LOS ANGELES -- When the Sharks practiced on Monday at the Los Angeles Kings’ facility in El Segundo, they did so underneath two gigantic team photos of the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup champions.
The second of those photos is more notable from a Sharks standpoint. It’s not only the team that they surrendered a 3-0 first round lead to that was staring down at them from above, but it features the player that may be most responsible for helping them try and move on from that low point in franchise history.
Martin Jones didn’t play much in those playoffs, getting into just two games, including the Sharks’ Game 1 rout. But as the backup to two-time champion Jonathan Quick for two seasons, Jones’ former coach, Darryl Sutter, figures Jones picked up a few things from his former teammate.
“If I was sitting in that locker room by Jonathan Quick -- and Jonathan Quick is the best goaltender in pressure situations in May and June -- if I was Martin Jones, I would have picked a lot up,” Sutter said.
So, what did Jones pick up?
“Just his compete level,” Jones said. “You watch a guy like that and how competitive [he is] and how hard he works and practices, and how hard he competes on loose pucks -- no matter what kind of goalie or what kind of style you play, that’s something everybody can do.”
“He was a great mentor for me.”
The 29-year-old Quick wasn’t ready to accept much, if any, credit for Jones, 25, being the Sharks’ primary offseason target and a guy that could they figured could thrive as a number one. After all, they are different types of goaltenders. Jones is bigger (6-foot-4, compared to Quick’s 6-foot-1), and Quick’s on-ice persona is much more fiery than Jones.
In fact, at Monday’s Kings practice, Quick slammed his stick into two pieces and tossed it into the corner before storming off of the ice. If that were Jones, it would have been considered way out of character.
“He’s a little taller, bigger and takes up a little more of the net. It allows him to play certain plays with a little more patience, which kind of suits him really well because he’s a very patient person,” Quick said. “For me, just being a little bit smaller [I have to] maybe be a little more aggressive on certain things.
“Overall, we’re both trying to stop the puck. He does that very well.”
Off of the ice, Jones said he and Quick are much more alike.
“As competitive as he is on the ice and has intense he is, he’s a pretty laid-back, easygoing guy off the ice,” Jones said. “It’s kind of funny to see how tense he is on the ice be like how he is off the ice.”
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Since he was acquired from Boston shortly after the Kings dealt him to the Bruins as part of the deal for Milan Lucic, Jones’ first year as a starting goalie has been mostly positive. He helped the team reel off four straight wins to start the year, including a 5-1 victory against his former club in the season opener, and posted a franchise-record 234-minute shutout streak.
At 15-10-2, Jones has a respectable 2.39 goals-against average and .916 save percentage, and indications are that he’s an upgrade over former starter Antti Niemi.
Not everything has gone smoothly. Jones has been a big part of the Sharks’ struggles at home, with a 3-7 record, 2.70 GAA and .902 SP. In early November, he was pulled in two of three starts just before he and the Sharks swept a six-game road trip.
Through it all, though, Jones has exhibited a sort of trademark coolness that those around him with the Kings witnessed firsthand. It’s why Quick expects him to succeed in the long-term.
“He just has a calmness about him, in the net and off the ice,” Quick said. “He doesn’t let anything faze him, and in the position we play, obviously you’re going to have some good nights and some bad nights. Being able to handle them mentally goes a long way to having success in this league. That’s not even getting into his athletic ability out on the ice and being able to stop pucks.
“He has a high ceiling, and it’s going to be fun to watch him over the next few years.”
Sutter believes Jones will be able to handle the starter’s role just fine. But, there’s still some proving left for him to do.
“He’s played on big stages and has been a big part of that,” Sutter said. “He was a top junior goalie. They all have to do their four or five years before they become NHL-ready, whether they are.
“Number one goalies, you don’t know until they win 60 to 70 percent of their games. How many number-one anointed goalies have one good year and then you go, ‘jeez they’re a backup goalie.’ And then you go, ‘where the hell did they go?’ … San Jose has always had good goalies.”