Martin Jones is looking like the goalie the Sharks need come playoff time

Martin Jones is looking like the goalie the Sharks need come playoff time

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.

[RELATED: Advantage of EK65 returning to Sharks before playoffs start]

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.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer gives no update on players injured in Game 5


Sharks coach Peter DeBoer gives no update on players injured in Game 5

SAN JOSE -- Questions surrounding the health of the Sharks lineup continued on Monday as the status of three of the four players sidelined in Game 5 remains unknown.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer offered no update on Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, or Erik Karlsson the day after all three missed significant time in San Jose's 5-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues. DeBoer also didn't elaborate on whether the three players would travel with the team to St. Louis to play in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. Joonas Donskoi, who was also injured on Sunday but returned to the game in the final minutes, is expected to travel.

Neither Hertl nor Karlsson even took the bench with the rest of their teammates for the third period of Sunday's game, while Pavelski exited the contest in that third frame after being hit high by Alex Pietrangelo.

The nature of Hertl's injury is unknown, although there is speculation he may have been feeling the effects of a high hit he took from Ivan Barbashev in the first period of Sunday's game. Karlsson's status to even play in Game 5 was up in the air after he appeared to aggravate an old injury in Game 4.

The Sharks became especially emotional and took some big penalties in the third period of Game 5 after Pietrangelo's hit on Pavelski, given San Jose's captain missed six games after suffering a concussion in Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights.

"When Pav got hit high, we lost our composure there in the third," DeBoer said after the game. "Not our finest moment, but I understand where that emotion is coming from, with what he's been through."

[RELATED: Pavelski, Karlsson leave Game 5 with injuries]

While the health of San Jose's lineup is a concern, DeBoer told the media on Monday morning he isn't worried about penciling other players in. 

"We've dealt with this before and guys have stepped in and got the job done," he told the press. "People can write us off but I know in our room we know we've got guys that can get in there and get this done."


Five observations after Sharks get blown out in Game 5 vs. Blues


Five observations after Sharks get blown out in Game 5 vs. Blues

If the Sharks are to face Boston and play for the Stanley Cup, it will necessitate a third consecutive series featuring a Game 7.  On Sunday, San Jose had the bold opportunity to seize a three-games-to-two series lead against St. Louis but fell completely flat after the first 20 minutes.

Now they face elimination, needing two wins to escape and advance. Here are the big takeaways from the Western Conference final Game 5 loss. 

Injury concerns

More concerning than the 5-0 loss is the four players San Jose lost to injury during the contest. Erik Karlsson skated only three minutes of the second period and never returned. A best logical guess is that his previous leg-related ailments have returned or worsened. Tomas Hertl absorbed an Ivan Barbashev head hit in the first period, and while he played during the second period there was no return for the third. 

Joe Pavelski was unnecessarily pinned and elbowed into the boards by Alex Pietrangelo early in the third, and immediately left the contest. Lastly, Joonas Donskoi was accidentally struck in the face by a puck that Justin Braun was trying to clear from the defensive zone in the third.  The bloodied forward made a quick exit to the dressing room. 

Facing elimination

The challenge for San Jose to adapt and be better in Game 6 while facing elimination on the road would have been enough on their plate. However, if they are forced to do without one, or two, or more of those previous four mentioned players — the task goes from difficult to dire.  

Offensive struggles

It’s been a slogan all season that the Sharks would go so far as the defense could take them. However, the offense has hit an uncharacteristic low at the most unfortunate time. San Jose has just one goal in their last six periods.

Their first 20 minutes on Sunday saw eleven shots on goal. But then, things dwindled to just six and four in the respective final two periods. Anyone looking at the final score might be concerned with the “five” allowed from Game 5, but if you’re following trends, San Jose’s “zero” is the bigger story.

Odd stats

San Jose and St. Louis have many things in common, including getting things done the hardest of possible ways.  The Blues own a 7-2 playoff record outside of Missouri, meaning they’re an unexplainable 4-5 on home ice. As for San Jose, they’ve got an 0-6 record when leading a series, but a 10-3 record when tied or trailing in these Stanley Cup Playoffs.

[RELATED: Health a huge concern to key Sharks after Game 5 loss]

Nothing easy

It’s amazing how the Sharks have never had the opportunity for a single comfortable breath in these playoffs.  The last two losses are their first in sequence since April 14 and 16 while facing Las Vegas.  This means they went more than a month without losing back-to-back games -- but now., they face elimination.

No matter how and when these playoffs conclude for San Jose, the overwhelming theme is already starting to write itself: Every step has been a grind.