Jonesing for a quality netminder: Will Playoff Martin make an appearance?

Sharks goalie comes into the postseason looking porous. Will he play to type or continue to crumble?

Gabriel John Ostler
March 28, 2019 - 12:46 pm

A mere week ago, we were exhorting the Sharks to buck up and plow through their remaining spate of games for the sake of pride, the sake of honor, and the sake of decent playoff seeding in the lethally top-heavy Western Conference.

Now, in the wake of five consecutive losses, most San Jose fans can barely keep their eyes on the screen to watch the teal gang get run out by such powerhouses like the 28-38-10 Detroit Red Wings.

If you do happen to turn on a Sharks game, you’ll find many things wrong with the current outfit, so much so that the blame doesn’t lie with one particular player. But an easy point of isolation is the solitary man parked between the pipes: Martin Jones.

Jones is the franchise goaltender and a true godsend, a veritable No. 1 who single-handedly pulled that position into respectability for San Jose and who has scrubbed away years of Antti Niemi-related trauma.

He’s also perhaps the weakest link of this Sharks squad that mere weeks ago looked like an honest-to-god juggernaut, a goalie who critics say gets away with more than he should due to San Jose’s high-octane offensive production.

How has Jones really been performing, and what can we expect from him as the Sharks limp their way into the postseason?

Down Year

Jones has been entrenched as the starter for San Jose ever since his pricey acquisition from the hated Kings before the 2015-16 season. Four years of unquestioned top status. Guess which one’s the worst?

Before this campaign, Jones’ lowest save percentage was .912, set during his second year with the Sharks. He currently sports a sickeningly low save percentage of .898. Jones has not faced an appreciably large number of shots to warrant his horrific stopping ability. Amongst goalies with over 2,500 minutes of ice time (21 dudes!), Jones is the only one whose percentage is below .900.

Goalie stats are often viewed in chicken-and-egg terms, and even advanced metrics can let you down when it comes to determining a netminder’s true impact. But the eye test can give you plenty of cause for worry when your starting goaltender is letting in softies like this one from Dustin Brown, of all people:

Everyone is entitled to mistakes, but Martin Jones has been making more than his fair share for most of San Jose’s season.

Playoff Martin

Loyal Sharkheads will allay your concerns, though, by pointing to Jones’ playoff performance for San Jose, claiming that he morphs into an entirely different backstop when the puck drops for the postseason.

And the numbers would support that case. In 42 outings over three years, Jones’ save percentage is a sparkling .926. That puts him 9th​ on the all-time list, ahead of luminaries like Dominik Hašek and Ed Belfour.

And who could forget his staggering first run, where he anchored the improbable Sharks Stanley Cup Final appearance against the Pittsburgh Penguins?

The difference? Jones has never come into a postseason playing this poorly. It’s still possible that he discovers his late-spring mojo, but unprecedented suckitude doesn’t normally indicate great success just around the corner.

Which One Will We See?

Make all allowances for the Sharks’ defensive deficiencies or freewheeling style of play, but the numbers bear out what the casual observer has noticed all year long: Martin Jones is not playing like himself or like any type of goaltender for a team with true championship aspirations.

In the past, he’s reached a new gear for the playoffs. The issue is: in prior years, it would be a simple upshift. Now, he needs to go zero to sixty in less time than it’ll take the Sharks to book their Vegas hotel rooms after they gift the Knights home ice.

So far, it’s been foolish to bet against Jones in the postseason. This time around, having faith that Martin Jones will find his old form might be the biggest possible mistake.

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