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Sharks Know They Can Rely on Jones

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks

PITTSBURGH -- The goaltenders have been the story of these playoffs, over and over and over again. Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury. Brian Elliott and Jake Allen. Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. Whether by virtue of injury or performance or both, teams have had to rely on starters and backups and starters as backups and backups as starters.

Not the Sharks.

In what has been a rarity this season, the Sharks have relied almost totally on Martin Jones - in his first season as a starter, no less - as they've made it through the gauntlet of the Western Conference playoffs all the way to the franchise's first Stanley Cup Final.

Jones has played all but 29:05 of this playoff run, made 440 of the 446 saves by Sharks goaltenders, earned 12 of 12 wins necessary to get to this point. In doing so, he has soothed the minds of his teammates, smoothed the way forward, not been the story but been part of the story.

"It does steady our team," defenseman Paul Martin said. "Jonesy in general is a pretty reserved goaltender. He's really calm back there, which makes it easy for us to play defense in front of him. Not too many things get to him or rattle him. So to know that he's back there every game giving us the chance to win is big and not worrying about, OK, if he lets one in, are we going to be changing goalies? I think the mental part of that really helps."

He, and the Sharks, watched that happen in the Western Conference Final. They saw the St. Louis Blues pull Elliott in Game 3, saw them start Allen in Game 4 and Game 5, before they went back to Elliott in Game 6.

He saw the uncertainty. He saw the flip-flopping. He saw how that could be problematic.

"We haven't had to deal with it this year, but I'm sure for other teams and in the past, if you have a hot goalie or a goaltender that's play well, you don't have to expect it," Martin said. "You almost don't think about it. It's one of those things we take for granted.

"I think when you have goalies coming out of the lineup, you always wonder in the back of your head, 'OK, is he getting pulled tonight? Who's going in next game?' It's something that I think we have that luxury of not having to worry about."

They gained that last summer when the Sharks remade their goaltender present and goaltender future, shipping the negotiating rights to Niemi to the Dallas Stars and, eventually, trading for Jones. That took some doing, though. Jones had, until the NHL Draft, been a member of the Los Angeles Kings, before getting traded to the Boston Bruins in a deal that netted the Kings Milan Lucic.

He spent less than a week as a member of the Bruins, with Sharks general manager Doug Wilson seeing an opening to at last acquire a player whom they had had their eye on for a while.

"They made the trade, we were in a position, we needed that type of goalie. He was No. 1 on the list," Wilson said.

So Jones came to San Jose, unproven. He went 37-23-4 with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in the regular season, and then 12-6 with a 2.12 GAA and .919 save percentage in the playoffs to bring the Sharks to this point, ready to begin Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I think it's all belief, like when our guys go in the room and talk to Marty Jones and play in front of him, they're not looking at him like he's a rookie or [26] year-old or a guy that's only played so many games," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "They look at him like he's a seasoned veteran because he carries himself that way."

He has not been great in the playoffs - he has not needed to be - but Jones has been more than good enough. He has made the saves required, and some spectacular ones on top of that, notable among them a pad save on Jori Lehtera in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.

Jones has been quiet. His game has been quiet. The Sharks goaltending situation has been quiet.

It fits with who he is.

"He is very quiet and goes about his business in his own way," Martin said. "You don't notice him too often. He's not the first guy to come out and start a conversation."

Nor has there been much conversation about him. He has not garnered the headlines, the talk shows, the imagination. He has simply been there, game after game, steady and cool, calm and collected. He has been what the Sharks didn't have, what they now do.

"He's obviously a competitor and he wants to win," Martin added. "He's come a long way even this year and we're lucky to have him behind us."

Him and - with very slight exception - only him.

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

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