Sharks force game 7; Has Martin Jones FINALLY found his game?
The San Jose Sharks may still lose this series, but we saw in the last two games what it's going to take to beat the Vegas Golden Knights in this series.
The Sharks forced a game six back in Vegas by playing the game that's given the Sharks so much success over the years. San Jose rode solid goaltending, special teams, and timely scoring to a 5-2 game five win in front of lively SAP Center crowd.
Jones topped 30 of 32 shots, but none bigger than the stop on Reilly Smith with less than eight minutes left in the third period. Jones flashed the leg to stop a sure game-tying goal. Moments earlier, Vegas pulled to within a goal, but Jones FINALLY made the big stop to preserve the win.
If you wanted to script an (almost) perfect Sharks hockey game... game five was it. The still didn't have an answer for the line of Stone, Pacioretty, and Stastny though. Stone scored both goals on the power play and that unit combined for five more points.
In game six, the Sharks staved off elimination by doing the most important thing is this series... score the games first goal.
I'm pretty sure the team scoring the first goal is 6-0 in this series. San Jose also won the special teams battle again. The Sharks didn't score on the power play, but they managed to keep Vegas scoreless too AND they scored a shorthanded goal - Tomas Hertl's double OT winner.
But, above all else, the reason the Sharks win host a game 7 is the play of Martin Jones.
Jones stopped 88 of the 91 shots he faced in games 5 and 6, including 58 in games six's 2-1 2OT thriller. Jones' sensational game 6 performance rivals some of the best in NHL playoff history. He broke a franchise postseason record and had the most saves by a goalie facing elimination since Dominik Hasek stopped 70 for the Buffalo Sabres against the Devils 25 years ago.
Jones is playing like the guy we thought he was becoming two seasons ago. San Jose's defense has helped. It's no coincidence that the return of Marc-Edouard Vlasic for game 5 coincides with consecutive San Jose wins.
That said, I don't want to take away from Jones' insane turnaround. The 29-year-old netminder was trrrrrble, trrrrrble, trrrrrble in games 1 through 4, posting a .837 save percentage and a vomit-inducing 5.34 goals-against average. Since then he put up some insane numbers, like a .967 save percentage and a 1.19 GAA.
The Sharks roster is stacked, we know that. The Achilles heel all season has been between the pipes. With Jones playing better and, seemingly, getting better, San Jose has to be feeling pretty good heading home for game 7 in front of another lively SAP Center crowd.
BTW, the Vegas chirping is a bit much. They are an expansion team thrust into the league elite. What more do they need?
Thanks for reading,