PITTSBURGH – Martin Jones has been a part of the pre-Stanley Cup Final media day circus before. In 2014, though, he was much more on the periphery as he was firmly entrenched as Jonathan Quick’s backup on the Kings.
And, although Jones is as big of a reason as any that the Sharks have advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final – same as counterpart Matt Murray with the Penguins -– neither was the most popular guy on Sunday at Consol Energy Center. After all, both the Sharks and Penguins rosters are dotted with superstar players, many of which are likely future Hall of Famers.
Still, headed into Monday’s Game 1, the play of the two inexperienced goaltenders could determine which team ends up victorious. The Sharks and Penguins bring the two highest scoring offenses in the playoffs into the matchup, so each goalie should see plenty of rubber.
“They’re fast. They’ve got a lot of speed. Kind of similar to what we saw with Nashville,” said Jones, who is 12-6 with a 2.12 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in his first playoff run as a starter. “I think the speed is going to be the biggest thing.”
Jones, 26, is the only Sharks player to have won a Stanley Cup, although he didn’t actually play in any Final games in 2014. He did, however, win a WHL championship with the Calgary Hitmen in 2009-10, and was named as the playoff MVP after that tournament was through.
Murray, 22, has never been to the final round at any point in his brief career. A third round pick in 2012, he only played 13 games in the regular season before taking over the starter's duties in the playoffs three games into the first round.
“I’m excited and I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m anxious to get it going.”
“I’m definitely not oblivious to what’s going on. I don’t think overthinking it is going to help any more than not thinking about it at all. I try to stay in the moment, I say that all the time. It’s an intimidating thing sometimes, but overthinking it is not going to help.”
That includes not overthinking the pregame preparation, according to Murray, who is 11-4 with a 2.21 GAA and .924 SP in the postseason. The two teams are bound to see plenty of video of the opposition’s tendencies, but when it comes to goaltending, the job is pretty simple -– stop the puck.
“You overthink things and you worry about one thing too much, and then another thing can happen that you’re not expecting,” Murray said. “You want to study some tendencies I guess and you want every advantage possible, but you don’t want to overthink it, either.”
Jones was asked if he agrees with that theory.
“Yeah, you know, I think we’ve done a good job managing that throughout the playoffs. Coaches have done a really good job. I really like the direction we’re getting from them,” he said. “A lot of goaltending is just reading the play and reacting to it.”
Physically, Jones and Murray are similar. Both are tall and lanky, listed at 6-foot-4, with Jones being nine pounds heavier (187 to 179).
Murray considers them similar in style, too.
“We both play a fairly positional game. I know he’s a really good play-reader and good at reading the release,” Murray said. “It looks like he’s not moving much out there. He’s just processing it all mentally before he has to move, and that way he doesn’t waste any movement.
“He’s a very technically sound goalie. I’d like to think I’m pretty technically sound.”