VANCOUVER, B.C. — Martin Jones isn’t in crisis mode. Even if he was, it would be a challenge to get a read on the normally stoic goaltender’s emotions.
But with just four games left in the regular season, starting with Sunday’s game in Vancouver against the Canucks, there’s as much urgency on Jones to get his game in order as any player on the Sharks roster.
The Sharks might rediscover how to chip in another goal or two per game or tighten things up at the defensive end before the start of the playoffs, but they won’t be going very far in the playoffs without good goaltending.
“We know he’s better than where he’s at right now,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said after Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames.
The Sharks in March followed last season’s blueprint when they tried to give Jones a bit more rest than usual down the stretch, rest that seemed to rejuvenate Jones for the first round of the playoffs.
The plan worked for the first half of last month, as Jones went 3-2 with a 1.61 goals against average and a .934 save percentage in five starts from March 1-14. Backup goalie Aaron Dell was 3-0 with a .951 save percentage.
It was a different story in the second half of March, with Jones owning a 1-5 record with a .856 save percentage and a 4.11 goals against average. In didn’t help that in those six games, the Sharks managed just 14 goals.
“Well, I want to play better, for sure,” Jones said after Friday’s loss where he allowed four goals on 22 shots in the first two periods. “I don’t feel like I’m far off. But, like I said, we need more big saves.”
Alex Chiasson’s great backhander pads the @NHLFlames lead!#SJSvsCGY pic.twitter.com/ZyPPdhourC
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) April 1, 2017
It’s a good bet Jones will be in net for both of the Sharks’ upcoming games against the Canucks, with the second game on Tuesday at SAP Center.
The Sharks then play the Oilers on Thursday and close out the regular season on Saturday against the Flames. Chances are Jones and Dell will split those last two starts.
“I think we’ve got to get him in a rhythm,” DeBoer said of Jones. “I think we knew that we were trying to follow last year’s formula a little bit and give him a little bit of a break down the stretch, he played a lot of games.
“We did that, Deller did a great job, kept us competitive. And now it’s about getting (Jones) in a rhythm. I don’t know if there is a right answer, but, I know his character, I know what he’s capable of and I know he’ll be there come playoff time.”
The Sharks’ recent travails can’t all be placed at Jones’ feet, and even in recent games against the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers, goals were scored that Jones had no chance to stop.
What else did you expect for Connor McDavid’s first shorthanded goal? pic.twitter.com/gmDYwmCxDR
— Spittin’ Chiclets (@StoolChiclets) March 31, 2017
“It’s on the offense too. Not just defensively,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. “We’re still giving up way too many goals as a group. … You can’t ever cheat right now. You’ve got to win games 2-1, 3-2. But when we’re putting up 40 shots a night and three-four power plays and having looks in the slot and rebounds, you’ve got to find guys to stick them in the net.”
But as long as the Sharks are struggling to score more than two goals a game, they’re going to need Jones to give them more chances to win.
“Right now, we’re not scoring, which compounds it. And we’re not getting the right saves, either, as the right time,” DeBoer said. “When you’re not getting a goal and not getting a save at the other end, that’s the kind of score you get. That’s where we’re at.”