aware, the Sharks had a ton of trouble scoring goals at even strength at the start of the homestand. But as they have improved over this six-game span, their 5-on-5 game has come alive. San Jose scored five even-strength goals in the first 40 minutes Tuesday, the team's most impressive 5-on-5 performance of the season. 

To make things better, the Sharks got scoring from their bottom six in Tuesday's game courtesy of third-liner Patrick Marleau's first-period goal. If San Jose can start getting production from the fourth line as well, the Sharks' offense will be in really good shape going forward.

Playing more than 20 minutes

The Sharks went into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead but had a feisty Oilers' team pushing to get on the board. And as the Sharks learned from their back-and-forth 6-5 win over the Minnesota Wild last week, only playing well for the first 20 minutes isn't a good formula for winning games. 

But the Sharks didn't sit back on their heels, instead scoring another goal 1:26 into the second period and then another before the intermission. Even though the Oilers scored three goals in the last two periods, San Jose had enough of a lead to keep the damage minimal.

Not too shabby for a team with one of the league's worst goal differentials at the start of the homestand.

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

The Sharks' best game to date?

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Sharks have certainly played much better over the last four games, but there are still a couple of areas they need to tighten up as they try to climb their way to a .500 record.

Although the Sharks built a big enough cushion, they did let up a bit Tuesday and allow two goals in the third period to let the Oilers make things interesting. As we discussed earlier, that's exactly how the Sharks almost gave up last week's game to the Wild.

While San Jose goaltender Martin Jones did a pretty solid job against Edmonton's offense, the defense in front of him needs to stay tight late into games so they don't end up blowing any late leads.