Sharks vs. Kings: San Jose winning goaltending battle
Goaltending has helped San Jose to a 2-0 series lead.
Martin Jones' excellence at even strength played a big role in San Jose's pair of road wins against the Kings in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Another factor? Jonathan Quick played not-so-hot at Staples Center this week. While this is a painfully small sample size, a good — or not so good — goalie can make or break a seven-game series. And so far, it's been the Sharks who have received quality netminding.
I know, I can hardly believe it. Antti Niemi, by and large, played well as a member of the San Jose Sharks but he absolutely played a role in San Jose's collapse against these Kings in 2014. While there's still plenty of time for Los Angeles to rally, Jones' play has been a breath of fresh air to a franchise that isn't accustomed to great netminding in the playoffs.
At even strength, Jones' save percentage of 96.9 sits at fourth in the NHL through a pair of playoff contests, while Quick's .871 rests only above Frederik Anderson's .864. These numbers aren't indicative of either player's talent level, but do tell some of the story as the Sharks were outshot in both games in Los Angeles. Score effects come into play, of course, but Jones has been excellent in his two games as a starter.
There's no reason for the Kings to panic at this point — they've been in this situation before, after all. And Quick has proven himself over the long haul as a guy that can be relied on come playoff time. Still, as the Sharks sat on the precipice of a goaltending controversy head coach Peter DeBoer named Jones the starter before this series started — and so far so good for the former King.
While James Reimer gathers moss on the bench, I have to believe DeBoer will ride Jones until he has a very compelling reason to go in a different direction. Jones hasn't given DeBoer much reason to re-think his decision, which is very good news for the first-year starter. I don't like to get caught up in individual saves (or goals, for that matter), but Jones made a few excellent ones on Saturday night.
Aesthetic isn't everything, but man is it pleasant to watch Jones play goalie. His calmness in net is something we just haven't seen with either Niemi or Nabokov. That doesn't always translate to better goaltending, of course, but feeling confidence in the player between the pipes is a relief for a fanbase that has good reason to distrust its goalie. San Jose can count its blessings as it heads back to SAP Center — not just for Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but for solid goaltending that has kept the Sharks in command of a series that is far from over.