Through the first few months of the NHL season, the spotlight on the San Jose Sharks has spent a lot of time focused between the pipes. Even after Martin Jones’ game turned around at the start of December, his critics were back out in full force last Sunday when he was pulled in the first period after giving up three quick goals to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Clearly, Jones needed a turnaround performance on Tuesday when Peter DeBoer sent him back out to start against the Minnesota Wild. No. 31 did just that, standing tall as he notched his first shutout of the season and helped the Sharks extend their winning streak to five games with a 4-0 victory.
“Everyone has tough games, and obviously that was a tough one for him,” Logan Couture said, referring back to Sunday’s game in Chicago. “But we have all the confidence in the world in (Jones) – that he was going to rebound. He played very well tonight.”
Things did look dicey at the start of Jones’ return to the crease on Tuesday when a long shot by Minnesota's Eric Staal rang off the post. While the puck didn’t find the back of the net, it was a scary sight given Jones had given up three goals on four shots just a couple nights before. (Namely that rough game-opening marker by Alex DeBrincat that trickled right past the netminder’s pad.) After that chance by Staal, however, Jones stood on his proverbial head to keep the Wild’s trickiest shots from finding the back of the net.
DeBoer said he knew from Jones’ body of work over the last couple of seasons that he could have a rebound performance like he did. “I knew right after the Chicago game I wanted to come right back with him,” the Sharks coach said. “In my time with him, he’s always responded after a game like that [against Chicago] with a big game. Every time. I was confident we were going to get that type of game out of him tonight.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Sharks also put up a strong defensive effort in front of him. There’s no denying that stretching a detailed game out over a full 60 minutes and not giving Minnesota any room made Jones’ job a bit easier to do. It’s the kind of defensive effort the Sharks admitted they lacked earlier in the campaign.
“There’s no doubt he was left exposed by the game in front of him,” DeBoer said of San Jose’s woes from earlier in the season. “I think everyone is better than early in the season.”
Whatever the reason, it’s safe to say Jones’ game is coming around at the right time. The Sharks will now head home to host the Winnipeg Jets, who are without a doubt the hottest team in the whole league right now. San Jose might’ve been more concerned heading into a contest with the Central Division juggernaut back in November when they were giving up more goals than they were scoring.
Martin Jones’ successful rebound performance, though, showed the Sharks are ready to take on anybody.