Look, the San Jose Sharks have not defended well in front of Martin Jones for two years and running.
Per SPORTLOGiQ, before tonight’s disheartening 6-2 loss to last-place Los Angeles, the Sharks were 23rd or worse in the NHL in eight of the 10 given Scoring Chances Against micro-stats. Four key even strength defense weaknesses stand out:
- San Jose is 27th in Shots on Net from Slot Against (14.3 Per 60 – for additional context, Dallas is tops at 8.99)
- They’re 31st in Shot Attempts from Slot Off the Cycle Against (10.2 Per 60 – Pittsburgh is tops at 4.08)
- They’re 27th in Shot Attempts from Slot Off the Rush Against (7.07 Per 60 – Dallas is tops at 3.91)
- They’re 29th in Odd-Man Rushes Against (5.84 Per 60 – the New York Islanders are tops at 2.32)
The numbers weren’t much better last year.
Essentially, the Sharks have surrendered a lot of shots – be it off the cycle or the rush – from the ever-dangerous slot area. They’ve done Jones no favors.
But there’s also a point when you need a stop, and Jones, like a broken record, keeps skipping there.
Tonight was a good example: Through 20 minutes, San Jose held an 11-2 Scoring Chances edge at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick. Granted, there wasn’t a lot of high-danger activity – both the Sharks and the Kings had two apiece in that category – but for all intents and purposes, it was a quality San Jose period.
The Sharks found themselves down 3-1.
“Their guy made some saves; our guy didn’t,” Bob Boughner said of Jones versus Calvin Petersen. “Now you’re down 3-0.”
Boughner went on: “That’s not up to our standard, that goaltending.
“We’ve given him a chance here to grab the net, especially with [Devan Dubnyk] being hurt. We’re not expecting him to win hockey games for us and stand on his head. But we gotta have solid goaltending, especially at the beginning of games.
“It’s not up to our standard; I’m sure it’s not up to his own.”
Jones, powered by an immaculate shootout record, has managed to sport a 5-3-0 record despite the league’s third-worst Save %. That .865 Save % would make Glen Hanlon blush.
If Save % isn’t your thing, per Evolving Hockey, Jones has a bottom-10 Goals Saved Above Expected.
Problem is, he might be the San Jose Sharks’ best option in net right now. San Jose announced today that Dubnyk, who boasts a .917 Save % behind the same shaky defense, was out with a day-to-day lower-body injury. Boughner added that Dubnyk is unlikely to be ready before Feb. 18 at St. Louis.
Behind Jones then are Alexei Melnichuk – who made his NHL debut after Jones was pulled in the final frame – and Josef Korenar. These are two young goalies with virtually zero NHL experience. The Sharks have high hopes for Melnichuk, but frankly, league-wide, neither are considered blue-chip prospects. It’s hard to see either starting a contest for San Jose soon, unless disaster strikes, be it more struggles for Jones or a long-term injury to Dubnyk. For what it’s worth, the Sharks’ next back-to-back is Mar. 5 and 6 against the Golden Knights.
“I was thinking of putting him in after the third goal. In retrospect, maybe I should’ve,” Boughner said of Melnichuk. “I went in between periods and I challenged Jonesy to be better. I thought he answered the bell a little bit in the second period.”
Best case scenario, Dubnyk is ready by Feb. 18, that gives Jones two games to re-enter San Jose’s starting conversation. Otherwise, a job that Jones had held for six seasons could become Dubnyk’s to lose.
How will the embattled netminder respond?
In a similarly dire circumstance, down 3-1 to Vegas in the 2019 playoffs, Jones authored perhaps the greatest (and most unexpected) goaltending performance in San Jose Sharks history, stopping 58 of 59 shots in Game Six to even up the series.
But it’s also a reminder that Jones has been on the firing line for three consecutive years: Since 2018-19, Jones is tied for the worst Save % in the league with…wait for it…his former mentor, Jonathan Quick, at .894.
I’ll say, between Peter DeBoer and Boughner the last three seasons, tonight was the most exasperated that a San Jose Sharks head coach has sounded about Jones.
What that means for the long-term future of Jones, signed until 2024, it’s hard to say. But Jones should get at least a final say this Saturday against, naturally, the Golden Knights.
Giving Up Goals Like Grapes
I wrote about this a few days ago and the trend continued tonight: The San Jose Sharks keep giving up goals in bunches.
Tonight, Los Angeles scored three goals in 9:55 in the opening frame, three goals in 2:05 in the final stanza.
“We just got to take it shift by shift. Just learn from it and move on,” Mario Ferraro offered. “I feel like sometimes, our confidence get a little low after a goal comes and we’re playing from a deficit.”
This was the 11th time this season that San Jose has allowed two unanswered goals in under five minutes or three-or-more straight goals in under 10 minutes. This is in just 11 games and not counting any empty netters:
- 2 goals against in 3:26 @ Arizona on Jan. 14
- 2 goals against in 2:10, 2 goals against in 3:43 @ Arizona on Jan. 16
- 2 goals against in 1:33, 2 goals against in 4:43 @ St. Louis on Jan. 18
- 5 goals against in 9:33, 2 goals against in 1:31 @ Colorado on Jan. 26
- 3 goals against in 8:59 @ Colorado on Jan. 28
- 3 goals against in 8:19 @ Anaheim on Feb. 5
- 3 goals against in 9:55, 3 goals against in 2:05 @ Los Angeles on Feb. 11
On the other, the Sharks have done this just four times to their opponents this year:
- 2 goals for in 4:08 @ Arizona on Jan. 14
- 2 goals for in 2:40 @ St. Louis on Jan. 18
- 3 goals for in 9:24 @ Minnesota on Jan. 24
- 3 goals for in 7:25 @ Anaheim on Feb. 5
On the bright side, the 5-6-1 San Jose Sharks haven’t played a home game yet. They have 28 home games remaining on the schedule, just 16 on the road.
Reminder though: They were just 17-17-2 at SAP Center last season. A .500 record at home isn’t going to cut it if the Sharks want to qualify for the post-season.
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