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.

Sharks still searching for answers after 3-2 loss to Red Wings

Sharks still searching for answers after 3-2 loss to Red Wings

SAN JOSE – On paper, the Sharks’ problems over their six-game losing streak may appear easy to fix – especially since they had previously won six games in a row and were sitting atop the Western Conference standings just before the slide.

But according to forward Logan Couture, things are more complex than that.

“If it was easily fixable, we wouldn’t be on a six-game losing streak,” he told the media matter-of-a-factly following Team Teal’s 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. “We’ve got to fix it. There are certain things that we need to do better.”

From not having enough jump from the drop of the puck to giving up too many breakaway opportunities, the Sharks look like a very different team than they did a couple of weeks ago. The loss to Detroit is the third consecutive game the Sharks have been beaten by a team out of playoff contention. While the team is obviously banged up and trying to get healthy before the playoffs, the current dip in their performance can’t continue.

“We’re too good of a team to go on a slide like this,” Couture said. “These losses at home are not good, especially this one tonight. I thought we’d come with a better effort.”

San Jose did put up a fight late in the game, finding the back of the net twice to cut Detroit’s 3-0 lead to 3-2. It was an effort Sharks’ head coach Peter DeBoer wanted to see much earlier in the contest.

“I didn’t think we had great energy until the third period,” he said. “I thought we had desperation in the third that we needed for 60 minutes. We only came with 20 of it.”

Detroit, on the other hand, was able to capitalize on its breakaway opportunities right from the first shift of the game. Dylan Larkin got the Red Wings on the board just 38-seconds into the contest.

“We gave them way too much respect. We sat back too much,” Evander Kane summarized. “We’ve got to get there first, we’ve got to get there quicker.”

Since this is the longest losing streak the Sharks have been on this season, the press asked DeBoer if there was a mental component creeping into the team’s game. To DeBoer, no matter what it is, the team can only grind out of it.

“I don’t know if it’s mental,” he admitted. “It’s work. It’s desperation. I don’t know if there’s a complacency about where we’re sitting in the standings or what. But, we’ve got to get out of it. And the only way to get out of it is to work out of it.”

[RELATED: What we learned from Sharks' loss to Red Wings]

They have precisely six games left in the regular season to get that work in.

“If you’re going to go through something like this you’re better off doing it now than in two weeks,” DeBoer said. “But we’ve got to get healthy and guys have to get to another level here. It’s that time of year.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from disappointing loss to Red Wings

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from disappointing loss to Red Wings

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – With both the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights losing their respective contests Monday evening, the Sharks had a prime opportunity to gain some ground in the Pacific Division standings. But their efforts proved to be too little, too late as Team Teal dropped their sixth straight game, 3-2, to the Detroit Red Wings.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s game:

The offense didn't get going in time

As the Sharks have done for much of the season, they outshot their opponent.

While trailing 1-0 partway through the second stanza, the Sharks got some really good zone time and began putting extra pressure on Detroit netminder Jonathan Bernier. Nevertheless, San Jose couldn’t find the back of the net. Even as Sharks coach Peter DeBoer threw the line combos into the blender, they didn’t light the lamp until Evander Kane’s third-period goal. At that point, the Red Wings already had a 3-0 lead.

To be fair, Bernier made some pretty good saves, especially the toe stop on Gustav Nyquist’s back-handed attempt on the power play. But the Sharks are going to be facing much tougher goalies than him during this last stretch and into the playoffs. With just six games left in the regular season, the offense needs to get going right from puck drop.

Shaky defense

San Jose’s all-around defensive play has been shoddy as the Sharks' losing streak has gone on, and Monday’s game was another example of that.

There were neutral zone turnovers and hiccups this blue line wasn’t making at the midway point of the season when they really found their game and began stringing wins together. Part of the defense’s troubles is an offshoot of how the whole team is banged up and not playing at 100 percent. It’s also hard to ignore that Radim Simek’s presence is greatly missed.

Whatever the solution is, San Jose needs to find it fast. A team can’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs without playing a tighter defensive game.

Level of concern?

Yes, this team is dealing with injury and illness and is trying to get healthy for the playoffs. And after taking last Friday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks into overtime, it really looked like San Jose was going to start turning things around. However, Monday's game looked like a step backward – against a team that has been eliminated from playoff contention, no less.

After Friday’s overtime loss in Anaheim, Timo Meier told the media it was better to go through these struggles now as opposed to once the playoffs start. While you can’t disagree with that logic, the continued losing streak can’t be good for the team’s confidence.