If there’s one area of the ice where the Sharks have fielded the most criticism so far this season, it has been between the pipes.
Truthfully, Martin Jones’ critics have been scrutinizing him since before the regular season even started. After a 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, they were taking to social media yet again to voice their opinions on a performance that earned him a collective 2.84 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage on the season.
Jones’ teammates, however, maintain their unwavering confidence in him. In fact, they’re insisting they need to do more in front of the goal to help him out.
“Jones gave us a good chance to stay in it,” Joe Thornton said after the loss in Dallas. “There were a couple breakaways, a couple two-on-ones that we would like to clean up.”
Jones did in fact stymie a couple late-game attempts that could’ve given the Stars a much bigger lead. With the contest knotted up 3-3, Jones stopped breakaway opportunities by Dallas stars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to preserve the tie. Those stops were all but forgotten halfway through the final frame, though, when the puck bounced to Devin Shore’s stick and he was able to roof it past Jones’ stick-side block to give the Stars the 4-3 lead.
“You can always do more,” Joe Pavelski told the media when asked about giving the goalie more help. “One thing we’ve looked at is our shot-blocking. We can be a little more desperate, I think, in our d-zone.”
The captain’s right. Blocking more shots would certainly behoove the Sharks, who regularly don’t block as many shots as their opponents. In the loss against Dallas, San Jose had 11 blocked shots at even strength compared to the opposition’s 18 blocked shots.
In their game a week ago against the Philadelphia Flyers – which the Sharks narrowly won in overtime – San Jose registered six blocked shots at even strength to Philly’s 16. In the 4-1 loss against the Blue Jackets on November 1, Columbus posted 30 blocked shots on the evening while San Jose only posted four blocked shots.
Upping the level of desperation – a word we’ve heard quite a bit so far this season—in San Jose’s d-zone would help as well. Being more physical in knocking opposing offenses off the puck can help break up the grade-A chances San Jose’s opponents are taking advantage of. The Sharks are, after all, only averaging 16.4 hits a game, ranking them 27th overall in the league.
This isn’t to say Martin Jones is completely without fault. There have been a handful of goals this season the netminder probably, for lack of a less overused term, would like to have back. Nevertheless, his teammates are identifying ways they need to help him out as well.
“We don’t have any questions in our goaltending,” Pavelski said. “Tonight, (Jones) was great for us, and we came up short.”