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Behind The Numbers

Jones' turnaround key in helping Sharks close in on trip to Cup Final

Goalie's improved 5-on-5 play big part of San Jose taking 2-1 lead against Blues

by Scott Cullen / Special to NHL.com

The San Jose Sharks are two wins from reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in the past four seasons, and a big part of that has been the play of goalie Martin Jones.

The Sharks lead the best-of-7 Western Conference Final 2-1 against the St. Louis Blues, with Game 4 at Enterprise Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).

It has been quite a turnaround for Jones and the Sharks, who trailed the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 in the Western Conference First Round.

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Blues series coverage]

 

San Jose finished the regular season 3-8-1 in its final 12 games. Despite controlling 56.43 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts during that span, Jones and goalie Aaron Dell combined for an .868 save percentage at 5-on-5, which was 31st in the NHL during that span.

In falling behind Vegas in the first four games, the Sharks had 51.04 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts, a 5.8 shooting percentage and an .861 save percentage at 5-on-5.

Video: Jones comes up big late in 3rd before game-tying goal

But the percentages started to swing in the San Jose's favor starting with Game 5 against the Golden Knights. In 13 games since then, Jones has a .922 save percentage at 5-on-5. Though the Sharks have had 49.79 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts in that span, they have a 9.3 shooting percentage at 5-on-5.

It's not surprising Jones rediscovered his form; he is a veteran goalie who has a strong playoff track record, with a .926 even-strength save percentage in 57 playoff games since joining San Jose in 2015-16. That also happens to be more playoff games than any other goalie in the past four seasons, so he is comfortable in the postseason spotlight.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm3: Jones denies Perron's great scoring bid

Sharks center Logan Couture also looks very comfortable in the playoff pressure cooker. He leads all scorers in the postseason with 20 points (14 goals, six assists) in 17 games.

Couture averaged 2.52 shots on goal per game during the regular season on his way to 27 goals in 81 games. In the playoffs, he's generating 3.47 shots on goal per game and has scored on 23.7 percent of them. Though that shooting percentage far exceeds his regular-season NHL career average of 12.6 and his 15.1 percent in 113 playoff games, Couture increasing his shot rate by 38 percent does contribute to his goal-scoring explosion.

What's notable about San Jose's playoff production is aside from scoring four power-play goals against the Golden Knights in Game 7, the Sharks have done a lot of their damage at even strength.

Couture leads the playoffs (minimum 10 games played) with 2.59 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play. But playoff production is nothing new for him; since 2016, he has averaged 3.52 points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, first among the 224 players to skate in at least 20 playoff games.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm3: Couture ties game with milestone goal

Defenseman Erik Karlsson has been another major factor in the Sharks' even-strength production. Karlsson is tied with teammate Brent Burns for the lead among NHL defensemen with 15 points (two goals, 13 assists), and his 2.07 assists per 60 minutes and 2.35 points per 60 minutes are first among defensemen who have appeared in at least 10 playoff games. Burns is third in points per 60 minutes at 1.95.

Two wins from reaching the Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks once again are playing at a high level. In Burns and Karlsson they have two defensemen that drive offense better than any others, Couture is the hottest goal-scorer in the postseason, and Jones appears to be back on track in net.

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