LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Who’s been counted out more than Martin Jones in the last three years?
I mean, it’s easy to count him out: Jones’s .898 Save % over the last three seasons is second-worst in the NHL (of 22 goalies, 100+ Games Played).
But after last night’s 3-2 victory over Los Angeles, the San Jose Sharks somehow, someway find themselves over .500 and one point out of the West’s fourth and final playoff spot. And they can thank Jones for this: The beleaguered netminder has gone 7-1-1 with a .942 Save % and a +6.21 Goals Saved Above Expected, per Evolving Hockey, since Mar. 13.
“He’s on a roll,” Logan Couture said. “Everything he saw, he made that first save. It’s fun to play in front of him right now. We didn’t play well in the first. He bailed us out, a big reason why we were able to win that game.”
This isn’t the first time that Jones has gotten hot in the last three years, but this is a true 180 degree turn.
After being pulled on Mar. 5 against Vegas – Jones began the season with five pulls in 15 starts – his Save % sat at a league-worst .879 (of 18 goalies, 15+ Games Played). Jones’s Save %, which rose to .903 after Friday’s shutout, is now at .905: It’s the first time that his Save % has been above .900 after consecutive games since Jan. 2019.
Let’s just say the much-maligned keeper’s revival has taken his critics, fans and media alike, by surprise.
“I can’t speak for him,” Couture said with a laugh to himself, when asked how the outwardly stoic Jones has handled the outside noise. “But when you’re going through struggles individually, it gets you. It’s not the outside world. It’s not the media. It’s the expectations that you have for yourself, and you get disappointed in yourself.
“I can speak from a personal standpoint that I’ve been there, throughout my career, disappointed in the way that things are going. And the only way to get out of it is to work.
“And Joner, everyday he shows up. He works extremely hard, practices hard. He’s done a lot of extra extra work in the summer. He’s getting rewarded right now.”
But like I said, this isn’t the first time that Jones has heated up over the last three seasons.
Last season, from Nov. 9 to Nov. 30, Jones went 8-1-0 with a .915 Save % and a +7.03 GSAx. From Feb. 15 to Mar. 5, Jones went 4-3-0 with a .939 Save % and a +3.35 GSAx.
In 2018-19, from Dec. 2 to Jan. 15, Jones went 13-2-1 with a .920 Save % and a +4.51 GSAx.
We’re not even counting the most unexpected NBA Jam moment of Jones’s career: After getting pulled in two of the first four games of the 2019 Playoffs against Vegas, he stopped 122 of the next 127 shots to spearhead San Jose’s comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.
So there’s no question, even in these sub-.900 regions, that Jones is capable of rising to the occasion…on occasion.
The question, as always, is can the San Jose Sharks count on Jones? They couldn’t in 2018-19 and he was ultimately average in the Western Conference Final loss. They couldn’t last year, and the team failed to qualify even for a 24-team playoff.
I don’t blame you if you have your doubts – I certainly do.
But that’s for tomorrow. Right now?
“It’s nice to see him smiling after games and everyone else smiling,” Couture said. “Definitely happy for him.”
“Steady Eddie” ruffled Twitter when he didn’t play a shift in the second period last night. As far as I could tell, he was never on the bench either.
This is Vlasic's last shift. Odd: Nothing looks amiss, he goes over boards & into locker room at end of 1st period, looking none worse for wear. But never played a shift in 2nd and when I looked on bench, he wasn't there pic.twitter.com/9TLGeFMfFG
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) April 4, 2021
Was he benched? Traded?
The truth, it appears, is far less scintillating.
After the game, Boughner revealed that Marc-Edouard Vlasic suffered an upper-body injury at an undetermined time in the first period.
“I don’t even know. It was early in the first period, he only played five minutes. Someone said it might have been when he went down moving a puck in the neutral zone,” Boughner shared. “He didn’t have anything left to come back.”
Vlasic will be re-assessed today.
Could we see Christian Jaros finally make his San Jose Sharks debut in place of Vlasic? Jaros is currently the team’s seventh defenseman and the right-hander could fit seamlessly with left-hander Radim Simek.
Lefty Fredrik Claesson is also on the taxi squad.
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