Martin Jones made 32 saves on 34 shots against the Ducks on Tuesday night and deserves much credit for the Sharks’ overtime victory. But while Jones has recovered from a rough start to the year he hasn’t found the consistency that marked his first year as a starter.
That’s reflected in his 10-game rolling average at even strength, which you can see below thanks to corsica.hockey. It runs starting from Oct. 1, 2015 until Tuesday. The big gap in the middle accounts for the offseason, so don’t freak out. Okay?
Jones went through some inconsistency to start last season, too, especially through that December slump. He experienced a similar skid in the early part of this season before going on a surge over the past month. Jones cooled off over the past week and change but so far it’s been a bit of a roller coaster for the netminder.
That hasn’t hurt the Sharks much in terms of results. They’re sitting in first place in the Pacific, thanks more to the weakness of the division than to anything Jones has done. His even strength save percentage is in the bottom five among goaltenders with at least 1,000 minutes played this season. At all strengths Jones moves up to 12th out of 22 — so he’s been excellent on the power play and penalty kill.
That wasn’t true last year. Jones played phenomenally at even strength but didn’t have anything going while the Sharks were on special teams. If there’s an explanation for why the San Jose penalty kill percentage has improved this year, it likely starts with Jones.
Zooming out to a 25-game rolling average gives a bigger picture on the rise, fall and possible re-rise (go with it) of Jones as a netminder.
Jones’ first 25 games as a Shark weren’t all that memorable, but he got cooking as San Jose headed towards the playoffs and remained steady all the way through it. Then Jones started this season poorly before spiking, regressing and possibly recovering again. He hasn’t been a problem for San Jose yet, but the Sharks need him to be good if they want to have any hope in the postseason.
Of course this all brings up the Aaron Dell question. The Sharks’ backup has made only four starts and five appearances in San Jose’s 35 contests. For reference, Alex Stalock had made his eighth start by this time last season. Head coach Pete DeBoer hasn’t gone with Dell in back to backs, against weak opponents and in other situations that make tremendous sense to give Jones the night off.
All the while Jones hasn’t really been his old self yet. It’s still early enough it’s fair to say we don’t really know who Jones’ “old self” is yet. We’re still evaluating who he is as a player and probably won’t have that answer until at least the end of the season. With any luck, it’ll be good news for San Jose fans.