Sharks

Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones

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Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones

SAN JOSE -- There may not have been a Sharks' player who caught more flak from fans this past season than Martin Jones, as the starting goalie battled with consistency this season. Criticism of San Jose's goaltending continued as Jones' backup, Aaron Dell, didn't fare much better overall throughout the regular season. 

Then came the Sharks' 20-game playoff run, where Jones did a complete 180-degree turn after the Sharks went into a 3-1 hole against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. As if a switch had been flipped, Jones went from being a liability to being a key to getting Team Teal to the Western Conference Final. 

The question now is which version of Martin Jones will be in net for the Sharks next season -- or how San Jose's goaltending contingent, in general, is going to look and match up to the competition in the future.

Sure, wins are what counts at the end of the day and Jones was tied for third in the league with 36 regular season victories in this last campaign. But while his record improved to 36-19-5 over the previous season's 30-22-6, his save percentage dipped from .915 to .896. He also developed a habit of giving up the first goal of the game within the first few minutes of the first period, putting the rest of the team on their heels early into games.  

Nevertheless, it's pretty unlikely Jones is going anywhere. He's entering the second season of a six-year contract extension he signed in 2017, and even before his turnaround performance in the playoffs the team around him never stopped sticking up for him. When Jones struggled, his teammates continued to put their unwavering faith in him and insisted their defensive effort in front of him was to blame. For that faith to continue, however, Jones is going to have to bring some of his strong play from the playoffs into next season.

As for Jones' backup, Dell's future seems a bit more open. Even with two shutouts on the season, No. 30's numbers also took a dip during the 2018-19 campaign and he ended the regular season with a 3.17 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. With just one year left on his current contract, San Jose could potentially use Dell as a trade piece.

[RELATED: What Sharks can learn from Stanley Cup champs]

Neither of San Jose's Barracuda goalies, Antoine Bibeau and Josef Korenar, saw any NHL time this past season. Although there's a possibility both get a look during camp ahead of next season after both posted better than .900 save percentages. Bibeau also already has two NHL games under his belt from when he was part of the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization, going 1-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average. 

The Sharks further added to their goaltending contingent this spring when they signed Zachary Emond to an entry-level contract. Emond, 18, won't be making any appearances at the NHL level this season, although the Sharks have expressed satisfaction with how the sixth-round pick from the 2018 draft is developing. Look for Emond to be a goalie to come up the pipeline for the Sharks, especially if he has another strong season with his junior club. 

Sharks face 'big test' vs. Hurricanes as they seek third straight win

Sharks face 'big test' vs. Hurricanes as they seek third straight win

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks appear to be bouncing back from a dismal start to their season with two wins in a row. But they face new challenges as they continue their homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"It's a big test for us," head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters during Wednesday's morning skate. "You just look at the analytics. Number one in the league in creating scoring chances off of the rush, in the top two or three of creating offense. They're scoring in bunches. (There are) a lot of different things there you're going to have to deal with -- maybe the best defense corps in the league one through six, and they're getting great goaltending. That's why their record is what it is."

Of course, San Jose is looking to jump on the Canes early, especially since the Sharks are hosting and playing on the tail-end of a back-to-back. They beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in LA on Tuesday night. But when a team is as good as Carolina is, there's a little more to it.

"We just can't beat ourselves," DeBoer said. "We know what they do well. It's exactly like when we play playoff hockey against an opponent. You've got to take away what they do well or not feed what they do well. And at the same time, try to establish our own game. That's something I've talked about since day one."

Multiple Sharks contributed to the team's 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday. Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Kevin Labanc all found the back of the net while Martin Jones stopped 29 of 30 shots that came his way and the penalty kill went a perfect four-for-four. But DeBoer knows his team's overall game still has another level it needs to find.

"We won the last game and I thought we were better defensively," he said. "But we only generated 20 shots, We've got to find a way to start getting a four-line identity where we're harder to play against and spend more time in the other team's end."

[RELATED: Kevin Labanc focused on future during turnaround]

The Hurricanes visit SAP Center with a 6-1-0 overall record on the season and are undefeated through three road contests.

San Jose went 1-0-1 against Carolina last season, tallying their solo win at home 5-1. The Sharks are 20-17-0-3 all-time through 40 games against the Hurricanes.

Sharks' Kevin Labanc focused on future as team continues turnaround

Sharks' Kevin Labanc focused on future as team continues turnaround

SAN JOSE - Like with just about every other player on the Sharks, Kevin Labanc's game is doing an about-face after a rocky start to the 2019-20 season. 

But even with two goals scored in the last two games, there's still another level that Labanc thinks his game can get to. And the best way for him to do that is to keep his focus on the future.

"I think my game's found itself a little bit," Labanc told NBC Sports California. "Last game, I think I definitely could've played better. But it's a learning curve. You just have to bring it every single game and worry about this upcoming game."

That's a pretty on-brand self-assessment from the 23-year-old winger. He isn't one to make excuses or brush off when he doesn't well. He even made fun of himself last year when asked why he's regularly the player that bench boss Peter DeBoer sends to the penalty box to serve the too-many-men penalty. 

But Labanc also isn't one to dwell on his mishaps for too long, which is an important quality for one of the young players San Jose is leaning on to make a jump this season and take on more responsibility. 

"You want to stay in the moment as much as you can in this business," Labanc continued. "If you start worrying about how good or bad you were the game before, it won't help your situation in the present. I'm just focused on tonight, making sure I go out there and do my job and that I can be good on all ends of the rink."

Doing a good job on both ends of the ice is an aspect of Labanc's game that DeBoer wants to see more of. While getting on the scoreboard is important, there are other areas that need to follow suit.

"For me, I measure his game on a lot more than just the production, but obviously that is something that we are counting on," the head coach explained. "I talked to him -- two games ago I thought he was our best player on the ice, in Chicago. Last game, I know he scored but he and I talked (because) I didn't think he had a great game."

This isn't to say DeBoer is completely dissatisfied with where Labanc's game is at right at this early point in the season. "I think, like all goal-scorers, he's a little streaky," DeBoer said. "He's a young guy. He came (into camp) in great shape, I think he's moving well. And he's a product a little bit of our start as a team."

[RELATED: Sharks historically far more successful when scoring first]

For the Sharks as a whole, putting that rough start to the season in the rearview mirror is important with the tough competition they have coming up on their schedule. San Jose closes out a three-game homestand by hosting the Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres -- two squads who are dominating the Eastern Conference at this early point in the season. As happy as San Jose might be with how they played over their last couple of games, the focus has to remain on what's ahead of them.

"We're all feeling really good, but it's still a long season though and there are just so many games," Labanc said. "You can't worry about your past success. You have to worry about your future."