Martin Jones is having a solid, if not terrific season for the San Jose Sharks. The first year starting netminder was acquired by San Jose over the offseason for a first round pick and a mid-level college prospect. After backing up Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles the past two seasons, Jones was traded to the Boston Bruins just days before being sent to the Sharks. Shortly after landing in San Jose, the restricted free-agent signed a three-year deal for three million per season.
Jones has been a rock between the pipes for San Jose as he has started 57 of their 68 games. He has demonstrated an ability to steal games with his underrated flexibility. Jones uses the long legs of his six-feet, four-inch frame to stretch across from post to post in extremely quick fashion. Currently sporting an above-average .918 save percentage, Jones deserves to start the playoffs for the Sharks. However, the Sharks would be wise not to put the load entirely on the 25-year old’s shoulders. Recently acquired 27-year old James Reimer should also see regular action in the postseason regardless of how Jones performs.
Reimer is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but he has actually been better than Jones this season. His overall save percentage between both Toronto and San Jose is .920. Not to mention, one has to factor in that the Maple Leafs have been a lousy team this season. In 29 starts with the Leafs, Reimer faced an average of 30.5 shots per game. Jones on the other hand has faced an average of 27 with the Sharks. Given a better defense in front of him, Reimer would likely be comfortably in the mid .920s with his overall save percentage. That type of goaltending is simply too strong to be left on the bench for entire playoff series.
Sharks Would be Treading New Water
Almost every year, each playoff team nominates one goalie to carry most, if not all of the load in the playoffs. It is difficult to remember the last time a team actually rotated both goaltenders for the entire duration of the playoffs. Last season Scott Darling filled in early in the postseason for the eventual Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks, but once Corey Crawford found his game, he played every game the rest of the way. In 2008, Chris Osgood took over for Dominek Hasek and led the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup but that wasn’t a rotation either.
After asking around the interwebs, it appears the 2013-14 Ducks were the most recent team to have a considerable split of playing time between the pipes. During that playoff, Frederik Andersen started seven games, John Gibson started four and Jonas Hiller two. This wasn’t a planned split going into the postseason though. Anaheim wanted Andersen to be the guy before having to turn to both Hiller and Gibson.
In 2010, the Philadelphia Flyers went all the way to the Stanley Cup final with two journeymen in Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher splitting time nearly 50-50. These two however, were interchanged back and forth mostly because they were both lousy. In actuality, it is still hard to recall the last time an NHL team actually used both goaltenders in the playoffs because both were playing at a high level. These 2016 Sharks ought to make themselves the first team in recent memory to use both goaltenders because they have two strong ones on the roster.
50-50 Split Between Jones & Reimer
Jones is under contract beyond this season and he should start the first game of the playoffs, but the Sharks should start Reimer in Game 2 regardless of how Jones performs in Game 1. While it is hard to recall teams using both goalies from the outset of the playoffs, a lot of teams eventually do have to turn to their backup at some point. If the Sharks need to turn to Reimer due to injury or poor performance by Jones, it makes more sense to have Reimer playing regularly than having to turn to him after potentially going 2-4 weeks without starting a game.
The last time the Sharks were in the playoffs they turned to an ice cold Alex Stalock in Game 6 against the Kings. That is a difficult assignment for even an established NHL goaltender, much less one in Stalock who was in his first full year as an NHLer. Making a goaltending change that late in a series was a big mistake, one the Sharks should not make again. Throwing in Reimer cold into a Game 6 scenario after Jones has hypothetically struggled over the first five games is a move that screams panic.
While Reimer has never been a clear cut No. 1 in the NHL, he did perform to an elite level for the Leafs in the 2013 playoffs. Reimer started each and every game of an epic seven-game series against Boston, posting a tremendous .923 save percentage. While Jones has been the clear cut No. 1 for San Jose this season, he has yet to start an NHL playoff game. Both goalies bring different elements of experience and skills to the Sharks crease and they both should play come the postseason. According to War-on-Ice, Reimer leads the entire NHL in high danger save percentage at .904. Fifth and sixth in the league in this category are Stanley Cup winning goalies in Crawford and Jonathan Quick. They clock in at .889 and .884, significantly lower percentages than Reimer’s even though they are right behind him in the rankings. Jones has played real well for the Sharks and he is no doubt their No. 1 goalie going forward. However, it would be an enormous mistake to waste the awesome year Reimer is having by keeping him glued to the bench when the games matter the most.