SAN JOSE –- There is no single player on the Sharks’ roster under more pressure than Martin Jones, who will be expected to emerge as a true number one goalie for a team that may need to get back to the playoffs to prevent a front office housecleaning.
If he’s experiencing any extra butterflies because of that, it hasn’t shown –- not in his first preseason game on Tuesday, a 30-save shutout in Vancouver, and not to his teammates, either.
“He’s big, he’s calm, he’s collected,” Logan Couture said. “He makes it look almost effortless when he makes some of the saves. That’s kind of his personality, pretty easy going. Good start for him.”
Other than his talent between the pipes, Jones is known for being an even-keeled kind of guy. That allowed the undrafted 25-year-old to find success in the AHL, where he thrived for the Kings’ affiliate in Manchester, and it's carried over to the NHL, where he has a 1.99 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 34 career games.
It’s also why there were no visible on-ice signs of nervousness on Tuesday in his first action with the Sharks as he gets set to begin his first season as the goalie that will almost certainly get the bulk of the playing time.
“Maybe that’s my personality, I’m not sure,” Jones replied, when asked if that has always been a strength of his.
“You try and look at the big picture. It’s one game, and you want to make sure we’re right there at the end of the season. When you look at the big picture, it’s easy to kind of keep an even keel and make sure you’re building towards that final goal.”
Jones was particularly good on the penalty kill on Tuesday, as nine of his 30 saves came while the Sharks were killing off six minor penalties. That was an area that the Sharks will have to clean up after finishing 25th in the NHL last season.
Along with Jones’ performance Peter DeBoer was particularly pleased with San Jose's special teams play in two games with the Canucks, especially Tuesday when both teams iced more veteran lineups.
“I think the story of [Tuesday’s] game was Jones was very good, and our special teams were good,” DeBoer said. “We killed off [six] power plays against a pretty good power play unit with the [Henrik and Daniel] Sedin unit.”
Jones said: “The penalty kill was really good. There wasn’t a lot of second opportunity chances. On the kill, we kept them to the outside, not a lot of seam stuff. When we do that, we’re going to have a good chance to be successful, and the penalty kill was great [Tuesday night].”
Last season, Antti Niemi’s shorthanded save percentage was .863, or 40th in the NHL among goalies that spent at least 60 minutes on the PK. Jones should be able to improve upon that number, but the players in front of him will have to be better, too.
Working more as a five-man unit that pressures the puck at the right time is vital.
“I think we’re going to try and pressure a lot more all over the ice,” Couture said. “Last year we got into trouble, we’d have one guy pressure and everybody else would be kind of sitting back. … When you’re killing a penalty it’s all about working as a unit, and the four guys need to work together.”
DeBoer said: "If you’re going to be aggressive you’re going to give up the odd opportunity, and you’ve got a get a big save at the right time. Right now all those pieces are working together, and the longer we can keep doing that the more confidence we’re going to play with in that area.”
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Alex Stalock is the only one of the four goalies still on the training camp roster that has yet to play, but he's expected to start against the Coyotes at SAP Center on Friday. According to DeBoer, the 28-year-old will "probably" play the whole game.