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Sharks vs. Avalanche Film Room: Special teams, Greg Balloch on Jones’s resurgence

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Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks blocks a Vegas Golden Knights’ shot in the first overtime period of Game Six of the Western Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena on April 21, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. T Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Despite Martin Jones’s sparkling 122 saves on 129 shots to spearhead the San Jose Sharks’ comeback against Vegas, InGoal Magazine’s Greg Balloch still has his concerns: “He still had a lot of the same issues, but battled a bit and fought through it. Got a bit lucky.”

By luck, Balloch was thinking about this Game 6 first overtime save on Jonathan Marchessault:

This still photo of the save illustrates Balloch’s point.

“His hands were in too tight and he couldn’t do a proper butterfly because he landed on his stick,” Balloch noted. “If the shot went along the ice, it would have gone right through him.”

That said, Balloch mentioned a key in-series adjustment that has helped Jones.

“One on-the-fly adjustment I was told that Jones tried to make was his depth on plays from the rush,” Balloch offered. “Look at where he sets up before the Stone hat trick goal in Game 3. He wasn’t nearly that aggressive in Games 6 and 7.”

“He got caught out way too many times,” Balloch said. “The further out you play, the longer that route is back to your post — which we’ve already identified as an issue for him.”

For a deep-dive on Philipp Grubauer’s emergence as Colorado’s main man, go no further than our sister site Mile High Hockey and Cat Silverman.

Kevin Woodley of NHL.com also had terrific analysis of the goaltending match-up in this series here.

Special Teams

Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson should be able to breathe a little more against the Colorado Avalanche penalty kill.

While the Vegas Golden Knights penalty kill committed to taking away Burns and Karlsson high, trying to prevent them from shooting, the Avalanche shouldn’t be as aggressive on that front.

To underscore the difference between Vegas and Colorado, in the regular season, Burns had just three shot attempts in 15:17 at 5-on-4 against the Golden Knights, while he had six in 9:18 at 5-on-4 against the Avalanche.

These are really small sample sizes, but they speak to a Vegas emphasis on preventing Burns from even winding up. On the other hand, Colorado’s league-leading 31.47 blocked shots per 60 at 4-on-5 points to what they prioritize.

“It seems, even if they don’t play him high, they get a lot of blocks,” Justin Braun noted.

On the opposite side, Matt Calvert agreed, “The big thing is blocking those shots. They like to get a lot of wrist shots through. Those are very blockable.

“I don’t think we’ll change our system much. It’s also going to be on us to put them in bad spots, force them to make quick plays.”

Meanwhile, the Avalanche power play is a dervish of puck movement:

The Avs move the puck around really well, forcing the killers to back off, and then they have multiple options to go to, not just relying on one guy to get it done. Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Tyson Barrie are all one-timer options but they also have the capability of going down low to Gabriel Landeskog for a one-touch pass to Colin Wilson in the slot. (The Point Hockey)

You can see MacKinnon and Rantanen’s sticks here, cocked for the one-timer:

The Sharks’ penalty kill is very aggressive in-zone, so they’ll have to marshal all their energy to chase what could be a hot puck.

When you’re talking about MacKinnon and Rantanen and Landeskog, it’s easy to forget about Barrie, but he’s critical to their success. In fact, no other defenseman in the NHL played more total minutes at 5-on-4 this year, save John Carlson.

“He’s a good distributor,” said Melker Karlsson.

“Move the puck quick, move your feet to get open,” Barrie offered, on how to deal with an aggressive penalty kill in the zone. “You have to support each other, not let the pressure surprise you.”

For San Jose, staying out of the box is also paramount — Colorado leads the league in minor penalties drawn per 60.