Sharks

Rewind: 'Elite' Martin Jones outplays Price in Sharks' win over Habs

Rewind: 'Elite' Martin Jones outplays Price in Sharks' win over Habs

SAN JOSE – The challenge for Martin Jones headed into 2016-17 was to repeat the kind of campaign he had in his first season as an NHL number one, when he helped the Sharks reach their first-ever Stanley Cup Final.

Having a strong season is one thing. Becoming a franchise goaltender is an entirely different animal. The Canadiens have one, of course, in Carey Price, viewed unanimously as the NHL’s best. 

Jones has some work ahead if he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Price. But his latest performance – a 31-save effort against Montreal in which he slightly outplayed the former Hart Trophy winner at the other end in a 2-1 Sharks win – capped off a remarkable stretch for Jones, who is perhaps the team’s MVP as they sit in first place in the Pacific Division in the first week of December.

In his last 11 games, Jones is now 8-2-1 with a 1.46 goals-against average and .945 save percentage. His GAA for the season was lowered to a miniscule 1.99.

“We’ve got an elite goalie here,” Burns said. “We’re lucky to have Jonesy. He’s great to play in front of. He’s right up there to be the best goalie in the league. Every night he shows it.”

Dillon said: “He's just continuing to prove that he's an elite-level guy. For us, as defensemen, it's nice when he's back there. But at the same time, we want to do our best to eliminate as much as we can and help him out.”

Dillon, Burns, and the rest of the Sharks defense corps did a nice job against the Canadiens, who still lead the NHL in points percentage even after the loss (.708). But the Sharks wouldn’t have won this one without Jones, who made a number of stellar stops.

His best came in the first period with the Sharks enjoying a 1-0 lead, when Jones robbed Alex Galchenyuk after a sneaky pass from Paul Byron gave Galchenyuk all kinds of net to shoot at. Jones slid across and snatched it, freezing play. 

"I think at that point I was just kind of reacting to the play,” Jones said. “You're not going to see me pull that out too, too often. Just tried to get over and bring as much of my body as I could."

Later in the first, Jones stopped Brian Flynn on a breakaway with 2:53 to go. In the second period he again flashed the leather, this time on Max Pacioretty on a two-on-one with 14:53 remaining in the middle frame. Seconds later, it was his left lad that prevented Brenden Gallagher from cutting into the Sharks’ 2-0 lead, when Gallagher found himself alone in front of the net with the puck on his stick.

Facing Price, Jones knew he would have to be on top of his game. According to assistant coach Steve Spott, filling in for Pete DeBoer, that challenge gave Jones a boost.

“I think when he looked down 200 feet away and saw Carey Price – what a great challenge for Marty, and he was outstanding tonight, as was Price for them. That's as good a goalie duo as I've seen in a long time.”

Dillon said: “He just continues to rise to the occasion.”

The goals came from likely sources. Burns, firing the puck from all over the ice in the first, capitalized on a power play with a slapper from the top of the circle. Joe Pavelski finished off a rush with Joe Thornton in the final minute of the opening frame.

Thanks to Jones, that lead was maintained until late, before Logan Couture’s double-minor for high sticking Alexander Radulov left the Sharks shorthanded. They killed off the first two minutes without even allowing a shot on goal, but Montreal got on the board with a turn-around wrister by Artturi Lehkonen with 1:17 left and Price pulled for an extra attacker.

That spoiled the shutout for Jones, but not the night for the Sharks, who killed the rest of the clock and will now get some down time after 10 games in just 18 days. They don’t play again until Wednesday at home against Ottawa.

“Obviously it’s nice when you’ve got a little break to have that game going into it than something else,” Pavelski said.

Whether it’s a good time to take a break is up for debate, as the Sharks are playing their best hockey of the season, winning six of their last seven.

"You look at it 50/50,” Dillon said. “We're a confident group right now and I don't think come Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, we're going to be looking at it any differently. 

“We're going to take the positives out of [the time off], and try to keep this thing rolling.”

If Jones stays on the run he’s on, there’s a very good chance they will.

NHL awards: Sharks' Brent Burns named 2019 Norris Trophy finalist

NHL awards: Sharks' Brent Burns named 2019 Norris Trophy finalist

The NHL confirmed Sunday what we've known pretty much all season: Brent Burns is a Norris Trophy finalist. The award is given annually to the defenseman voted to have demonstrated the greatest all-around ability at the position throughout the season.

The finalist designation comes as no surprise, after Burns -- who previously won the Norris for the first time in 2017 -- led all NHL defensemen in assists (67), points (83), game-winning goals (six) and shots on goal (300). He's the first defenseman in Sharks history with at least 60 assists in a season, and he ranked second among NHL defensemen in shorthanded points (five) and was seventh in average ice time (25:06).

Joining Burns as finalists are Calgary's Mark Giordano and Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman. Giordano finished second among NHL defensemen in scoring with 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists), and led all NHL players with a plus-39 rating. Hedman, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, tallied 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) for the Lightning, who led the NHL with a plus-98 goal differential. Both Calgary and Tampa Bay finished with the best records in their respective conferences.

The winner will be announced at the 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone at the Mandalay Bay Events Center sports and entertainment complex in Las Vegas on June 19.

Burns is already the only Norris Trophy winner in Sharks franchise history. A second award would be well-deserved, but surely is not at the forefront of his mind with San Jose's must-win Game 6 against the Vegas Golden Knights taking place later Sunday afternoon.

[RELATED: Sharks look to overcome past in do-or-die Game 6 in Vegas]

Joining Burns in Vegas for the 2019 NHL Awards will be fellow Sharks Joe Thornton and Brenden Dillon. Thornton is nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player who, "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." Dillon, meanwhile, has been nominated for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, given to the player who, "best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community."

Sharks vs. Golden Knights watch guide: Do-or-die Game 6 for San Jose

Sharks vs. Golden Knights watch guide: Do-or-die Game 6 for San Jose

The San Jose Sharks staved off elimination Thursday night. Now they have another opportunity to keep their second season going Sunday, but it will be no easy feat as their Stanley Cup playoff first-round series with the Golden Knights returns to Las Vegas for Game 6.

Team Teal put on a magnificent performance in Game 5, holding off the rival Knights and pulling out a 5-2 victory. Tomas Hertl found the back of the net twice, Barclay Goodrow scored his first playoff goal, and Martin Jones turned away 30 of 32 shots as San Jose forced the series to go to a sixth game.

San Jose has lost the previous two games of the series in Las Vegas, getting outscored by the Golden Knights 11-3. According to StatsPass, the Sharks are 12-23-0 all time in playoff games played Sunday.

Here are the teams' projected lines and defensive pairings for Game 6:

Sharks projected lines and pairs

Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Joe Pavelski
Evander Kane – Tomas Hertl – Gustav Nyquist
Marcus Sorensen – Joe Thornton – Kevin Labanc
Joonas Donskoi – Barclay Goodrow – Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Erik Karlsson
Joakim Ryan – Justin Braun

Martin Jones – projected starter
Aaron Dell

[RELATED: Sharks' fourth line must keep rolling]

Golden Knights projected lines and pairs

Jonathan Marchessault – William Karlsson – Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty – Paul Stastny – Mark Stone
Tomas Nosek – Cody Eakin – Alex Tuch
Will Carrier – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Ryan Reaves

Nate Schmidt – Deryk Engelland
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Jon Merrill – Colin Miller

Marc-Andre Fleury – projected starter
Malcom Subban