For the second straight year, the Los Angeles Kings will host the San Jose Sharks on opening night. For the second straight year, there is some added spice to this west coast rivalry. Last season, the Kings were coming off their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. En route to said championship, the Kings “reverse swept” the Sharks in the first round. Los Angeles became just the fourth team ever to win a Stanley Cup playoff series after dropping the first three games. Naturally, league schedulers had San Jose open the following season in Los Angeles for their banner-raising ceremony, because of course they would. Watching a rival celebrate is good drama no matter the sport.
This year’s opener doesn’t have quite the same allure of drama as both teams are coming off down seasons missing the playoffs. However, the summer trade(s) of now Sharks netminder Martin Jones makes this opening game a bit more special on the schedule. Over the summer, the Kings traded Jones to the Boston Bruins, because they couldn’t afford to sign him as a restricted free agent. General manager Dean Lombardi wisely moved him to the Eastern Conference, but Boston might not have been the wisest trading partner. The natural assumption would be the Kings wanted to get the highly touted Jones out of the Western Conference, but the Bruins already had a crowded crease of talented netminders. Their starter, Tuukka Rask, is one of the best in the game and is far from retirement. Plus, in the organization is highly regarded prospect Malcolm Subban. Therefore, shortly after the Bruins acquired Jones, they flipped him back to the Sharks, back to the Western Conference and Pacific Division, exactly what the Kings didn’t want to have happen.
Martin Jones & the Next Crusade
So now Jones will be between the pipes, getting to play as a No. 1 goaltender against his former club on opening night. While it is just the preseason, it is worth noting that Jones has been spectacular during his exhibition starts and that the Sharks now have a goaltender with expectations of being even better than Kings’ starter Jonathan Quick. It may be just one game out of 82 for both the Kings and the Sharks, but if Jones can put up a strong performance and the Sharks win the opener, it will make for the beginnings of a terrific season series between these two teams. A lot of hockey experts believe Quick is overrated for his playoff success when he has mundane regular season numbers. Jones doesn’t have the experience, but a slew of number crunchers expect Jones to have a better season than Quick. Teams don’t often trade a goaltender who has won them two Stanley Cups, but Jones does have the opportunity to prove the Kings made the wrong decision trading him.
While getting traded to San Jose has given Jones an opportunity at a No. 1 job, every player that gets traded wants to stick it to their former employers. Even though Jones doesn’t have a bad thing to say about LA (not surprising seeing he won the Cup with them in 2013-14), there is no doubt he is itching to get out there and snuff out his former teammates with some big-time saves. Two rival teams, two former teammates between the pipes for each side, Quick vs Jones, this game is bound to be a highly entertaining opening match. These teams don’t like each other anyway, and you add some personal spice to it and this particular game should be a doozy. San Jose skaters will surely be putting extra emphasis on winning this one for Jonesy.