The sixth-place San Jose Sharks are four points behind St. Louis for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West. But after the Sharks’ loss last night to the Wild, the Blues now have a game in hand on San Jose. St. Louis is at fifth-place Arizona tonight.
San Jose Sharks (18-21-4)
Things we know about today's #SJSharks game:
Kellman and Gregor draw in.
Jones is in net.
Patrick Marleau ties Gordie Howe's most games played.
— Locked on Karlsson's Apple (@LockedOnSharks) April 17, 2021
Minnesota Wild (26-13-3)
Kirill Kaprizov — Victor Rask — Mats Zuccarello
Kevin Fiala — Ryan Hartman — Marcus Johansson
Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
Zach Parise — Nico Sturm — Nick Bonino
Ryan Suter — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Ian Cole — Carson Soucy
Where to Watch
Puck drop is 5 PM PT at Xcel Energy Center. Watch it on NBC Sports Bay Area, Bally Sports North, or NHL.tv.
This morning’s Bob Boughner comment, about going with Martin Jones again after last night’s 15-of-18 shots stopped performance, drew some ire:
Jones will start tonight, per Boughner: "We know the importance of these games, so we're going to throw our best at them"
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) April 17, 2021
I’m not sure why: Four points out, the odds are against the San Jose Sharks making the playoffs – they also have a tough schedule going forward – but as long as there’s a reasonable chance, what do you expect Boughner to do when choosing between his starter and a completely green Josef Korenar?
Let’s not forget too, Korenar did not exactly light the world on fire in his first NHL start either and he’s not the most highly-touted young netminder.
Point is, Jones is probably Boughner’s best option — despite his .899 Save % — and that’s not on the coach.
For what it’s worth, per Sportradar, Jones has a solid record when starting consecutive games, going 11-4-3 over his career. I’m not saying that’s a reason to start him back-to-back, but it’s a plus – better 11-4-3 than 4-11-3.
There’s also the argument that Jones is being overplayed, you have to rest him more, but to be honest, I’ve always found that narrative to be overblown. This isn’t an NCAA goalie transitioning from playing 20-or-so games a year to the NHL – Jones is an elite athlete who has been training to handle a 60-game workload for the last six seasons.
In my mind, these are mostly excuses – fatigue, he’s not being pushed by another starting-caliber goalie anymore – he’s either good enough to still be a No. 1 or he’s not. Even the shoddy team defense – which is Jones’s most legitimate cover for not performing, in my opinion – is something that other goalies could probably better overcome.
An aside about the narrative that Jones doesn’t perform unless he’s pushed by another potential starter: From 2016-18, Jones was perfectly fine with career back-up Aaron Dell behind him.
In short, toss out the excuses: I’m simply not convinced that Jones is a No. 1 goalie anymore, but the San Jose Sharks don’t have a clear better option either. If the conclusion is, based on the current roster, that Jones still gives San Jose the best chance to win, I can’t really argue with that.
What’s a coach to do when he’s trying to reach the post-season?
And indeed, four points back, nine of your last 13 games against Vegas, Colorado, and Minnesota, I’m definitely not betting on San Jose. On the other hand, the talent disparity between the Sharks and say the Golden Knights isn’t 1980 USA-USSR. San Jose definitely can compete with Vegas and Colorado – they have this season – they just need a couple bounces. If they get them over the next month?
Anyway, Boughner’s job is to make the playoffs. Until that becomes mathematically impossible, I’d expect him to do his best to win.
You can say that, by the way, about any of his line-up decisions, be it sitting rookie John Leonard or playing 41-year-old Patrick Marleau.
Around the NHL
— The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) April 16, 2021
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