SAN JOSE -– Sharks goalie Martin Jones is having remarkable success lately due in part to the team’s competence in getting the puck out of the defensive zone quickly and efficiently. The best defense is a good offense, as the saying goes, and Jones hasn’t exactly been peppered with shots by St. Louis.
While the defensemen around him have done a good job of retrieving loose pucks, being physical, avoiding forecheckers and transitioning the other way, Jones deserves some of the credit for the team rarely getting hemmed in its own zone.
His ability to play the puck, a point of emphasis from the team’s coaching staff when they first convened in training camp, has steadily improved throughout the season, according to coach Pete DeBoer.
When asked what has been the key to the Sharks successfully breaking out, DeBoer was quick to point out that the Sharks have “six solid NHL defensemen, a lot of composure, a lot of games under their belt. They don't panic under pressure.”
A successful breakout, though, often starts with the goalie, and that’s where Jones’ puck skills come into play.
“I think Jonesy's puck‑handling ability is night and day from when we got him,” DeBoer said, crediting goalie coach Johan Hedberg. “He's improved immensely to the point I think he's very good now.”
Jones said that he’s tried to work on that part of his game for “probably the last three of four years. It’s kind of something you need to work on during the season.”
It also takes time to develop chemistry with the defensemen to make the little play, and that’s something that’s happened throughout the course of the season as Jones has navigated through his first year in teal.
Justin Braun pointed out that Jones is unlike other Sharks goalies when it comes to playing the puck. Previous starter Antti Niemi never ventured too far from the crease, and for good reason, as handing the disc was never one of his strong suits. Alex Stalock, on the other hand, had no reservations roaming from the blue paint.
“Jonesy is kind of in the middle of [Niemi and Stalock],” Braun said.
“He’s at a point where he’s comfortable, he knows we’re going to be there. He can just make the easy play. He’s not going to be like Pekka Rinne, shooting it all the way down the ice, which is fine. Not a lot of goalies can do that. But I think he’s really improved that part of his game, and it helps the d-men a lot.”
Paul Martin said: “I don’t think there was any playing of the puck early on in the year. It was more relying on us to go back and get it. Now, it really becomes a central part of the game, when a goalie can get back and move the puck to one side or the other. I think he’s improved dramatically. … It’s definitely made our game a lot easier and more effective.”
Jones will bring a shutout streak of 147 minutes and 43 seconds into Saturday’s Game 4 after blanking the Blues in games two and three of the Western Conference Final.