Why Martin Jones starting Game 5 vs. Vegas shouldn't surprise Sharks fans

Why Martin Jones starting Game 5 vs. Vegas shouldn't surprise Sharks fans

SAN JOSE – It’s perhaps the most talked-about and most controversial topic in the current first-round matchup between the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights: Who Team Teal decides to start between the pipes.

The topic has grown more polarizing, to the point that social media poll questions have been created and arguments on Twitter have become the norm. (Take it from a writer who’s had fans fighting in her mentions this whole week.)

The Sharks’ goaltending was a cause for concern throughout most of the regular season, and through those stretches, head coach Peter DeBoer and the bulk of San Jose’s squad has maintained that they have every bit of faith in starter Martin Jones. Even when DeBoer was critical of the goaltending in his comments following a 5-0 loss in Game 4 on Tuesday night, he stopped short of putting all the blame on Jones, or backup goaltender Aaron Dell.

“He’s got to be better,” DeBoer said of Jones, but later added: “When you look at the game, you can’t put this all on the goalies. You have to score, too.”

Jones will get that chance to be better – better than letting Vegas score a goal less than a minute into a period, better than getting upended by a breakaway, better all-around – on Thursday night, because DeBoer has tapped him to start Game 5.

As crazy as it may sound to some, the decision to send Jones back out there despite his troubles is consistent with what the Sharks have said since the beginning of the regular season. Even when San Jose went through that long stretch of losses at the end of the regular season, the team never once heaped the blame onto the goaltending.

“They should have a stat that says ‘belief in your goaltender,’” DeBoer said back on April 9. “If they had that stat, Jonesy would be batting 1.000 with our group. There’s not been one mumble or whisper within our group about him or our confidence in him to get the job done.”

That’s not to say that, even with the Sharks sticking to that same mentality, the decision to put Jones back in the crease to start Game 5 has come with its fair share of raised eyebrows. He has allowed the Golden Knights to score the first goal of the game within the first two minutes of every opening period in each of the last three games.

In Game 3, he was beaten by the puck less than a minute into each period. After the Sharks got down 2-0 after the first 20 minutes in Game 4, Dell replaced him in net. Through just four games in these playoffs, Jones has allowed 13 goals for a GAA of 5.33.

[RELATED: Five observations as Sharks face elimination]

This isn’t to say Jones is the only member of the team that has struggled through the bulk of the current playoff series. After putting on a dominant performance over the Golden Knights in Game 1 and digging their way out of a three-goal hole in the first period of Game 2, the Sharks began breaking down defensively and letting their emotions get the best of them. Add to the fact that the goaltender on the other end of the ice has been playing out of his mind, and you have a recipe for disaster. In that case, DeBoer is right – you can’t put all the blame on the goalie when the offense isn’t scoring any goals to pick up the slack.

Now it’s just a matter of seeing how much leeway Jones is given in Game 5. If the Golden Knights are able to get on the board early yet again, that faith in Jones to get the job done in a do-or-die game is going to be greatly tested.

Why Sharks’ Tomas Hertl wasn't even 2020 NHL All-Star Game MVP finalist


Why Sharks’ Tomas Hertl wasn't even 2020 NHL All-Star Game MVP finalist

Tomas Hertl put on a show for the fans during the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis on Saturday night, but he won't be bringing the game's MVP award back with him to San Jose.

That's in large part because the Sharks center wasn't even one of the four finalists for the award.

A few minutes before Hertl scored the game-winning goal for the Pacific Division, the NHL posted a poll question on Twitter asking who the MVP of the game should be.

Keep in mind that the game was tied 4-4 at the time of the poll question. Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl, Ottawa's Anthony Duclair, Boston's David Pastrnak and Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk were the four players nominated for the award.

Hertl's game-winner was his fifth goal of the night, which led all scorers. In the Pacific Division's semifinal win over the Central Division, Hertl netted four goals, including the final three of that game.

Pastrnak won the award with 36 percent of the vote, but we're guessing Hertl would have gotten a higher percentage had he been a finalist.

After the night's festivities were over, Hertl met with the media in the dressing room and was asked if he was disappointed he didn't win All-Star Game MVP.

"No," Hertl said. "I think [Sharks assistant coach] Mike Ricci was the first one to text me that hopefully I got for him a new car, but it's all good. I'm happy we won and we won the prize, so it's exciting."

[RELATED: Hertl brings fun to skills competition]

The 11 Pacific Division players will split the $1 million prize money for winning the tournament. Before taxes, each player will take home $90,909.

If Hertl was at all privately bummed he didn't win MVP, that check he's going home with will make him feel a lot better.

Watch Sharks' Tomas Hertl score 2020 NHL All-Star Game-winning goal


Watch Sharks' Tomas Hertl score 2020 NHL All-Star Game-winning goal

Tomas Hertl was pretty quiet for a majority of the NHL All-Star Game Final.

But with 2:36 remaining in the final period, Hertl gave the Pacific Division a 5-4 lead with a breakaway goal.

The Pacific would hang on to beat the Atlantic Division by that same score, taking home the $1 million dollar prize.

The goal was Hertl's only marker of the All-Star Game Final, but his fifth of the night as he scored four in the semifinal game.

Despite Hertl's gaudy numbers and game-winning goal, he didn't take home the All-Star Game MVP. That went to the Boston Bruins' David Pastrnak.

Hertl will receive a hero's welcome when he returns to San Jose on Sunday. The Sharks open the second half of the season at home Monday night against the Anaheim Ducks.

Hopefully for the Sharks, Hertl can carry the momentum into the final few months of the season.