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Game #64 – Hawks vs. Sharks Spotlight: Martin Jones

When success has a name as common as Martin Jones, it’s easy to overlook. But here we are, with Jonathan Quick’s former backup giving the Sharks a tenuous grasp on the second slot in the woebegone Pacific Division.

But it hasn’t been free roses for Jones all year. You may remember that there was something of a goalie controversy for the Sharks back in December, when Jones found himself swimming around with an 88+ SV% for the month. Much like the to-do the Hawks had after the 2015 playoffs—in which people yelled themselves hoarse for Darling over Crawford in an ethereal dance that simply never, ever seemed to end—the unwashed in the Bay brayed and spat for Aaron Dell to start. And start he did, only to prove why he was an undrafted pick up in the first place. BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.

Since the December dregs—which those in the know think was a result of an undisclosed injury—Jones has gone on to post one of the better stretches of his career as a starter. After a mixed bag January that saw him post a shutout and a 43-save shootout loss among a couple of putrid attempts, including allowing three goals on six shots against the Coyotes and a five-goal shin-kicking against Colorado, Jones has caught fire in February, posting a 93.2 SV%. Over the last eight games, he’s only allowed more than two goals once, and that was in OT against the Wild. Over that stretch, he’s gone 5-2-1, and the Sharks have needed every bit of it as they try to ward off the Army of the Damned that is the Kings, Ducks, and Flames on their tails.

Yet, despite this hot February, Jones’s SV% sits at about average: He’s currently at 91.7%, whereas the league average is 91.4%. But it makes sense, given how wildly Jones’s performance has swung this year. He bookended his horrid December and below-average January with save percentages no lower than 92.5% each month.

Jones is the Hot Pocket of goaltenders: either ice cold or scathingly hot, never quite finished cooking, and only satisfying to those who consider gastrointestinal distress a virtue. Unless, of course, he’s playing the Hawks.

In eight career games against the Hawks, Jones has posted a 93.3 SV%, a 2.00 GAA, and a 3-4-1 record. All 16 goals he’s ever given up against the Hawks have been at evens, but knowing what we know about the Hawks’s constantly confounding PP, that’s hardly a surprise. As has been the word all year, the Hawks will have to look to attack him at evens if they want a shot at solving this league-average riddle of theirs.

To borrow baseball parlance, Martin Jones is about as close to a spot starter as you can get. But given the Sharks’s outstanding special teams play, that’s really all he ever has to be. At 28, he probably doesn’t project to get much better than the literal league average, which is just fine for regular season wins. But when the games really matter, average usually doesn’t cut it. And unless Jones can show some consistency in the stretch run here, which he has not been able to do on the whole this year, the average goaltender with the average name will contribute to the average finish the Sharks seem to fall into year after year, and Jumbo Joe will continue to pine after the one trophy missing from his mantle.

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