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.”

Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner


Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

SAN JOSE – Goaltending has been a hot topic all season for the Sharks. Even when they’ve been winning games, the performance between the pipes has been under scrutiny.

Now, with the playoffs just a couple weeks away and San Jose tryng to snap a season-long five-game winning streak, the performance of Sharks goaltenders Martin Jones and Aaron Dell is yet again being scrutinized.

There’s no mistaking it – they need to be better.

Even Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who isn’t one to call out players after a loss, seemed particularly perturbed with the Sharks' play in net. He said just as much after San Jose's fifth straight defeat, a 4-3 loss to the lowly Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat it, but I think we had them for six chances, and they scored four goals,” he said at the time. “You can’t lay it at one guy's feet, but you can’t win in this league with [an.800 to .900] save percentage. We’ve got to find a way to get an extra save, and on (the other) end we’ve got to find a way to get another goal.”

DeBoer isn’t wrong. Jones might be tied for third place among all NHL goalies with 34 wins under his belt, but his .898 save percentage is 58th out of 69 goalies who have played at least 10 games. Dell's .887 save percentage is 67th. Combined, the Sharks' .891 save percentage is last in the league.

In March, a month in which the Sharks have gone 6-4-1, San Jose has scored 37 goals and allowed 36. Those aren’t stats you want to see heading into the postseason.

To be fair, all the blame can’t be laid at the feet of the netminders, much like DeBoer said. Defensive breakdowns in front of the net don’t do Jones and Dell any favors – and with a banged-up blue line that’s missing Erik Karlsson and Radim Simek, those mistakes become more apparent.

It also doesn’t help the Sharks' offense has dried up, scoring no more than three goals in each of the last five losses. Leading goal-scorer Joe Pavelski has missed the last three, making matters worse.

But San Jose still, as DeBoer mentioned, needs to get more key saves from its goaltenders. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks believe five-game skid will strengthen them]

Now, with the Sharks having secured a playoff spot over the past week, the last few games of the season are going to be focused on being ready for the first round. In addition to getting the lineup healthier, the Sharks also have to focus on allowing fewer goals. A better defensive effort will go a long way, but Jones and Dell also have to buckle down and stop the puck more if San Jose is to hang on to home-ice advantage in the first round.

Don’t expect the goaltending conversation to cool off during these last weeks of the regular season. Goaltending is going to be a major focus as the playoffs get closer. If the Sharks want to still be playing hockey in May and June, it simply has to be better than it is right now.

Sharks not satisfied with single point, believe skid will strengthen them

Sharks not satisfied with single point, believe skid will strengthen them

Well, the Sharks certainly made it interesting. Every time the Ducks scored a goal on Friday evening, the Sharks came back and were able to tie things up. They even got the game-tying goal late in the third period that took their contest into overtime – at least, before they lost 4-3.

Perhaps at a different time of year, getting their first point in five games would feel better. Not on this night. 

The focus remains on the work to be done with just seven games left in the regular season. For Team Teal, they need to clean their game up and get back into the win column.

“It’s better than nothing, but overall, we’re just not finding ways to win games now,” Timo Meier told the media in Anaheim regarding the single point. “We’ve got to find a way to win games. It’s an important time of the year. Playoffs are really close.”

San Jose put a better effort on the ice on Friday than they did the previous evening in LA against the Kings, but the opportunistic Ducks were able to bury more of their chances,

"I don’t think we gave them very much," Peter DeBoer said. "Every chance they got, they stuck in the net, though."

DeBoer was more critical of the team a second night in a row, and rightfully so. Despite outshooting the opposition, the Sharks weren’t able to find the back of the net enough times. They allowed two goals while playing on the penalty kill and tallied 14 giveaways. Plus, outside of Meier’s power-play marker, San Jose still went one-for-five on the man advantage. Despite tying the score up three times, the Sharks couldn’t keep the Ducks from responding.

Clearly, all areas of the game need to be tweaked.

“We’ve got to find a way to get an extra save, and on (the other) end we’ve got to find a way to get another goal,” DeBoer said. “We could’ve used a power-play goal tonight -- another one.”

Perhaps the only silver lining, as Meier put it, is that the Sharks are going through this stretch now instead of once they get into the playoffs. San Jose is still trying to get some of its key players healthy and into the lineup so they can make a deep playoff run with the lines and pairs they want. The goal, at least at the moment, is to make sure this five-game skid is a lesson to learn from and not a prelude to the future.

"Get stronger as a team, get tighter as a group, and learn," Meier said. "It’s going to make us stronger going into the playoffs because there are going to be lots of ups and downs coming up. It’s going to make us stronger and we’ve got to react the right way.”