SAN JOSE – Sharks general manager Doug Wilson took a huge risk last June when he traded a first round pick and a prospect to the Boston Bruins in exchange for goalie Martin Jones, who had just 34 games of NHL experience under his belt but was expected to start in goal for the veteran club.
Frankly, Wilson’s job may have rested on Jones’ shoulder pads. Just imagine this nightmare scenario: Jones doesn’t work out, the Sharks miss the playoffs, and that unprotected pick dealt to the Bruins ends up landing in the top three after the draft lottery.
None of that happened, of course. And Jones, who is signed for the next two seasons at a very manageable $3 million salary cap, looks like the next franchise goaltender. After a solid regular season, his performance in the playoffs was even better, as the 26-year-old posted a 14-10 record with a 2.16 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
He was the Sharks’ best player in the Stanley Cup Final, too, with a .931 save percentage and 2.28 goals-against average. He stole Game 5 in Pittsburgh, and kept the Sharks in Game 6, a 3-1 loss including an empty-netter, with a number of highlight reel stops.
“What do you say about him? One of the all-time best goaltending performances in a Final probably ever, or right up there, anyway,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought he was sensational every game we played. Gave us a chance to compete and get it to six games.”
Jones didn’t have much to say after the game, as is standard. When a camera is in front of him, all indications are he’d like to get away as quickly as humanly possible.
When asked about the season, Jones said: “We’ll reflect on it in the next couple days, but we have a lot to be proud of.”
As for the Penguins being a faster team than San Jose throughout the series, Jones said: “Yeah, they’re a quick team. We’re a fast team, too, I think. The difference is just one or two plays here and there. All the games were tight games.”
For now, Jones will let his play do the talking. And in his first season as a number one starter, it spoke volumes.