You can’t talk about the Sharks shutting out the Wild 3-0 on Monday night without mentioning Martin Jones. Not just because he tallied his third shutout of the 2018-19 campaign -- two of which have come against Minnesota, no less -- but because this is the Martin Jones who turned away 24 shots en route to his fifth victory in a row. This is the Martin Jones that has allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of his last 15 starts.
This is the Martin Jones the Sharks need in the playoffs.
Of course, to his team, Jones has been building up to this point. “I think he’s been good for a while now,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said of Jones last Saturday before San Jose hosted the St. Louis Blues. “Really, coming back from the break at the end of January. He’s been giving us timely saves. Winning a lot of games.”
The coach is right. Prior to San Jose's post-All-Star weekend break, Jones was 23-10-4 after giving up three or more goals in all 14 of those games. Since returning from the break, No. 31 has gone 11-3-1 and the only victory in which he gave up more than two goals was San Jose’s 4-3 win over the Avalanche on Mar. 1.
Of course, Jones is also getting a lot more help from the defense in front of him nowadays. That blue line definitely had his back, blocking 16 shots to the Wild's eight on Monday night in Minnesota. They were a big help in the first frame when the Wild appeared to have the early jump and weren’t giving anything up going in the opposite direction.
“(Minnesota) made it really tough on us,” Jones admitted to NBC’s Brian Boucher after the win over the Wild.
But it was Jones himself who made the big stops when he needed to. After nearly missing a shot by Zach Parise that ricocheted off the post, the netminder pulled out some of his best stops, preventing Minnesota from gaining any momentum. When he froze Joel Eriksson Ek at the end of the second period to keep the Wild from tying the score 1-1, it was obvious Jones was playing with that playoff-caliber zest. Even though Minnesota's Jonas Brodin was given the first star of the game, it's hard to think of any player who deserved it more than Jones did.
Now, the Sharks move on to Winnipeg to close out their current road back-to-back against a tough Jets team. Does Jones get the nod to play two nights in a row?
When asked about it in his postgame interview, Jones cracked a smile. “I always want to play,” he said. “But I play when I’m told. That’s my job.”
For the record: Jones has a 2-0-0 record this season when playing on zero days rest.