Sharks vs. Blues Game 2: Martin Jones is making Doug Wilson look like a very smart man
One of the Sharks general manager's biggest offseason gambles has paid off so far.
In the past 10 playoff campaigns, Sharks goaltending rarely performed at an above-average rate. Including the 2015-16 playoff run, San Jose's goaltending has put together just three second seasons with a save percentage over .910. So when I say Martin Jones' .918 is the second-best the Sharks have had in that span, well, just appreciate how rare this is.
When Doug Wilson traded a first round pick to the Boston Bruins for Jones, reactions ranged from cautiously optimistic to what you're used to seeing from Sharks fans over the year. It was certainly a gamble. Jones had never been a true No. 1 starter in the NHL, though he boasted a relatively impressive pedigree as a long-time backup for Jonathan Quick. Granted, the other two famous Quick understudies...well, they haven't always been great.
Those are the three goalies' even-strength save percentages since leaving the Kings. While Jones is operating under a smaller sample size than either of the other former Kings on this list, it's at least worth noting that his arrival in San Jose was not guaranteed to be successful.
Some skepticism here is still warranted, of course, but Jones' numbers are promising. Despite carrying the heaviest workload of his career, Jones seems to be as fresh as ever after his 14th-straight playoff game. While I certainly won't pretend to be some sort of goalie expert, it seems Jones and the Sharks in front of him have a real good thing going here.
When I talked to Greg Balloch, who is actually a goalie expert, he said this about Jones:
What gives his game an edge is his post-integration. So the way he uses his posts to move around the crease and to know where he is at all times in the net.
That aspect of his game is really what has gotten him to perform to this level. He never looks like he's panicking, he always knows where he is in the net because he uses that post to know where he is. He's very smooth in and out of that reverse-VH where he has one leg on the edge of the post to the blade of his skate is right up against the post.
So he'll spring out to the middle and I think that's huge for him because I don't think he's an elite play reader. I don't think he reads plays at a high level. It's a lot of stuff he can't react to or read against, cause he doesn't have that Jonathan Quick ability to really react to a quick developing play. So I think he doesn't really have to make that save cause he's already in the right position.
This rings true with what I feel our eyes are telling us. Jones looks so quiet in net because he just doesn't have to bounce around to make wild save after wild save. I find goalie analysis from actual experts fascinating, but even looking at the most basic of metrics, save percentage, shows what we already know: Jones has gotten better as the season has gone along.
This is Jones' rolling even-strength save percentage. After bottoming out in what was a very bad month of December, Jones' numbers have just risen to where he is right now. San Jose hasn't had the benefit of a hot goaltender in the playoffs in...well, let's just say it's been a while even by the most generous definitions. If this is to be the Sharks' year, Jones will have a lot to do with it.
So that brings us back to Wilson, the architect of a team that has been (mostly) very good for just about every year of his tenure. The Jones trade was Wilson's biggest gamble of the offseason and so far it looks like the Sharks general manager has beat the house.