We’re up to the San Jose Sharks goalie review in our recap of the 2017-18 season. The prior articles are here:
The story with the Sharks goalies largely resembles last season. Once again, the Sharks used just two netminders for the entire season. Martin Jones was the clear-cut starter. He re-signed with the Sharks on July 1, netting a six-year deal which nearly doubles his salary. The deal kicks in beginning with the 2018-19 season. In his new deal, he’ll likely be the league’s 12th highest paid goaltender.
Jones was, once again, backed-up by Aaron Dell. Dell got a new two-year deal which also begins next season. In his case, he tripled his salary.
Jones had a roller-coaster season, with injuries playing a role. He had two miserable games to start the season, then went on a 15-game roll where he was perhaps the best goalie in the league. Near the end of a 38-save shutout of Winnipeg, Jones suffered what appeared to be a minor injury. It sidelined him during the final week in November. In November, Jones had a stellar .935 save percentage (SV%). He returned in early December, but his stellar play didn’t. He posted a .886 SV% for the month. For his first six games in January, his SV% was .884.
Another injury sidelined him right around the All-Star break in mid-January. His first game back after nearly two weeks off wasn’t good, but Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer did the unusual and played Jones a second consecutive night. He played well, saving 43 of 44 shot attempts (to be fair, the opponents missed the net on a bunch of quality scoring chances). More importantly, the game seemed to reset Jones. He posted a strong .932 SV% in February and was good most of the rest of the way.
In the playoffs, Jones began with a brilliant, dominating playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks. The result was a four-game sweep. In the next series, he was outdueled by Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Against Vegas, Jones had a good series, excepting a bad game in the series opener (to be fair, the team in front of him wasn’t much help that game). He posted a very respectable .923 SV% over the final five games of the series (Vegas had a lot of high-quality attempts, too) but Fleury stole the show.
DeBoer used Jones an enormous amount in the closing stretch of the season. This sort of overuse has been problematic at times, since Jones can wear down. He had a brief late-season dip which, unsurprisingly, corresponded to the heavy workload. We’ve seen this puzzling show before; made even more puzzling since DeBoer has a very trustworthy backup goalie. Still, Jones had plenty of rest both immediately before the playoffs and during the playoffs. The late-season overuse did not create a problem for Jones in the playoffs.
With the injuries to Jones, Dell got about forty percent more playing time than in the prior season. And he was good, posting a record of 15-5-4. Aside from one unfortunate game against Nashville (in the net for seven goals, over ten percent of his season total), Dell kept the Sharks in almost every game he started.
It’s pretty rare for a team to pull a goalie and get points in a game (it didn’t happen at all for San Jose in the 2016-17 season), but Dell managed to get three points in relief appearances this season. Dell’s save percentage was .914, a drop from his .931 mark the prior season. He did make his Stanley Cup playoff debut, appearing twice in relief of Jones in the Vegas series. He let in two goals, both on the power play, on 28 shots.
Sharks fans have spent a lot of recent seasons anxious about how their backup goaltender will perform, but not this season – Dell was good in almost every outing. Somewhere along the line, though, DeBoer must have been badly burned by using a backup goaltender. His trust in Dell, even with two strong seasons in the role, seems to come grudgingly.
There were no new goalies for the Sharks at the NHL level, but San Jose did add Antoine Bibeau to its AHL team, the San Jose Barracuda. Bibeau took the starting job from Troy Grosenick, last season’s winner of the Baz Bastien Award as the top AHL goaltender (a number of very successful NHL goalies have won the award). Grosenick was traded in February to the Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s AHL team.
Expectations and Results
While there were many positive surprises and some disappointments for Sharks forwards and defensemen this season, this wasn’t the case with the two netminders. The Sharks goalies performed as expected, both having solid seasons when fully healthy.
ZEKE is a native of the DC area where he witnessed the birth of the Capitals franchise. After graduating from Cornell University, which had seen hockey glory before he arrived, he moved west to San Jose. There he witnessed the birth of the Sharks franchise. His wait to witness a Championship from any of these teams finally ended in 2018.