It’s been a lot of fun to watch the San Jose Sharks (29-33-4, 6th Pacific) of late. The team has won three in a row and now looks to make it four against the playoff desperate Minnesota Wild (33-26-7, 5th Central). The Wild are just outside of the wildcard race in the Western Conference, trailing both the Vancouver Canucks and the Winnipeg Jets by one point. Luckily for the Wild, they have two games in hand on the Jets, so they’re still very much in this thing.
This is the third and final meeting between the Sharks and the Wild and a chance for the Sharks to earn a series sweep. San Jose won the first meeting on Nov. 7, 2019 by a score of 6-5. Logan Couture scored a goal and added three helpers, while Martin Jones allowed three goals in the third period to make things really interesting. In the second meeting on Feb. 15, Jones was a stud. He stopped all 39 shots he faced and shut out the Wild by a score of 2-0.
The Wild come to town with the same roster they had during the last two meetings. The team did not make any moves at the trade deadline. Minnesota’s top scorer is Kevin Fiala with 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists). The team’s top goal scorer is Zach Parise with 24 goals and the assist leader is Ryan Suter with 38 helpers.
Former Sharks’ goaltender Alex Stalock looks like he’s taking over the number one spot for the Wild. Stalock has a record of 19-10-4 this season and is 4-1 in his last 5 games including a shutout against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 28.
Martin Jones in net
On the one hand, Jones has played outstanding during this latest winning streak for the Sharks. He stopped 21 of 23 shots against the New Jersey Devils last Thursday; stopped 30 shots to shutout the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday and stopped 25 of 27 shots against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. He’s playing arguably his best hockey of the season and it’s tough to ask him to sit.
On the other hand...as The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz explored a few weeks ago, the workload may have been what caused Jones all that trouble at the start of this season.
Regarding Martin Jones’ heavy workload in the 4 seasons prior to this one, that’s something we touched on about two weeks ago:https://t.co/EwkPtHdEv6— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) March 4, 2020
On the other, other hand. Jones has had some serious time sitting around watching, so it’s possible he’s rested enough to carry things through until the end of the season.
Jones has played just 39 games this season and if he played all of the games left in the season, his games played would jump to 55. That’s still a considerable difference from the past four seasons when he played 65 games, 65 games, 60 games and 62 games. Don’t forget there were playoff runs in all four of those seasons. Plus, we know Jones is going to get a nice long break starting in April.
True home ice advantage
The win streak coupled with the fact that the Wild don’t have as large a road following as the last two teams the Sharks played means you’ll be able to hear Sharks fans at SAP Center tonight.
It was a little embarrassing to see this tweeted out during Tuesday’s game against the Maple Leafs.
PSA -- 'Let's go Sharks' getting drowned out by 'Go Leafs Go'— Curtis Pashelka (@CurtisPashelka) March 4, 2020
Saturday night, the Tank was packed with Pens fans, but they quieted down quickly when they realized their team hadn’t bothered to show up.
Tonight, I imagine the Sharks will be able to hear the home fans cheering when something good happens.
That’s a good thing considering they’re playing at home.
Bold Prediction: Current Sharks’ goaltender Jones and former Sharks’ goaltender Stalock put on a clinic. It’s a tight game that’s won by a 1-0 score. Joe Thornton with the only goal of the game.
Drop your bold prediction below.