A superb offense and heavy forecheck may have been able to carry the San Jose Sharks deep into the playoffs last season, but with the undeniable goaltending problems the Sharks are experiencing yet again, they simply cannot afford to rely solely on their offense to get things done.
It is an offense that has been toned down immensely due to the loss of Joe Pavelski and a lack of performance from key offensive players such as Logan Couture who currently sits with just one goal after 16 games.
The special teams are doing well for the Sharks, so at least they have that going for them. Apart from that, though, unless your name is Evander Kane, who has nine goals, the members of the Sharks have some serious reevaluating to do when it comes to winning hockey games.
One looming problem that I do believe is clearly affecting the team’s ability to win is abysmal goaltending being provided by Martin Jones and more excusably, backup Aaron Dell.
Jones ended the 2018-19 season with a weak .896 save percentage and he is currently following in those same footsteps with an even worse .889 after playing 12 games in the current season.
Aaron Dell has only been involved in six games so far, but even he is struggling to stop the puck with a .878 save percentage.
So, what exactly is to blame for the struggling situation both the Sharks’ goaltenders find themselves in and how can the Sharks bounce back from the frustrating situation they find themselves in?
A Lack of Consistency from Jones
Look, I am not saying Jones doesn’t have his good nights. There were plenty of times last season where he would be the wall keeping the Sharks in the game and he is certainly quite capable of making miraculous highlight-reel saves – Just take a look at this NHL Top 10 saves of Martin Jones video from the 2018-19 season.
These moments of brilliance seem to come almost out of nowhere for Jones and are too few and far between to ever amount to anything noteworthy. Sure, a flashy save might make the highlight reels, but it’s not going to get you into the playoffs.
For that, a goaltender will need consistency and that is something that Jones has not provided for the Sharks for a number of seasons now.
Even when Jones is not the starting goaltender (or he’s been pulled), it’s not like Dell has been able to come to the rescue. I don’t believe it is the job of a backup to come to have to come to the rescue of a team – they’re the backup for a reason. Therefore, I don’t think Dell can be blamed for issues of the Sharks and the responsibility lies on Jones to pick up the pieces while the team might still be able to salvage a decent season.
Problems Everywhere for the Sharks
While I do believe goaltending is the main issue the Sharks are facing right now in terms of their ability to get two points, it would be wrong to not comment on the poor display the Sharks defence are putting up this season – In particular, a certain Erik Karlsson who just looks lazy on the ice.
The Sharks lost a key member on their backend with the loss of Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers this past offseason, but that is no excuse for the struggling defensive core. Burns, Karlsson, and Vlasic are all heavily relied upon by the team and when these key people aren’t getting things done, the team suffers as a result.
The signing of Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million deal is a topic of debate all on its own, but if the former Norris Trophy-winning defencemen does not start providing the Sharks with some of that defensive offense that he is known for, the signing could go down as one of the biggest hiccups in recent hockey.
At the end of the day, I believe true playoff success for the Sharks will come down to whether or not Jones can once again achieve over a .900 save percentage.
As for if he has that ability in him, well just judging by this season’s horrendous 3.38 goals-against average, it seems unlikely.
It may be time for a new goaltender to take Jones’ place in the Shark Tank, because honestly, I don’t see the Sharks making it far, at least not with Jones in the net.