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Jones Remains Strong Throughout First Round

by Ross McKeon / sjsharks.com

While the Sharks focus is locked in at looking forward, at least they know Martin Jones has their back.

San Jose's goalie has quietly put together the most consistent performance among his teammates during the first-round Stanley Cup playoff match-up against Edmonton. Quietly, that is, until overtime of Game 5 Thursday night north of the border. That's when it became abundantly obvious Jones was certainly holding up his end of the bargain.

"He's been excellent," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Friday. "What I really liked about Jonsey last night was how well he played in overtime. We were on our heels a little bit, he made some huge saves to keep us alive and give us a chance to try and get one."

That "one" never came for San Jose, which now counts on winning at SAP Center in front of its frenzied fan base on Saturday to give itself another crack on enemy ice for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Monday. The way Jones has played the entire series, the Sharks know a late series rally is possible.

As good as Jones was during San Jose's run to the Stanley Cup Final last year - winning 14 times, boasting a 2.16 goals-against average and .923 save percentage - he's been even better during the first five games this spring. Jones has stopped 139 of 148 Edmonton shots for a .939 save percentage and he's lowered his GAA to 1.69.

"I think we just tap the stick," Sharks forward Mikkel Boedker said. "He's a world-class goalie and he's kept us in it. We love to have him."

Jones has had to be good. Edmonton has out-chanced the Sharks in terms of total shot attempts, 334-306, when shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots are taken into account. There's been no greater disparity than in Game 5 when the Oilers held a 107-56 edge, including a 27-7 margin in the 18:15 of sudden death.

"I felt fine," Jones said afterward. "That's my mind set, I'm just trying to buy us time. We're just a bounce away from getting an opportunity to score a goal."

Jones was at his acrobatic best at 7:13 when he pushed from right to left and lunged forward while kicking out his left pad to deny Oilers captain Connor McDavid on a sure-fire Grade-AAA shot to cap a 2-on-1 pass from Leon Draisaitl in overtime. It was a first-class rob job, even if Jones deflected attention and gave credit elsewhere.

Video: SJS@EDM, Gm5: Jones slides to rob McDavid in OT

"Eddie (Vlasic) played it pretty well," said Jones, who posted his fourth career playoff shutout in Game 4. "I know he got the pass through, but he had to kind of throw a saucer pass over so it gave me some time to get over there."

And captain Joe Pavelski thought he could have done more to prevent Edmonton defenseman Oscar Klefbom from tying the game late in regulation (17:14 of the third) during a final period in which the Sharks did an excellent job keeping the Oilers to the outside and away from the middle of the ice.

"The block's there for me, it misses me and I probably got a screen on Joner a little bit," Pavelski said. "Joner was great in that overtime period. He made saves, kept us in it. He definitely gives us that chance. He made those saves to allow us to get going."

"I thought we played a pretty good third period," Jones added. "It's one shot through some bodies that goes in, but we were smart with the puck in the third, we were chipping pucks in, we were chipping pucks out. That's the way the game goes sometime."

Jones didn't wear the setback for long. He was talking about Saturday's Game 6 afterward instead of dwelling on what might have been.

"What can we do? We've just got to get ready for the next one," Jones said. "Our backs are against the wall now so we've got to play with some urgency and win a home game."

DeBoer, too, took the positives he's seen from the first five games to look ahead to what he hopes is only the first of consecutive elimination games.

"When you look at our defensive structure and our goaltending it's given us a chance every single game," he said. 

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