The questions will continue to surround Martin Jones, especially after his misplay in Game 1 led to the game-winning goal.
Ever since general manager Doug Wilson traded a first-round pick for Martin Jones this summer, he’s shouldered the load for the San Jose Sharks.
Jones’s calm and confident demeanor between the pipes has been a welcome sight for team teal who needed an upgrade in goal after five seasons with Antti Niemi manning the nets.
Jones has been steady throughout this current playoff run for the Sharks, posting a 2.16 GAA and a .918 save percentage, both very solid numbers for a first-year playoff goaltender.
Despite his good numbers overall, Jones’ gaffe was the difference in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals as his misplay of a Jori Lehtera shot from the left wing proved to be the game-winning tally as the St. Louis Blues struck first in this best-of-seven series.
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It was a tough goal to concede for team teal who were dominating the run of play at that point in the second period. While Brent Burns can’t turn the puck over that easily at his own line, Jones appeared to have a clear view of the shot that snuck through his body and glove hand.
The shot simply hand-cuffed Jones who might have been distracted by the backchecking efforts of Chris Tierney on the play. No matter that’s a goal you can’t give up, especially against this Blues team that does such a good job of shutting down their opponents when they get a lead.
To his credit, Jones bounced back after conceding the crucial tally, coming up with some big saves in the third to keep things knotted up at one. It’s the kind of response the 26-year-old netminder has come through with all season long, and he will have to do so in Game 2 later tonight.
He’s already outdueled some pretty good netminders during this postseason in Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne, but Brian Elliott is playing better than both those more heralded goaltenders.
Elliott, who led the league in save percentage during the regular season, was tremendous in Game 1 making 31 saves including a couple of highlight-reel saves on his former collegiate teammate Joe Pavelski.
With Elliott on top of his game, it only highlights the play of Jones even further as he must be able to match his counterpart at the other end of the ice.
While it was just one soft goal in what’s been an otherwise solid postseason run, it proved to be the difference in a game the Sharks could have, and maybe should have won.
Jones and his San Jose teammates will have an opportunity to make amends tonight when they hit the ice for Game 2 looking to send this series back to the Bay Area knotted up at one.