For all that the Sharks’ win against the Canadiens on Friday wasn’t, it certainly was one thing: a dominant performance by Martin Jones. San Jose doesn’t win that game without the extraordinary efforts of its netminder, and after a shaky start to the season it’s very nice to see Jones back to his old self between the pipes.
Using the eye test on goaltenders can be fatally flawed for a couple of reasons. The first is pretty simple: While yes, everyone thinks they’re a goalie expert, the actual number of goalie experts is quite few. The second is there’s not much of a consensus on how a goalie is supposed to look, nor what saves are supposed to be made.
So we’re going to rely on good ole even strength save percentage to evaluate Jones’ performance this season. The below chart, from corsica.hockey, is the rolling 10-game average of Jones save percentage. It doesn’t include last night’s result, which obviously would have bumped up his numbers a bit.
Jones has allowed four even strength goals in the past five games and raised his even strength save percentage to a nifty .927 in the process. For reference, Jones posted a .925 in his first season with the Sharks. Jones went through a similar rough patch last season (December was no bueno) but he recovered and excelled from there all the way through the playoffs.
That’s not to say this will become a yearly occurrence, but it serves as a reminder to stay calm about fluctuations in goaltending performance in small samples. Even now Jones has played in just a third of the regular season games he took part in a season ago; it’s early days, but for the Sharks’ sake it’s nice to see Jones recover.
Credit should be given to the defense in front of him, of course. Yes, San Jose struggled in the possession game last night; but Jones faces a pittance of the shots his counterpart on Friday sees on a nightly basis. Randy Hahn mentioned during the broadcast this discrepancy, and I’ll expound on it below.
Entering Friday’s game the Sharks allowed the third-fewest shots per 60 minutes in the NHL. Only the Kings and Blues allowed fewer shots per 60 minutes. The Canadiens entered the game giving up the fifth most shots in the NHL per 60 minutes. Despite that, Carey Price is putting up Vezina numbers; which, yes, is why he’s getting Hart talk.
The Canadiens certainly got a few more pucks to the net than the Sharks would have liked, but for the most part San Jose kept the Habs out of the prime scoring areas. You can see in the below graphic from hockeyviz.com that the Canadiens were taking shots from just about everywhere on the ice.
That’s not necessarily a bad strategy, but it offers some context to the Canadiens impressive possession numbers. Jones made a few incredible saves, including this one on Galchenyuk, which you’ve no doubt seen already:
He’s pretty good, as it turns out. The Sharks have won five of their last six, hold a three-point lead in the Pacific Division and get a few days off to recover from a slew of nagging injuries. Mix in Jones being back to his old self and you’ve got plenty of reason to be happy this morning.