SAN JOSE – A pattern has developed in the Twitter mentions 22 games into the Sharks 2019 campaign. It happened again after San Jose coughed up three leads to lose to the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in overtime on Tuesday.
So, while this was something we addressed last week when tackling some of the Sharks defensive woes, the repeated venom being spewed on Twitter warrants that we revisit this topic again.
The trend: When the Sharks give up a lead, everyone piles on Martin Jones. Why didn't he stop this shot? Why was he out of position on that shot? One fan even went so far as to compare him to Antti Niemi.
With a back-to-back against two division rivals coming up immediately after Thanksgiving, it's highly likely Jones will split the series with de facto backup Aaron Dell – a goalie who fans seem to have no problem putting their faith in. There are even questions as to why Dell hasn't been tapped as the Sharks starter.
Even when he got the start in St. Louis when the Sharks were shut out 4-0 by the Blues, confidence in Dell hasn't seemed to waiver.
Is staring at Jones' save percentage for too long making San Jose fans nervous? Or is it that fans in general are just typically unhappy with their team's starting goaltender? Whatever it may be, the fanbase's feelings towards its two netminders have become almost polar opposites.
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For starters: This isn't a new topic, not even one significant to this season. The same conversation arose last season when Dell strung together a couple hot starts. It gained momentum yet again when Jones entered the 2019 campaign with a .859 save percentage in his first three starts, while Dell stood tall on the Sharks first road trip of the season despite falling to the New York Rangers in overtime and registering a .889 save percentage.
Even with a couple losses, nothing seems to get fans into a tizzy quite like announcing that Dell is tapped to get the start in net. There are a couple things that need to be considered here. When the rest of the team expresses disappointment in letting their goalie down, they mean it. When captain Joe Pavelski says he felt the team hung Jones "out to dry" it's the truth.
The defense, as we've discussed before, hasn't been as consistent as the Sharks would like. Jones' start on the road against the Dallas Stars comes to mind. He worked his tail off to keep San Jose in that game, stopping breakaway opportunities by big guns Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. What gets remembered, though, is that he let Devin Shore's shot take a weird detour past his block and give the Stars the 4-3 win.
The defensive breakdowns became an issue again in Tuesday's contest against the Oilers. The Sharks weren't playing as good of a game in front of Jones as they had in their previous game when Dell shut the Blues out 4-0.
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It's like the Giants not giving Madison Bumgarner enough run support in consecutive starts. Or the 49ers offensive line struggling in front of C.J. Beathard but finding their stride while Nick Mullens is at the helm. When the rest of the team plays differently in front of each goalie, it may seem easier to simply point to the netminder as the sole issue. That doesn't always mean it is.
Here's what the bottom line is when it comes to the goalie tandem in San Jose -- While Martin Jones needs to be better, the rest of the team has to follow suit. Sure, there's a chance Aaron Dell may pick up more starts down the line if he keeps playing better. For the time being though, the entire Sharks squad has to be more consistent. That includes both players starting between the pipes.