Pavelski: Jones deserves All-Star nod, 'definitely at that caliber'

Pavelski: Jones deserves All-Star nod, 'definitely at that caliber'

EDMONTON – There was never any doubt that defenseman Brent Burns would be named to his second consecutive NHL All-Star Game, as he was on Tuesday. The 31-year-old is leading all blueliners with 39 points, is probably the leading candidate for the Norris Trophy, and has become one of the league’s most recognizable players due to his unique appearance and personality.

Like Burns, Joe Pavelski was also honored for the second straight season, and that was also not a tremendous surprise. He’s having another solid season with 15 goals and 37 points just a few months after captaining the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final, and then serving in the same role for Team USA’s entry in the World Cup.

But for goalie Martin Jones, it’s a first. The 27-year-old will join Pavelski and Burns – as well as head coach Pete DeBoer – in representing the Sharks at the All-Star weekend in Los Angeles from Jan. 27-29. 

Jones’ addition to the Pacific Division squad was the focus on Tuesday morning in the visitor’s dressing room at Rogers Place, as the Sharks prepared to face the Edmonton Oilers. The North Vancouver native, who went undrafted, is 20-13-2 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in his second season as San Jose’s number one.

“I think Pav and Burnzie are givens. I’m glad Marty Jones got rewarded,” DeBoer said. “It’s a great story as far as the way he’s come up and not been handed anything, and worked for everything he’s got. Now he’s established himself, and is an All-Star. I’m very happy for him. It’s a great honor.”

Pavelski said: “He deserves it. Last year he was such a rock for us. … This year he’s been just solid. When he’s in net we have tons of confidence in him. He’s definitely at that caliber and at that level to be there, and we’re excited for him.”

While there’s a good chance the Sharks’ contingent will be the requisite players-who-get-booed at Staples Center in front of what is sure to be a Kings-heavy crowd, Pavelski was enthusiastic to be named again. He and Burns were a big part of last season’s primary storyline in Nashville when their former Sharks teammate John Scott was named as the MVP.

“It’s exciting,” Pavelski said. “Last year was our first one, Nashville did a tremendous job, everything with John Scott – it was a great experience. [Los Angeles] is right down the road a little bit, so that makes it nice just with travel and getting there. I’m sure they’re going to do a tremendous job.”

Last year was also the first of the three-on-three tournament between divisions, which the Pacific Division captured. Scott’s involvement aside, the format gave a boost to what had previously been a dull event for so many years.

“You could feel that every time it got down to the last couple minutes of the period or of the game, guys were a little more focused probably than in other [All-Star games],” Pavelski said.

“The second time around I think everyone will have a better feel for it.”

For DeBoer, it’s also the first time he’ll be part of an NHL All-Star Game. He was named due to the Sharks having the Pacific Division’s best points percentage at the end of Monday night’s games.

“I’ve coached in the league now for almost a decade and never really been close to that, so it’s nice to be involved in that,” he said. “But, it’s a team recognition.”

Edmonton's Connor McDavid will serve as captain of the Pacific Division team, which also includes Anaheim's Ryan Kesler and Cam Fowler; Los Angeles' Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty; the Flames' Johnny Gaudreau; Arizona's Mike Smith and Vancouver's Bo Horvat.

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.”