SAN JOSE – Martin Jones has seen the stat sheets, or he’s at least aware of what they reveal. His team has been outshot in the Stanley Cup Final by a wide margin, including in Game 5, when the Sharks goalie was forced to make 44 saves in keeping his team alive in a 4-2 win.
While the Sharks have seemingly been outplayed fairly significantly through the first five games, getting outshot 179-120, Jones believes “it might look worse than it is.”
“I think the shots have been a little deceptive just the way they’ve played, throwing pucks to the net,” he said on Saturday.
Some Penguins indicated on Saturday that they could change their approach to beating Jones, too. They’d like to make life a lot harder on the 26-year-old, who has been the Sharks’ best player throughout the series, and is perhaps the sole reason there is a Game 6 on Sunday.
“He's a good positional goalie,” Chris Kunitz said. “He takes advantage when guys put their heads down and shoot. You have to either put pucks in front of him, [or] put pucks beside him so he can't play those rebounds. Getting guys in front of him is obviously something every goalie struggles with, so it's those things we've got to focus on."
Patric Hornqvist, who had a game-high seven shots in Game 5, said: "He's a hell of a goalie. We just have to shoot as much as we can and create those second and third chances. When you get those and you have time, get them up, because a lot of goalies go down and the net that's open is over top of him. If you have time and space, make sure you get it up quick."
On the other end, Penguins goalie Matt Murray will be attempting to put his Game 5 performance behind him. He’s wasn’t atrocious, stopping 18 of the 21 shots he faced, but the goals he allowed to Brent Burns and Melker Karlsson were stoppable pucks.
Murray also allowed a Logan Couture deflection to beat him in Game 5, and in Game 3, he had trouble tracking a puck that Justin Braun eventually whizzed behind him through heavy traffic. Tough saves, to be sure, but Murray pinpointed that as one area in which he’d like to improve.
“They're really good at getting pucks through traffic,” Murray said. “I think that's been a big challenge with tips and deflections, stuff like that. That's an area where I think I can be a little bit better, tracking pucks through traffic and being more aggressive on tips."
The 22-year-old is probably feeling a little more heat than Jones in that backup Marc-Andre Fleury not only won a Stanley Cup in 2009, but replaced Murray once already in the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay.
If he is, though, he isn’t showing it. Just like the Sharks do with Jones, the Penguins point to Murray’s ability to remain on an even keel and not let bad performances snowball as being a key to his success. The stats bear that out, as Murray is 5-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average after losses.
"I think the confidence he has in himself, the confidence our team has in him is unbelievable for such a young guy," Kunitz said.
Murray said: “We keep the same mindset here. We know what we need to do to be successful, to give us the best chance to win. That's what we focus on going into each and every game."