SAN JOSE – Among the Sharks' everyday players, perhaps no one needed a five-day break between games more than goaltender Martin Jones.
The 25-year-old, still in his first season as an undisputed number one starter, looked like a borderline Vezina Trophy candidate around Thanksgiving. In his first 17 starts with San Jose, Jones was 11-5-0 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .929 save percentage through Nov. 21.
Since then, though, it’s been a dramatic decline. In his last 14 starts, Jones is 5-7-2 with a 3.13 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. He has allowed at least four goals on six different occasions.
Perhaps even more concerning is that Jones’ numbers have deteriorated with every passing month:
October: 1.74 GAA, .938 SP
November: 2.45 GAA, .914 SP
December: 3.06 GAA, .889 SP
In his first start in January last Saturday, Jones allowed three goals through two periods, and was pulled to start the third in a 4-1 loss to the Jets.
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At times, coach Pete DeBoer has been direct in critiquing the goaltender, who on far too many occasions lately has been outplayed by his counterpart on the other end of the ice as the 18-17-2 Sharks trudge along. After the Jets game, for example, when asked if Jones was pulled due to his performance or to spark the team, DeBoer replied: “Both. He wasn’t any better than anybody else.”
In a 6-3 loss to Colorado on Dec. 28, when discussing the team’s penalty kill that surrendered four goals in that game, DeBoer said: “[The Avalanche] were making plays through us, and their goalie was better than ours, too. That’s a bad formula.”
At the beginning of the week the coach was again asked about Jones, and what the goalie needs to work on as the Sharks get some down time from game action.
“For him individually, it’s just little things. I talked to him, and so has [assistant/goalie coach] Johan Hedberg about being a little more aggressive at home, especially on stuff around the net,” DeBoer said. “But, it’s just little things. There’s nothing big you can point to. It’s just little things and confidence and getting on a roll.”
Jones agreed he could be more aggressive on “some of the net drives, and things like that. For me, I need to find that balance. I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to be flying around the crease by any means like [Jonathan Quick] or someone like that, but I think those plays in tight, that’s definitely something I’m working on, just being a little bit more aggressive.”
He expressed confidence that he will improve.
“It’s more just a mindset than anything. I think it’s a pretty quick fix.”
Like the rest of the Sharks, Jones needs to be better at home. At SAP Center, he’s 4-9-0 with a 2.93 GAA and .893 SP, as opposed to 12-3-2 with a 2.22 GAA and .924 SP on the road.
The team’s penalty kill is partially to blame for his inflated home numbers, as the Sharks are third in the NHL in road PK percentage (86.1) but 29th at home (72.7). Of course, the goalie plays the most important role in killing penalties, too.
Getting the first goal, especially on their home ice, would help. The Sharks are 0-11 at SAP Center when allowing the first score, and 5-0 when jumping out to a lead.
“We’ve got to give him some more support at home,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to work harder to get the first goal. We’ve got to play in front as opposed to behind, because that changes everybody’s mindset.”
After three straight days of practice, the Sharks will attempt to climb out of sixth place in the Pacific Division against the Red Wings and Maple Leafs on Saturday, before they go back out on the road next week.
DeBoer, who met with the players individually on Monday, doesn’t sense the team is worried about its situation in net with Jones and struggling backup Alex Stalock.
“The one thing that I got out of our meetings is our guys are very confident in the goalies we have here,” DeBoer said. “If anything, they feel they are letting them down from an offensive support position. That’s been true, we haven’t scored the first goal at home and we haven’t allowed them to play with the lead, which puts them in tough spots.
“There’s a challenge for [Jones] to be better, but it’s also a challenge for our group to help those guys out, too.”