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.
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.